Wingate & Finchley dropped their first points of the season as they were held to a goalless draw at the Abrahams Stadium, writes Andy Gerlis.
The words ‘entertaining’ and ‘nil-nil draw’ are rarely used in the same sentence but it is fair to say that Wingate & Finchley’s match against Staines Town FC fell into that category. Wingate went into the game with a 100% record in the four games since the start of the season and fancied their chances in a tough match against a team who dropped down into the Ryman Premier League from the Vanarama Conference South last season.
Billy Healey almost gave Wingate a dream start when, after some neat interplay with Rob Laney, Karl Oliyide found him with a neat backheel on the edge of the box but he could only drill his left-footed shot into the side netting. The momentum was with the visitors from then on, with Luke Wanadio constantly causing Blues captain Marc Weatherstone problems on the far end of the pitch. Pat Cox went close twice, his rising shot blocked away by a strong Brad Hewitt before glancing a header just a couple of minutes later.
With Staines opting to attack down the wings, Wingate tried to force a way through the middle. Oliyide span nimbly away from his man in the middle of the park before spraying the ball out wide to Healey, his cross finding the head of Laney who was called offside as his header looped on to the bar. The linesman had his flag up again a minute later when Tommy Tejan-Sie was caught in an offside position as he pounced on a loose ball inside the box.
Half-chances fell for both sides, Michael Kalu seeing his driven shot blocked by Weatherstone before Laney planted his back-pedalling header on to the roof of the net. A long free kick from Michael Buckley fell nicely for Hewitt at the back post but he couldn’t generate enough power to beat Jack Turner in the Staines net. In a half that neither side could grab by the scruff of the neck, 0-0 seemed a fair result at the break.
Staines had the ball in the back of the net within a minute of the restart, Kalu rolling a shot underneath Bobby Smith only before turning to see the linesman’s flag raised for offside. Despite a rapid start, the game quickly settled down as both sides pressed quickly to nullify any attacks that were building up. With frustration rising Ahmet Rifat, already on a yellow for an earlier tussle by the corner flag, brought down Jeremy Boakye in the centre of the pitch and was sent for a bath after just 60 minutes.
Kyle Watson – on as a substitute for Rob Laney – slotted in to the full back position as Weatherstone covered Rifat’s absence in the centre. His impact was almost felt immediately when he landed a 50 yard cross-field ball on Healey’s chest before being laid off for Tejan-Sie to smash inches wide of Turner’s post from just outside the box. The midfielder came close again on the 73rd minute when he met a low cross from Leon Solomon at the near post but could only deflect the ball wide.
The match began to open up as it approached its climax. Jack Bennett appeared to handle a long clearance from Hewitt but while the linesman flagged for handball, the referee felt the ball had hit his hip, overruling the linesman and denying a possible red card. Both defences were on top of their game as the ball flowed from end to end, Mitchell Gough only able to put a free header wide while Hewitt had to throw himself on to substitute Shamir Mulling’s shot after Weatherstone had mishit his clearance. The goalkeepers were kept alert until the end too, Bobby Smith flying through a group of players to punch clear a deep Kalu cross while Turner had to be strong to palm a stinging 30 yard shot from Tejan-Sie out for a corner well into injury time.
Honours even at the end and despite looking the more threatening side, Wingate will see this as a point gained rather than two points dropped against tough opposition. The defence handled everything thrown at it while the rest of the team looked dynamic and menacing every time they went forward – but for a fantastic performance at the back from Gough it could have been five wins from five. As it is, Wingate and Finchley remain unbeaten and will look to continue their brilliant start to the season away at Metropolitan Police on Monday.
WingateTV interviews with Rob Laney and Marc Weatherstone:
Wingate & Finchley line-up: Bobby Smith, Marc Weatherstone, Leon Solomon, Martel Powell, Brad Hewitt, Ahmet Rifat, Michael Buckley, Rob Laney (Kyle Watson, 61), Karl Oliyide (Ola Sogbanmu,84), Billy Healey (Meshach Williams,79), Tommy Tejan Sie.
Unused subs: Jack Metcalfe, Mark Goodman.
Staines Town line-up: Jack Turner, Eriualdo Felix, Jack Bennett, Jeremy Boakye, Mitchell Gough, Joe Ocearuill (c), Luke Wanadio (Shamir Mullings, 79), Ashley Lodge, Pat Cox, Ahmed Abdullah (Jack Hutchinson, 65) Michael Kalu.
Unused subs: Harry Churchill, Terrence Vancooten, Aaron Okuleye.
Referee: T Ramsey