It was a game of two halves as Wingate & Finchley and Canvey Island played out a high scoring and entertaining game of attacking football on a bright and sunny afternoon at the Prospects Stadium, writes Khalid Karimullah & Nikhil Saglani.
Ryman League Premier Division:
Canvey Island 3 Wingate & Finchley 2
Saturday, 25 April, 2015
The Blues were on their way to an assuring lead before they succumbed to a 3-2 loss in what was David Norman’s final game as Wingate’s director of football.
The home side started the brightest after some good passing culminated in a dangerous cross by Ashley Dumas which was cleared by Ahmet Rifat, before from the resulting clearance, the ball was delivered back in to the box and Harrison Chatting then tested reserve goalkeeper Jack Metcalfe, who was equal to his accurate but weak header.
The away side found their way into the game and went ahead on 11 minutes, after the hard working Rob Laney took control of the ball 25 yards from goal and fed it into the path of Wingate’s top goal scorer David Knight, whose shot-come cross attempt evaded the on coming Harrison Georgiou before finding it’s way to Karl Oliyide, who smashed the ball into the back of the net.
Wingate almost doubled their lead just minutes later after the highly composed Tommy Tejan-Sie delivered a picture perfect pass over the home defence to Knight, who split the centre backs with a delightful run, although he was ruled as being offside, conceivably he was not though he could only place his side footed lobbied attempt over the frame of Tim Browns net.
The Blues had the impetus and after Laney had made a great run behind the defence, at first his attempted cross was blocked, but the ball eventually fell to the feet of Georgiou who from 18 yards, centre of goal, hit his effort just wide of the post with Brown at full reach. Moments later, Mark Goodman then delivered a high cross to the back post finding Knight, who again was left frustrated as his half volley found it’s way onto the roof of the net.
Canvey Island showed signs of coming back into the game however and began to show their attacking prowess after Dave Collis, 20 yards from goal, delivered a lobbied pass into the path of John Easterford who from six yards headed the ball powerfully towards the top corner, but Metcalfe showed his goalkeeping attributes when he made a terrific save palming the ball over the crossbar. This gave Wingate the confidence to find a second goal and after 33 minutes gone, Georgiou delivered a defence cutting pass into Laney whose first touch allowed him to compose himself, before curling the ball through the out rushing defenders legs and into the bottom left past Canvey’s keeper.
It took only two minutes for Canvey Island to respond in dangerous fashion after a free-kick from Collis found it’s way onto the head of Steve Smith, who headed the ball with a deft touch past Metcalfe who could do nothing but watch with players all around him. Just after, Laney almost gave Wingate another two goal cushion after heading Goodman’s cross inches over the goal frame; the latter receiving the ball from the highly impressive Coby Rowe who looks like a great prospect for the future.
Just after half-time, Laney went close again with another header before Smith for Canvey turned skilfully in the box and hit a precision ball across the goal frame for Jack Simmons to tap in, but his effort was ruled out for offside, before the midfielder did score. It came after Dumas delivered a dangerous ball across the face of goal which Simmons did well to volley past the Wingate keeper on 54 minutes.
Wingate responded in style and Georgiou, Laney, and Knight combined with good precision passing before the latter, inside the box, forced Brown into making a good save. With the game in balance, Josh Banton went on an impressive run and after cutting inside, his cross found Simmons whose shot was well blocked by Rifat, but instinctively Harrison Chatting put the hosts 3-2 ahead on 62 minutes after he tapped the ball in past the outstretched Metcalfe.
With Wingate pressing for an equaliser, Simmons again led another attack for the hosts and would have made his sides lead more comfortable if it was not for Metcalfe, who was down quick to his right to deny his poised effort. Then with the game coming to a frantic ending, and Canvey Island battling to avoid relegation, Enocke Showunmi had a 25-yard zipping effort which went just wide of Wingate’s post.
