Up’s and Down’s

The non-league football season has finally drawn to a close except for a few matches between those clubs who made it to the promotion play-off places. In my last football related post I wrote about Wingate & Finchley’s battle to avoid relegation from the Bostik Premier Division. That battle continued for a stressful final four weeks of the campaign – and has played a part in my personal anxieties over the period. I never realised how much my club means to me until this season! Now that it’s over I can finally write about it and probably get back to a more normal blogging pattern.

April didn’t start well with a chilly visit to high flying Carshalton Athletic – they would finish second in the league. After holding our own for the first 30 minutes we succumbed big time and lost 5-1. Even Gorey couldn’t stop this shot……his glove only succeeding in pushing it into the roof of the net. Meanwhile Burgess Hill below us scored a good 2-1 win against Corinthian Casuals while our other relegation strugglers Harlow and Whitehawk both lost. Although Harlow were almost certainly down at this point, mathematically they were still in the battle.

The thirteenth and another away game in Tolworth against Corinthian Casuals. Their previous week’s loss to Burgess Hill had left them vulnerable to being dragged into the relegation fight too. It was a game that we had hopes of winning but they were dashed by a 3-1 defeat on a cold but sunny afternoon. Here’s Anthony Mendy striking our goal……A disappointing outcome but at least the real ale in the club house was very nice! Burgess Hill and Harlow both got excellent draws which kept them in the hunt but worryingly Whitehawk won which lifted them above us in the table on goal difference and dropped us into the relegation places.

Easter weekend is always a big one for non-league clubs with two games over the weekend and the Bank Holiday Monday games usually being local derby matches. Burgess Hill played their first fixture on Good Friday and were beaten 2-0 by Carshalton. On Saturday we faced Margate at home. Mid-table Margate had little to play for and for most of the match the game looked set for a draw. Then the referee stepped in and twisted the rules of football in what we have to assume was some sort of brain-storm. He played an advantage allowing Margate to make an attack and have a shot on goal. That should have been the end of it but, having allowed Margate to complete their attack, he inexplicably called play back to give a free kick at the site of the original infringement. Margate scored from the free kick. It’s refereeing decisions like this that can cost clubs their league status and a lot of income. He apologised for his mistake in the boardroom after the game but apologies don’t restore lost points 😦 Here’s Tanashe challenging for the ball with a Margate defender while the referee looks on……Highlight of the day for me was the visit of fellow photographer Nigel Cliff on a break from photographing his beloved AFC Wulfrunians. As an ex-referee himself he was scathing of the referee’s performance on the pitch. Both Harlow and Whitehawk also lost so effectively it was ‘as you were’ at the foot of the table.

Bank Holiday Monday and we were away against Haringey Borough. This is one of those friendly rivalries with some fans attending matches at both clubs and ex-Wingate coach Tucker now part of their management team. They were currently second in the table and would go on to finish third which entitles them to a home semi-final in the promotion play-offs. My best wishes are with them – I hope they get promoted (although I’ll miss going to their ground if they do!). It was a blazing hot day – I think Tucker and co had been drinking too much water as they all seem to be asking to be excused 😉 …..actually they’re appealing for a possible hand-ball. Haringey took the lead close on half-time when they capitalised on a defensive error and we feared the worst. The second half was a revelation as first Ali Njie scored an equaliser and that man Mendy struck the winner. Here’s Ali celebrating after the final whistle……It wasn’t in the script and everyone was busy checking the other scores on their mobile phones. Harlow had lost – which meant they were relegated. Burgess Hill and Whitehawk both drew. The win pulled us out of the drop zone but all three of the surviving bottom clubs could still be the one that escaped relegation. As predicted, it would all come down to that last game of the season and we were in the fortunate position to be in control of our own destiny – if only in the knowledge that anything less than a win was likely to result in relegation.

Last Saturday we gathered at the Maurice Rebak stadium more in hope than expectation. The weather was grey – one of those days when it thinks it wants to rain but can’t decide to do so. The wind was gusting strongly from the southwest as storm Hannah made its way up the west coast. The game got off to a good start for Wingate with Tony Mendy scoring on 14 minutes and doubling our lead on the stroke of half-time. This lad’s getting used to celebrations…

The second half started badly with Burgess Hill coming back with a brace of goals themselves to equalise. They still had a very slim mathematical chance of beating the drop themselves with a huge win over us. Here’s their equalising goal……a well hit shot rising into the top corner beyond Shane Gore’s reach. At this point, with Whitehawk beating Corinthian Casuals 2-0, we were relegated.

