I refer of course to the Ryman League Football Season and the renewed efforts of Wingate & Finchley FC to maintain their status in the Premier Division. I reported the managerial changes a few weeks ago and I subsequently reported on the players that were available to us in the aftermath. Now it was time to get the season underway with the first of a series of friendly matches to bring the players up to match fitness. The first was against local ‘friendly’ rivals Potters Bar Town FC. The game was played on neutral territory at Rowley Road – home of the London Maccabi Lions FC – on their all-weather astroturf pitch. That was a pain for me as a photographer because it is surrounded by a tall fence. All those bars made me think of the football match in Porridge 😉

Having parked up in the car park I was pleased to meet Danny Nielson outside the clubhouse. Alasdair and I then wandered down to where the keepers were warming up. It has become a ritual, for home games at least, that we go and say hello to them when we get to the ground. The one time that I didn’t, a few seasons back now, Gavin broke his hand and was out of the game for several weeks! So we always say hello. During their warm-up Bobby accidentally chipped the ball over Gavin forcing him to jog down the pitch to collect it. I quipped “That’s it Bobby, make the old man run” 😉 We also spotted Weathers’ and said hello. With Danny becoming Head Coach, Marc is now the 1st Team Captain 🙂

9276918543_4c2fb40f6f_zDuty done, we surveyed possible photographic angles before lying down in the shade of some trees to doze for half an hour while awaiting the kick-off. As kick-off approached it was good to see a number of the regular fans and a couple more of the club officials on the bank above the pitch. The Chairman could be seen chatting with Dan McGonigle in a pose that suggested a reawakened childhood memory of a visit to the zoo!

Despite the heat, early action on the pitch was quite brisk and with only a few minutes on the clock some fine interplay between Lairdy and Leon resulted in Lairdy receiving the ball on the right of the area from where he shot low and hard across the Scholar’s keeper to find the bottom left hand corner and give Wingate & Finchley the lead. A quick note here – this must be the first season where Lairdy has appeared looking thinner than Leon! 😉

Leon himself had a good chance in a one-on-one with the keeper but saw his chipped effort pushed onto the post and out for a corner.9279705156_bf2459cfd0_z Potters Bar also had some chances but none of them were clear cut until close to the end of the half when one of their strikers was put through by a quality pass and lifted the ball over the diving Bobby with a delightful chip in off the right hand upright. The half drew to a close with honours even.

Alasdair was in for a shock at half time – the Referee turned out to be his PE teacher and we had a chance to chat during the break 🙂

The second half started with brisk attack by Potters Bar down the left wing which dragged The Blues defence towards that side allowing the winger to slot a sharp pass across the box to his opposite number on the right who made no mistake in slotting the ball home to give The Scholars a 2-1 lead. An equaliser was quickly taken with Leon getting to the byline and passing back to new signing Morante who struck a smart shot at goal that the keeper could only parry back out into the middle of his area. Morante struck the rebound, this time using his left foot, into the roof of the net. 2-2 and mental note made… Blimey! – We have a two footed striker!!!

A well timed run onto a pass threaded through The Scholars defence released Andreas Kyprianou for a one-on-one with the keeper. With the keeper out of his area, Andreas coolly nutmegged him before running on to score in the empty net.9276926871_ff5aa75fbd_z Newly elevated from the youth team ranks, an impressive start for Andreas. Another through pass released Leon and he finally got his reward, striking the ball just above the keeper’s gloves to score. A few minutes later he could have had another but chose the same shot and the keeper was able to block it this time. The game slowed and the long ball became more prevalent as the heat finally got to the players. I’m sure everyone was glad when the Ref blew his whistle for the end of play.

So a good opening win for Wingate & Finchley. The chairman stopped me as I was driving out to have a brief chat – “That was too easy”. I wasn’t so sure – we’d converted a good proportion of our scoring chances. On another day we might not. But all-in-all it had been a good effort with the players all seeming to be on the same page. There had been some delightful interplay through the midfield to the forwards – long may that continue 🙂 Tuesday evening see’s the team travelling to Codicote – not sure if I’ll get to that game.

More photos from the match here.

All thoughts expressed are my own and do not represent the views of Wingate & Finchley FC. Please click on the Wingate & Finchley Badge to visit the Official Club Website.