It was Daniel Nielsen’s side though that had the last significant action of the game. It came after substitute Karl Stevenson exploded down Wingate’s right channel and cut an inside pass into the feet of Laney; who after controlling the ball, flicked a pass over his head onto the chest of the on rushing Karl Oliyide, he passed to Knight who finished well and looked to have equalised, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
It ended a game which was a great advert for the Ryman Premier League. Wingate now have to settle for finishing in 12th position in a season which was a highly successful one for the Blues.
After the game, the players and management team began to reflect on the game and the season as a whole. Karl Oliyide: “It was a game of two halves, the first half was very good. But they were fighting for their lives today and they came out second half and obviously wanted it more than us. They won it and stayed up.”
Captain Marc Weatherstone said on the season: “A fantastic season, we built on last year and pushed on. I’m very happy with it. Bobby Smith had a brilliant season, he’s the best keeper in the league by a country mile. You look at David Knight, best striker in the league and scored consistently. Mark Goodman and Ahmet Rifat were brilliant, then you’ve got the new boys like Knight, Brad (Hewitt) and Rob Laney, who have all been tremendous. I could go on about individuals all day and that shows. This month hasn’t been great for results and we deserved to be in the top ten before that.”
Manager Daniel Nielsen said: “First of all, congratulations to Canvey for staying up. We were in a similar position last season and it was a nerve wracking day. We were brilliant first half and really should have killed the game off but their set piece goal changed the game. They pressed us well in the second half and they probably deserved it. The boys deserved to finish ninth, which is what a draw would have got us but it’s been a brilliant season.
“The players have been brilliant right from day one and the season has been as fantastic as last season was a disappointment. We’ve been so pleased with the football and the wins, but we’ve also learned to grind out wins often. You can’t just rely on the best pitch in the league and we’ve had to change our game at away games and that’s something we’ve done well, proving we can get results.
Today also marked David Norman’s final game at the club. Here is what a few had to say about him: Nielsen: “You just have to look at Dave’s record, nothing but success. He was my manager too and always gave me great belief in my ability. As a coach, he’s given me a lot of autonomy about the team’s style and tactics. He’s a great loss to the club and I’m sure he’ll do well wherever he goes next.”
Oliyide: “He’s done really well, bringing myself and a few others in, helping us develop really well. Goodbye Dave and good luck for the rest of your career.”
Weatherstone: “I’ve been with him many years. His treble winning team may never be beaten here and this year he’s helped us to our highest ever points tally and that record speaks for itself. He gets the best out of us players and will be missed by us all, we hope he goes on to achieve a lot more in football.”
Norman said: “I think we’ve had a fantastic season. We were in a mess a couple of years ago in terms of playing staff and we’ve turned it around in two years, the players have worked hard on our philosophy of football. We miss some experience and quality but unfortunately that costs a lot of money. We play to what financial budget we have. It’s been a fantastic experience for me and the club definitely has a family feel. My relationship with the coaching staff, chairman and fans is something I’m going to miss. I’m leaving the club in a brilliant position, with today’s squad of nine nineteen year olds in the squad being a shining light. I will be back to support my family and I’d like to say a huge thank you to all involved at Wingate & Finchley.”
Overall, the season has been one of great progress for the club. From requiring a reprieve to remain in the Ryman Premier League to challenging for a play-off place with three games to go, the contrast is there for all to see. The summer signings all gelled into the squad immediately, with the coaching staff further implementing their style of play on the players. The youth implementation was also incredible, with nine players from the U21 squad in the squad on the final day of the season. Credit belongs to all players, management staff and those working in the background to maintain a well oiled machine for the entirety of the season. With a heavy heart, we say goodbye to Director of Football, Dave Norman, today – someone who has been pivotal to the progress of the club; leaving as a record breaking manager and director, too. Finally, a huge thanks to all fans who followed the Blues up and down the country this season, your support has been invaluable.
And finally, Nielsen’s end-of-season message: “Thank you to everyone at the club; the fans, the board and everyone behind the scenes. We all deserved a season like the one we’ve had and now we will look to solidify our place in the league and move onwards and upwards. Thank you once again.”