Time for a change! On came Charlie Ruff, a local lad living just around the corner from the stadium! His first act? To spot a loose ball after Mendy attempted a bicycle kick and run in to claim it while everyone else was sleeping – slotting it past the keeper to give us the lead once more…

…Roy of the Rovers stuff that you couldn’t make up! Shortly after Luke Ifil made a great individual run down the right and smashed a low ball past the Burgess keeper to give us a 4-2 victory…
…His celebration was poignant as it took place in front of some of our youth players who are the future of the club 🙂 ……It no longer mattered that Whitehawk beat Corinthian Casuals 4-0 – they were down and we were staying up. Cue the end of game celebrations 🙂



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March Madness

I’ve been trying to get around to writing a post for… Well, since the last one! Ideas flow in and out opportunities come and go but it’s been a period when both have been fleeting – very much ‘each a glimpse and gone for ever’! But this evening I’m finally in the mood to write something and I think I’ll stick with a football theme. In my last post I spoke of our amazing win at Harlow Town. The day after that game I attended a match at a very different level and in rather better weather. I was invited by Reece (one of our players) to photograph the Jubilee Cup Final between Wrongens FC and Port Louis FC over in Edmonton (London – not Canada!). These teams play in the local Sunday League and Reece is assistant manager of the Wrongens. Although the standard of football was not the best there was clear passion with moments of brilliance 🙂 There being no barrier around the pitch, I found myself in close proximity to one of the referee’s assistants for a lot of the game and we shared some friendly chat during quiet moments. Here are some photos from the match…





A 1-0 win for the Wrongens. The Port Louis keeper dropping the ball was the error that gave the Wrongens their winner in an otherwise very even game.

Now a quick look at last Saturday where Wingate & Finchley played host to Potters Bar Town in a local derby match where both teams really needed the win to battle against the risk of relegation. It was a keenly fought game as you would expect and sadly it was also a game in which the referee and his assistants were less than competent although at least they were even-handed about it! Here are some shots from that match…







The Game ended 4-2 to Wingate & Finchley and that lifts us out of the relegation zone for the time being and puts us just one point below Potters Bar. We still have some awkward games ahead of us but the teams below us, especially Harlow Town, look to have more difficult opponents in the run in to the end of the season so if everything runs to form we should be able to avoid being sucked back into the relegation zone. Ironically the key match will probably turn out to be the last one of the season when we play the current bottom side, Burgess Hill Town, for they will have nothing to lose by then and we will possibly still be at risk of relegation! Isn’t supporting a football team fun!!! 😉

It’s a Funny Old Game

The Beautiful Game… Never sure if that epithet is ever more than a press reporter’s dream? Following Wingate & Finchley in the Bostik Premier League has been an interesting experience this season. Back in November when I wrote about our awayday in Tiverton I think I mentioned that we were struggling in the league and that I had chatted with our Chairman about the possibility that we’d be in a relegation battle very soon if things didn’t improve. I, and I suspect this goes for most of the fans at Wingate & Finchley, am not given to the sort of manager / chairman witch hunts that Premier League fans feel they’re entitled to. Things didn’t improve. We had a good run in the FA Trophy but our league performance remained poor. We went through a period when it seemed that the goals against would always be 4! At one stage – after losing 4-0 against Kingstonian at home – I finally lost my rag after the players didn’t even come to the bar after the game to see the fans and called them out on Twitter. That’s a one-off – hadn’t happened before in 14 seasons of supporting the team and is unlikely to happen again. But it serves to illustrate how bad things had become. It says a lot that a couple of the older players did contact me to express their thoughts and I think it was good for us all.

Where do our problems lie? One issue is finance – our club runs on a very short set of bootlaces. On a level playing field this isn’t a problem but there are some club owners that throw money around in their efforts to seek success – last season it was Billericay Town and this time it’s Dorking Wanderers. Money can be a transient thing – the history of non-league divisions is littered with clubs that no longer exist after the rich owner got bored and took the money away. I’d rather accept losing and possibly getting relegated if it guarantees the club being there to support for many years to come.

Another issue is Managers and Chairmen. Our club looks to give young players and new managers a chance to grow in the game. Bringing youth through is what our Chairman stands for and I agree wholeheartedly with his approach. We had Keith Rowland as manager for the previous two seasons and he achieved both the club’s highest ever league finish and most points in a season while he held the reigns. Unfortunately he was unfit to resume this season so we had to seek a new manager at short notice. We signed a team in Nicky Shorey and Glenn Little. Potentially this should have been a good appointment but within 3 weeks Nicky had to leave (Why is personal and not for this forum). Glenn stayed on and did his best. But while we saw some amazing progress in the FA Trophy, our league form was very poor. Eventually, Mr Chairman took the decision to look for another manager and Glenn left. It’s probably the nearest we’ve ever come to a genuine manager sacking – and it was probably done a couple of months later than ideal. The Chairman’s wish to bring forward new managerial talent possibly clouding his judgement on this occasion?

New manager appointed… Well actually it’s old mate David Norman coming back in as Director of Football on a loan from his current team, Rhyl, with Steve Clark as Manager and Franco as assistant. We now have until the end of April to drag ourselves out of the relegation zone. Dave brings Organisation. Steve and Franco bring passion! Saturday saw us hammer fellow relegation strugglers Harlow Town 7-2. Could be the result that sets us on the road back to safety? Oh! and our skipper, Sean Cronin scored a hat trick – which is quite an achievement for a centre back – that’s why Ali is patting him on the head ;-)! Lets see how it goes 🙂