Wingate & Finchley had victory snatched from their grasp by East Thurrock at a breezy Rookery Hill, writes Khalid Karimullah.
With both sides struggling to settle on a difficult surface, it took 10 minutes for the first attempt at goal to arrive. After grafting out an opening, George Craddock found himself with an opportunity to get his shot away, but Ahmet Rifat was on hand to see the danger clear.
Wingate’s defence was tested further after Kyle Watson was forced to head away Mitchell Gilbey’s whipped in cross, looking for Kris Newby at the far post, before the Blues displayed their attacking intent. After a corner was cleared away, Tommy Tejan-Sie controlled a dipping ball superbly prior to attempting a hopeful effort, however Lukas Lidakevicius remained calm and collected to gather the ball. With both sides imposing their attacking game, a ball from the back was held up well by Tom Wraight just inside the box, before finding Gilbey who’s shot went well wide after good pressure from Dan Brown and Tejan-Sie.
The brilliance of Tejan-Sie began to come into fruition after his cutting pass found Barney away down the right flank, and with his cross finding the on rushing Alfie Bartram, the midfielder’s powerful drive was parried away. With Simon Lane’s side having acquired the impetus, they eventually took a well deserved lead after 34 minutes. After Brown, Tejan-Sie and Bartram entertained the away following with triangle passing across the midfield, the latter’s pass found Karl Oliyide just inside the box who curled his effort past the helpless Lidakevicius, who could do nothing about the brilliance of the finish.
On the hunt for a second goal, Bartram found himself with space from 25 yards though Lidakevicius was well placed to gather his low drive. Not long after, Oliyide mesmerised even the home fans after he drifted away past three players down the right flank, before cutting the ball back into Lee Barney, though the striker’s shot on the turn was denied by the keeper. With half time approaching, the ball found its way across the visitors 18-yard box after Wraight, Gilbey and Kris Newby combined well, but Leon Solomon, superb all game, saw the danger clear.
The break didn’t make any difference as the Blues maintained their momentum. Tejan-Sie skilled past Craddock before he found Oliyide out on the right flank, and after the latter exchanged passes with Rob Laney, he broke away from East Thurrock’s defence, though his attempted cross for Barney was cleared away. Down the other end, a hopeful pass from the back allowed Adam Yusuff to get away in on goal, and with Wingate debutant keeper Seb Brown charging out, the forward had a chance at an empty net, but the determination of Rifat denied a clear goalscoring opportunity. Then after Ben Wood out on the right cut the ball back inside for Craddock, his shot went just wide of Brown’s left-hand post.
With Mark Goodman and the back four remaining resolute, Laney picked out Oliyide with a deep ball from just behind the halfway line, who found Barney away on goal, however his low shot across Lidakevicius was well saved. Following that, a remarkable double save by the hosts keeper denied the Blues from doubling their lead. Tejan-Sie placed a pass into the feet of Bartram who after getting on the right side of the central defender, had his close range effort denied, ahead of Barney’s low drive also being saved.
Despite Lane’s side being on top, the hosts were never too far out of the game and appealed for a penalty after Kyle Watson was adjudged to bring down Yusuff, however the forward was already off balance before any contact was made. Subsequently, from a corner, Watson was in the right place again to deny a bouncing header from Ryan Scott creeping beyond the goal line.
Bartram, Barney and Watson then exchanged passes in a quick flowing move before the ball found it’s way to Tejan-Sie who attempted to prod the ball through to Barney, however the visitors pressure fell flat with the home side remaining eager not to concede again. The game turned on its head after John Coventry’s side, against the run of play, grabbed an extremely late and damaging equaliser. Wood out on the right flank delivered in a teasing cross between the centre-halves and Brown, before Wraight with a free header powered his attempt into the far corner of the net after 88 minutes. With the game coming to a close, Ahmet Rifat was sent off after he was deemed to have placed his hands on Kye Ruel after a 50-50 challenge.
Despite the set-back and with Daniel Nielsen urging the team to not let their concentration slip, the Blues were still looking for a winner. However, it was East Thurrock who almost undeservedly ended the game with all three points. With the hosts taking full advantage of an extra man, Yusuff was free in space on the edge of the box to get his shot away, though his lackadaisical effort fortunately fell kindly into the path of Brown. The immediate response was one of frustration and disappointment, however a point on the road could prove vital come the end of the season.
East Thurrock United
Lukas Lidakevicius, Ashley Miller, Simon Peddie, Ryan Scott, Rickie Hayles, Ben Wood, Kris Newby (Harry Honesty 64), George Craddock, Adam Yusuff, Mitchell Gilbey (Kye Ruel 82), Tom Wraight
Subs not used: Harry Honesty, Tom Anderson, Kye Ruel
Wingate & Finchley:
Seb Brown, Mark Goodman, Kyle Watson, Dan Brown, Leon Solomon, Ahmet Rifat, Rob Laney, Tommy Tejan-Sie, Lee Barney (Marc Weatherstone 90), Alfie Bartram, Karl Oliyide (Billy Healey 84)
Subs not used: Marc Weatherstone, Reece Tison-Lascaris, Billy Healey, Joe Sharpe
WingateTV interview with Mark Goodman: