Wingate and Finchley missed the chance to go level on points with top-of-the-table Dulwich Hamlet after slipping to a late 1-0 defeat at home to Billericay Town, writes Andy Gerlis.
The game could potentially have been won by either side, but blustery conditions meant neither team were able to seize the advantage until Teddy Nesbitt’s 84th minute screamer.
It was the visitors who had the lion’s share of first half chances, Conor Hubble and Tom Derry both saw early shots superbly palmed away by goalkeeper Bobby Smith.
A slow burner for the hosts, they only began to make a mark on the game midway through the half when Rob Laney met Tommy Tejan-Sie’s 19th minute cross on the volley, but the wind carried the ball over the net and out of the stadium.
The wind was also a factor in Lee Barney’s chance two minutes later, blowing Smith’s goal kick well clear of Billericay’s defence for the striker to run on to. But, when met by an onrushing Jack Giddens, he contrived to place his shot wide of the post.
And the visitors could have easily have taken the lead ten minutes before the break.
A long free-kick caused panic in Wingate’s box and Kyle Watson could only clear the ball with his left arm. With a penalty awarded, Nesbitt sent Bobby Smith the wrong way from the spot only to watch the ball ping back off the post for Billericay’s sixth missed penalty of the season.
Relief all round for the Blues who went in at half-time lucky to still be level.
The first chance of the second half fell to Mark Goodman four minutes after the restart, but his shot after some neat interplay between Laney and Alfie Bartram was deflected just over Giddens’ bar.
And Laney himself nearly opened the scoring ten minutes later but upon meeting Watson’s deep cross his second scissor-volley attempt of the game flew inches wide of the Billericay net.
A quick breakaway with half an hour remaining ended with Bartram feeding the ball through to Billy Healey on the edge of the box, but the striker’s shot with the outside of his boot swerved into the side netting.
And with the wind preventing players from stringing passes together both over the top and on the floor, Onome Sodje should have converted a rare chance with 20 minutes left but could only flash a free header wide of the post.
At the other end, Healey broke into the box but a tame shot with his weaker foot rolled straight into the goalkeeper’s arms and both teams looked to be settling for a hard-fought point.
But when Nesbitt – keen to make up for his earlier mistake – met Quentin Monville’s sweeping cross to the edge of the box on the volley six minutes from time, the ball sailed over Smith’s head and nestled in the top corner of the net to hand the visitor’s a lead which they rode out until the final whistle.
A tough defeat for the Blues who deserved something from the game for a strong performance in difficult conditions, but with teams around them also dropping points they can simply pick themselves up and dust themselves off ahead of Tuesday’s London Senior Cup game against local rivals Cockfosters.
Wingate and Finchley: Smith (GK), Goodman, Watson, Brown, Tarik Moore-Azille, Weatherstone (C), Laney, Tejan-Sie (Solomon 90’), Healey, Bartram (Powell 77’), Barney
Unused subs: Metcalfe, Stevenson
Billericay Town: Giddens (GK) Diallo, Williams, Hubble, Ellul, Beavan, Monville (Stephenson 80’), Curley, Derry (Obafemi 67’), Sodje (Fondop Talom 75’), Nesbitt
Unused Subs: Akurang, Seyer
Man of the Match:
WingateTV interview with Marc Weatherstone: