Wingate & Finchley won a nine-goal thriller at a cold Harry Abrahams Stadium to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Ryman League Cup, writes Khalid Karimullah.
From the opening minute, Simon Lane’s side looked eager to find an early goal which almost arrived after Tommy Tejan-Sie played Lee Barney in on goal, but the forward’s shot-cum-cross went wide. Barney was again involved minutes later after Kyle Watson powered his way down the left flank, prior to releasing the pacey forward with a cutting pass, but Lamar Joseph-Johnson was out quickly to close him down.
With the Blues looking dangerous upfront, they equally appeared solid at the back captained by Marc Weatherstone who after intercepting a loose pass by Glen Little, found Billy Healey making a good run before his low 18 yard effort was well saved. Grays began to show signs of their attacking intent after Alex Addai had a 25-yard effort which went just wide. Tejan-Sie then pinged a perfect cross-field pass to Watson bombarding down the left side, before the full-back whipped in a picturesque cross looking for Healey, though the striker could only place his header wide.
Then with just 10 minutes on the clock, Wingate took a well deserved lead. After good play between Tejan-Sie and Healey, an intelligent pass over the visitors’ defence allowed Mark Goodman a one-on-one opportunity, who took full advantage confidently slotting the ball past Joseph-Johnson. Tejan-Sie had a chance to double the hosts lead on the night, but his tame header from a Watson whipped in cross fell comfortably into the hands of the keeper. Goodman, tremendous all game, found Barney who neatly played a defence splitting pass for Healey to run onto, prior to his powerful shot taking a deflection and landing into the outstretched hands of Joseph-Johnson.
The Blues eventually doubled their lead. Leon Solomon won a midfield battle before striking a venomous shot which the keeper could only parry onto the bar, leaving Goodman to tap in from just two yards. It was beginning to look like Grays were going to have a difficult evening, before Roman Michael-Percil found himself in space just inside the box, forcing Tarik Moore-Azille to make an important block. From the resulting corner, Jay Leader’s header was denied by the feet of Jack Metcalfe, though the keeper could do nothing with the rebound effort from close-range by Daniel Burnett-Williams after 19 minutes.
Just a minute later, Healey made it 3-1 after Barney broke away on the left channel, before his byline cross accurately came to his strike partner who made no mistake from six yards, volleying the ball into the back of the net. Lane’s side created a multitude of chances after that. First, Tejan-Sie’s effort from just outside the box was saved by Joseph-Johnson, before Solomon found Watson out on the left channel who out-muscled Jake Hutchins to get to the byline, though his cross just couldn’t be met by Healey with the goal gaping. From a Joe Sharpe corner, Barney’s shot at the near post was denied off the line by Michael-Percil, ahead of Grays adding a fifth goal to the spectacle. Little, out on the left, skilled his way into the box looking for Burnett-Williams, but as his pass was cut out, the ball came back to the former who made no mistake angling his shot across Metcalfe.
Suddenly it was 3-3 after Callum Maltese curled a stunning 20 yard effort over the diving Metcalfe, who could do nothing about the quality of the attempt. The break didn’t make any difference, as good passing between Michael-Percil, Maltese and Addai allowed the latter to get his shot away, but his attempt curled over the bar. Then much like the first half, two goals apiece came within just one minute. Just after the hour mark, Maltese was picked out in midfield before he skilled his way past the Blues midfield, preceding to striking an inch perfect drive into the corner of the net to give Grays a shocking lead. Their lead didn’t last long, after Joseph-Johnson’s mistake at the back allowed Barney to duly slot the ball into a gaping net.
Barney almost grabbed himself a second after Solomon’s cross fell kindly into the path of the forward, but uncharacteristically he scuffed his effort wide from six yards. With either side looking on course for a quarter-final berth, Tejan-Sie had a powerful 20 yard effort which the keeper could only parry, and Healey was in the right place to grab his second of the night. However, the game was far from over after Grays had consecutive chances to equalise late on. First, a delightful cross found the head of Jamie Fuller who guided the ball into the path of Lante Dombaye just inside the box, but the substitute could only shoot wide as he slipped. Not long after, Jey Siva out on the left channel found Michael-Percil with an accurate cross, but he somehow scuffed his effort wide. Preliminary to Weatherstone exhibiting his leadership qualities as he was forced to head away a hopeful deep ball by the visitors, but with his clearance falling kindly to Michael-Percil, Metcalfe was on hand to make the save from his defeatist effort.
The final action of the game saw Tejan-Sie going on a marauding run out on the left, though his strike across the keeper went just wide. The referee blew his whistle for full time, with the Blues edging one step closer to silverware.
Wingate & Finchley:
Jack Metcalfe, Mark Goodman, Kyle Watson, Joe Sharpe (Hector Mackie 69), Bradley Hewitt (Alfie Bartram 60), Marc Weatherstone, Leon Solomon, Tommy Tejan-Sie, Billy Healey (Karl Stevenson 83), Tarik Moore-Azille, Lee Barney
Subs not used: Alfie Bartram, Bradley Marriott, Hector Mackie, Karl Stevenson, Reece Tison-Lascaris
Lamar Joseph-Johnson, Jake Hutchins, Jey Siva, Max Nicholson, Jay Leader, James Stevens, Roman-Michael-Percil, Callum Maltese (Lante Dombaye 73), Daniel Burnett-Williams (Kenny Beaney 53), Glen Little (Jamie Fuller 81), Alex Addai
Subs not used: Thomas Cummings, Harry Agombar, Jamie Fuller, Kenny Beaney, Lante Dombaye
WingateTV interviews with Billy Healey, Dan Nielsen and Joe Sharpe: