Wingate & Finchley’s FA Cup dream is over after they suffered a disappointing home defeat to Weston Super Mare, writes Andy Gerlis.
The climax of a seven-day period that saw Wingate play – and win – three games in three different competitions was a chance to break a club record by beating Vanarama Conference South opponents Weston Super-Mare to reach the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup.
Having scored 13 and conceded just three over the course of those tightly-congested fixtures, Wingate went in to the game fancying their chances against a team lying second-bottom of their league, separated from the Blues by just nine places. This crisp, October Saturday was also designated as National Non-League Day – a chance for football fans to support their local team amidst the International Break – and the occasion was marked with Omonia youth playing a match on the pitch beforehand, a half-time penalty shoot-out to win a copy of Football Manager for a group of lucky under-16s, and a charity five-a-side kid’s game to help raise awareness for Mental Health In Sport, with this Saturday also coinciding with World Mental Health Day.
Both teams seemed to hit the ground running. Nobody managed to get on the end of a fourth minute Scott Wilson cross that flashed across the Wingate goal while, at the other end, Ola Sogbanmu’s clever backheel at the near post was held well by Luke Purnell in the Seagulls’ net.
It was the away side that broke the deadlock after 10 minutes, a quick breakaway saw Jake Mawford skip past Captain Marc Weatherstone’s outstretched leg and lay it on a plate for Bradley Ash to squeeze under goalkeeper Bobby Smith, the ball finding the back of the net despite the keeper making contact.
The home side suddenly switched on and the pressure began to build as centre-back Ahmet Rifat fired a left-footed shot over the bar from just inside the penalty area a minute after the restart. Karl Oliyide, who played the original cross to the defender, crafted a chance on his own three minutes later but his shot after a terrific mazy run could only ripple the side netting. With the home side on top, Tommy Tejan-Sie jinked his way around the area but saw his curling finesse shot palmed away well by Purnell.
As both sides began to find their rhythm, it was difficult to tell for which side the next goal would fall but Mawford, with no warning at all, cut inside from the right flank and floated a 25 yard, left-footed shot in to the top left hand corner of Smith’s goal with the keeper backpedalling. Wingate’s search for a foothold in the game continued however, a quick one-two on the edge of the box between Lee Barney and Sogbanmu eventually freed the latter and when his 38th minute sliding shot deflected out for a corner, it was only Purnell’s fingertips that stopped Weatherstone’s resulting header from the set-piece from looping in to the back of the net. The subsequent corner kick saw Lee Barney eventually scramble the ball in to the net only to turn and see the linesman’s flag raised for offside and the final whistle on a tepid half saw the visitors go in to the break with a flattering lead.
Purnell was on hand to deny the home side just a couple of minutes after the restart, Oliyide unable to pounce on the loose ball after the goalkeeper had parried Sogbanmu’s shot. Most hopes of Wingate getting a result from the game were dashed just five minutes later when Ash weaved his way around the Blues’ penalty area before picking out an unmarked Scott Wilson 6 yards out. Though the attacker’s shot was well saved by Smith, Ash was first to get to the rebound and put the Seagulls 3-0 up from just a yard out.
Midfielder Michael Buckley blazed a loose ball just over the bar from outside the box with half an hour remaining, while seconds later a Leon Solomon cross fell to Oliyide at the back post but the attacker’s shot agonisingly flashed back across the face of goal. A deep cross at the other end gifted Wilson a free header but, lacking direction or power, he could only find Smith’s gloves.
With 68 minutes gone, a loose clearance saw Jake Llewellyn bundle Oliyide over in the box in an attempt to clear the danger and the referee showed no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. The fouled player then stepped up and dispatched his shot into the bottom corner, sending Purnell diving in the opposite direction and granting Wingate a small tinge of optimism.
Rob Laney almost added a second to Wingate’s comeback a minute later but, much like Wilson’s, his free header was tame and easily gathered by the keeper. With the game ticking over in to its final stages, Barney saw a shot from a tight angle held by Purnell who also managed to push Laney’s curling effort from the edge of the box towards Oliyide’s feet before diving – and holding – on to the loose ball with five minutes remaining.
It was a very open game with chances falling for both side but, in the end, it was the team that managed to capitalise who eventually went on to win. Wingate match a two-time club record by reaching the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup and can hold their heads high after an extremely difficult and testing week of football. Non-League Day saw a bumper attendance as well as enhanced media coverage for the side and they now travel to Canvey Island on Tuesday looking to overturn the controversial loss they suffered at home at their hands just two weeks before.
WingateTV interview with Simon Lane:
Wingate and Finchley:
Smith (GK), Solomon, Watson, Buckley (Laney 65’), Weatherstone (C), Rifat, Brown, Tejan-Sie, Barney (Healey 80’), Sogbanmu (Powell 80’), Oliyide
Subs Not Used: Goodman, Healey, Powell, Laney, Williams, Rowe, Metcalfe
Weston Super Mare:
Purnell (GK), Keary, Barnes, Byrne, Edge (C), Fortune, Withey (Cane 45’), Ash, Wilson (Page 90’), Mawford (Filipov 65’), Llewelyn,
Subs Not Used: Cane, Page, Filipov, Wring, Plummer, McClennan