Wingate & Finchley endured a frustrating and disappointing afternoon after they gifted Hendon all three points in a fiercely contested game, writes Nikhil Saglani.
Ryman League Premier Division:
Hendon 3 Wingate & Finchley 1
Saturday, 27 December, 2014
Nearly 350 people travelled to the Earlsmead Stadium as part of the ‘Pay What You Want’ scheme introduced by Hendon to improve attendances on a day where no Premier League football was taking place.
The game began in the worst possible way after a Bobby Smith error in goal led to former Wingate striker Leon Smith putting the hosts 1-0 up after only four minutes. Wingate responded well to going a goal down with both David Knight and Stuart Lake coming close. The former’s shot was saved by Hendon goalkeeper Ben McNamara and the latter’s pile driver flew just wide of the left hand post. Wingate also had a strong penalty shout for handball turned down, the referee waving away appeals despite the ball seemingly striking the arm of Hendon centre back, Elliott Braithwaite.
However, despite a spell of sustained pressure, Wingate found themselves two down after half an hour. Hendon captain Kevin MacLaren’s inch-perfect chipped pass fell onto the chest of Smith and after deft control, he drove home to double the hosts’ lead. Wingate had a second penalty shout turned down when the returning Scott Shulton was sandwiched by two defenders inside the box.
The second half began perfectly for the away side when substitute Karl Oliyide cut inside the penalty box and curled home a sublime effort from the edge of the area to halve the deficit. Wingate seemed to be on top and were piling on the pressure with shots from Knight and Shulton forcing McNamara to save.
However, the game took a turn for the worse when Marc Weatherstone was sent off for denying an apparent goal scoring opportunity for Kezie Ibe inside the box. Sam Murphy’s penalty beat Smith in goal despite the Wingate keeper guessing correctly and the hosts’ two-goal lead was restored. Ten-man Wingate were forced to go all out and attack but efforts from Tommy Tejan-Sie and Oliyide were blocked well.
With two minutes to go, the referee was involved in another controversial decision as he awarded a penalty to Hendon for a perfectly timed Ahmet Rifat slide tackle – adding salt to the wounds by sending the centre half off with a second yellow card. However, justice partially ensued as Smith in goal once again guessed correctly but palmed away Murphy’s spot kick.
The game ended 3-1 under the floodlights at the Earlsmead Stadium on a disappointing away day.