A depleted Wingate and Finchley side returned to winning ways, with a slender 2-1 victory over Tonbridge Angels.
The Blues had a long away trip and were missing many regular players – Smith, Shulton, Hewitt and Knight – but took the lead in only the fourth minute. Tommy Tejan-Sie received a high chipped pass and beat the disjointed offside trap. He bore down on the keeper and slotted through him.
Tonbridge looked to hit back immediately and put the visitors under an incredible spell of pressure. A cross from the right was smashed onto the bar from close-range, and then Jack Metcalfe blocked the second effort from point-blank range, before the third attempt was blocked behind by one of many desperate defenders. Wingate hadn’t yet cleared the ball from this attack and Nathan Pinnock volleyed sweetly and high, only for Metcalfe to parry the effort over.
In the 20th minute the lead was doubled against the run of play. Jack Read fed the ball inside to Richard Graham, whose ferocious drive was parried by the goalkeeper. Read had anticipated the rebound sooner than the defence and slotted home from close-range.
This open match swung back towards the hosts when Dee Okojie halved the deficit in the 33rd minute. A flowing move from left to right saw the ball played to the right winger, and he struck a superb firm drive into the top right corner from 15 yards.
Tonbridge continued to press without creating anything further, as Read headed wide from a Graham corner when Wingate threatened late in the half.
The second half continued in the same vein with Tonbridge dominating possession, but creating little, as the pairing of Ahmet Rifat and Marc Weatherstone were imperious in defence. Their best chance to level came in the fifth minute of the second half when Tommy Whitnell headed over when in space.
Wingate created the openings during rare breaks on the counter. Ronayne Marsh-Brown set the lively Karl Oliyide free down the left side and he checked back at the the byeline. He accurately picked out Rob Laney at the far post but his header back across goal found the far post.
Weatherstone made a vital clearance off the line from a close range header, whilst Metcalfe dealt with a number of near-post crosses well.
At the other end Wingate had the final effort, when Graham squared the ball to debutant striker Tulani Pama – and his ferocious drive from 12 yards was parried away by a good diving save from Merson.
Wingate & Finchley Lineup:
Metcalfe Goodman Marsh-Brown Sogbanmu Weatherstone Rifat Read (Tulani Pama 78), Tejan-Sie Laney Graham Oliyide. Subs: Lake, Sharpe, Wright, Suddell.