Wingate & Finchley moved one step closer to Wembley as they beat higher-Division opposition to book their place in the next qualifying round of this season’s FA Cup competition, writes Andy Gerlis.
After drawing a blank in both of their last two fixtures and coming straight off the back of a 2-0 derby defeat against a 10-man Enfield Town, the last game Wingate and Finchley would have wanted is a crucial FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round match against higher league opposition. But with these goalless matches coming as blips in an otherwise impressive start to the season, the Blues went into this game knowing they had every chance against Concord Rangers, a team sitting one league above in 17th place of the Vanarama Conference South. Lee Barney was brought in to Wingate’s starting XI for his first league appearance, an injury picked up in a pre-season friendly soon after arriving from Marlow this summer forcing him to miss the start of the season.
While the atmosphere from the stands was loud it wasn’t quite enough to drown out the sound of the referee’s whistle starting the game, though this appeared to be the case. When Bobby Smith could only parry Tony Stokes’ close-range header, the striker found enough space to stab the ball home after just 15 seconds – hardly an ideal start for Simon Lane’s men and they found themselves with an instant uphill struggle. The goal seemed to switch them on however, a good run and cross from Kyle Watson resulting in Billy Healey putting a free header into the keeper’s hands just a minute later.
Unperturbed by the early goal, Wingate continued to push for an equaliser and when Lee Barney was hauled down on the edge of the box after 16 minutes, Tommy Tejan-Sie snatched the opportunity to curl a clever free-kick into the back of Ben McNamara’s net. Barney looked lively despite picking up an early knock and nearly met a low Rob Laney cross four minutes later, but McNamara was on hand to cut it out at the near post. Tom Stephen temporarily took over goalkeeping duties 12 minutes later when he cleared Ola Sogbanmu’s goal bound header off the line following Martel Powell’s corner – a positive end to the half in contrast to Wingate’s horror start and the teams went in even at the break.
It was almost an identical to the second half when Ben Greenhalgh‘s goal bound shot had to be deflected wide by Marc Weatherstone after the former Inter Milan player seized on Brad Hewitt’s mis-hit clearance a minute after the restart. Another poor clearance at the other end nine minutes later gave Sogbanmu a clear sight at goal but he could only put his volley over the bar. Greenhalgh continued to cause Wingate problems, cracking a free kick against the bar after a 65th minute Hewitt foul while his long shot from distance bounced into Smith’s gloves six minutes later.
Chances fell for both sides, however, Tejan-Sie doubling back from a short corner after 78 minutes and finding Weatherstone at the near post, but the captain could only glance his header wide. A nervy final ten minutes started when Steve Cawley played substitute George Doyle clean through on goal behind Wingate’s offside trap, but he was met by an imposing Smith who forced the midfielder into trying to square the ball and the move broke down as it rolled out of play.
If the referee’s whistle hadn’t been drowned out by the crowd at the start, it certainly was towards the end when substitute Karl Oliyide found himself clean through on goal after Sogbanmu powered down the middle of the pitch and picked him out with an inch-perfect pass. The stand shook as fans leaped out of their seats when the attacker rounded the goalkeeper and the cheers nearly took the roof off as he coolly tapped the ball into an empty net with just four minutes to go. He nearly doubled his tally two minutes later but Max Cornhill slid in to block Healey’s cross before it could reach him.
Just the tonic Wingate needed after a set of difficult results and it was a game that showed the determination and never-say-die attitude that has flowed through the team this season. Simon Lane praised his team for their ability to adapt to a new strategy brought on by injuries and illness as well as their strength after going behind so early. Having now matched a two-time club record by reaching the 3rd Qualifying Round, Wingate discover their fate for the next round on Monday before travelling to Canvey Island the following evening where a repeat of this fantastic performance against Concord’s next door neighbours would be very welcome indeed.
WingateTV Interviews with Simon Lane, Lee Barney, Karl Oliyide and mascots Allegra & Oliver:
Wingate & Finchley:
Smith Solomon Watson Tejan-Sie Hewitt (Rowe, 90) Weatherstone Laney Powell Healey (Tison-Lascaris, 90) Sogbanmu Barney (Oliyide, 74)
Unused subs: Buckley, Goodman, Stevenson, Metcalfe
McNamara, Hammond (Fox, 45), Stephen, Cornhill, King, Bailey-Dennis, Greenhalgh, White (c), Brayley (Doyle, 45), Cawley, Stokes (Taffe, 76)
Unused subs: Lee, Gardner.