Wingate & Finchley booked their place in the next round of the Ryman League Cup, after winning a seven-goal thriller, writes Andy Gerlis.
It’s a rare occurrence in football for a team to face two games in as many days but, thanks to a sensational start to a season that sees them still fighting on all four fronts, Wingate found their fixture schedule this tightly packed. Both games are in cups, Wednesday’s away at Broadfields Utd FC in the Middlesex Cup while on Tuesday evening, they faced a short trip up to Capershotts, home of Ryman Division One North outfit Waltham Abbey FC in the Ryman League Cup. With such a test of squad depth, first team squad call ups were awarded to youth players Cameron Lyttle and Bradley Marriott with Alfie Bartram being awarded a starting place.
Looking to open his account for the season, Wingate’s Lee Barney brought down a long Marc Weatherstone ball 20 yards out and drove a shot just over the bar three minutes in. The game ebbed and flowed, Ryan Flack found himself through on goal 12 minutes later but goalkeeper Bobby Smith’s sliding block prevented the striker from giving Waltham Abbey the lead.
When Karl Oliyide was brought down on the flank of the Abbotts’ area after a powerful run 26 minutes in, Weatherstone rose highest to meet Tommy Tejan-Sie’s chipped free kick and nod the ball past Jayden Purdue for the defender’s third goal of the season. The captain nearly added to his tally seconds later when he met another Tejan-Sie set piece, but could only look on as his header looped on to the roof of from the corner he met 15 yards out.
Unperturbed, Waltham Abbey continued to push for and equaliser and nearly claimed it a couple of minutes later when Piers Wixon again found space behind the Wingate defence but, as before, Smith was off his line quickly to thwart the striker with his feet. Chances continued to come however and, following some ping-pong football in midfield, the ball eventually broke for defender Macauley Joynes who drove to Wingate’s by-line before pulling the ball back across goal for Wixon to tap in under the keeper. Having failed to take control of a game as well as they usually do, Wingate went in to the break on level terms.
The Blues had most of the early chances in the second half, Ahmet Rifat and Rob Laney both putting headers narrowly past the woodwork six and eight minutes in respectively but a 57th minute unmarked Kelly Garrett volley that flew narrowly wide of the back post reminded them that they would need to start taking these chances if they were to get a result from the game. And take their chances they did.
Karl Oliyide did tremendously well to control a strong pass from Rifat on his chest before playing in Barney behind the Waltham defence, the striker finishing low across the keeper to give Wingate the lead with his first goal for the club in the 61st minute. The summer signing from Marlow, who spent much of this season sidelined through injured, doubled his tally a minute later when fellow new-boy Dan Brown battled well to keep hold of the ball on the edge of the box before Barney poked the midfielder’s low cross home at the near post.
Brown was involved again four minutes later, his quick passing with Tejan-Sie in midfield eventually allowing the latter to play Oliyide one-on-one with the keeper, but by almost over-thinking it the attacker contrived to put his shot over the bar. Not a problem for a player that has been in sensational for this season and he made amends just two minutes after a Tejan-Sie cross flicked off Laney’s head and landed at the Oliyide’s feet 12 yards out, the attacker taking no time in smashing a low shot into the corner of the net for his sixth goal of the season.
The game flipped on its head with the introduction of Christian Assombalonga, brother of Nottingham Forest’s striker and record signing Britt, with 17 minutes left. Immediately chasing down a backpass after coming on, the attacker caused Smith to rush his clearance in to his captain’s back, the ball falling kindly to Wixon who didn’t need to be asked twice before he rolled a shot into an empty net. The robust Assombalonga then powered his way past Wingate’s defence before smashing a shot past Smith in to the bottom corner just a minute later. Quite the impact sub and, when an awkward bounce forced Weatherstone to miscue his header, only the slippery surface stopped him from getting enough power behind his shot to beat Smith, the keeper instead using a strong hand at full stretch to ensure Wingate kept their lead for the last 14 minutes.
The Blues did well to keep their composure amid a flurry of five goals in 15 minutes and players praised their manager post-match for his changes that kept them one step ahead throughout the game. A strong performance from Bartram showed that the squad depth reaches all the levels of the club and stands them in good stead for what is surely to be the club’s busiest 48 hours of the season.
WingateTV Interviews with Leon Solomon and Tommy Tejan-Sie:
Waltham Abbey FC:
Jayden Purdue, Theo Jones, Macauley Joynes, Jack Daveney (C), Emmanuel Olukayode, Elliot Johnson, Michael Pindy (Assombalonga, 72’), Tom Wood, Piers Wixon, Ryan Flack, Kelly Garrett (Robbins 72’)
Subs not used: Sam Robbins, Anthony Page, Christian Assombalonga, Michael Hassini
Wingate and Finchley FC:
Bobby Smith (GK), Mark Goodman, Leon Solomon, Ola Sogbanmu (Sharpe 72’), Marc Weatherstone (C), Ahmet Rifat, Alfie Bartram (Brown 57’), Tommy Tejan-Sie, Lee Barney (Andreos 80’), Karl Oliyide, Rob Laney
Subs not used: Ben Andreos, Daniel Brown, Joe Sharpe, Cameron Lyttle, Bradley Marriott