Wingate & Finchley bounced back from their first defeat of the season as they hit Needham Market for six, writes Andy Gerlis.
After their six-game unbeaten run was brought to an abrupt halt by Tonbridge Angels’ Tommy Whitnell on Saturday, Wingate and Finchley needed a strong midweek performance to get their season back on track. That being said, who better to face than Needham Market – a team they beat 3-1 away from home just two weeks ago? Goalkeeper Jack Metcalfe, whose last league appearance came in that very match, was brought back in to the starting XI while new signing Reece Tison-Lascaris was named on the bench.
The home side started brightly with Tommy Tejan-Sie picking out the overlapping run of Kyle Watson five minutes in, but the defender saw his dangerous cross headed away for a corner. Wingate’s movement was a constant source of trouble for the Needham defence and it showed just four minutes later when a long, cross-field ball from Leon Solomon to Rob Laney caught them napping and the striker pushed the ball past the goalkeeper before steadying himself and firing low in to the bottom corner, despite the best efforts of the two defenders on the line.
Metcalfe had to be alert to smother a ball played in to the feet of Luke Ingram a couple of minutes later but it was to be a while before he was called upon again. The hosts ramped up the pressure and after collecting a Tejan-Sie pass on the edge of the box, Karl Oliyide deftly chipped a pass over the Needham defence for Billy Healey to run on to and slip under the keeper to double the lead 19 minutes in.
It was a defender getting on to the score sheet just three minutes later, Martel Powell’s driven corner catching everyone including goalscorer Brad Hewitt unawares, the ball deflecting past goalkeeper Shaun Phillips off the big centre-back’s shoulder. Wingate continued to press, Healey catching Laney’s 24th minute cross on the volley but sending it well over the bar.
The deadly duo linked up again a minute later, this time Healey held the ball well on the edge of the box before sending a pass over the top for Laney to bring down and smash across Phillips for Wingate’s fourth. Healey’s header off a fine Powell ball three minutes later wasn’t placed well enough to beat the keeper, but neither were Darryl Coakley’s and Kem Izzet’s, Metcalfe happy to see both of their powerful shots from distance fly just wide of his post a few minutes later.
With the visitors sensing a chance to get a foothold in the game, Ingram drove across the box, managing to reach the six-yard line before Hewitt, at full stretch, poked the ball away for a corner. No real danger in the first half for the home side and they went in to the break with a commanding lead.
Metcalfe was the first goalkeeper to be tested in the second half, Needham Market’s veteran Kem Izzett feeding the ball to Luke Watson just inside the box but his curling shot was palmed away well. A foul on Oliyide awarded Wingate a free-kick on the edge of the box, resulting in a routine plucked straight from the training ground with Powell and Tejan-Sie stood in front of Laney with their backs to goal as he lined up the free-kick. As the striker ran past the ball, Powell rolled it across to Tejan-Sie who spun away and drove a shot just over the bar with the goalkeeper and the fans flummoxed.
When Tejan-Sie himself was fouled in a similar position a few minutes later, the three players lined up in identical fashion. This time however, the midfielders split as Laney ran on to the ball allowing the striker to smash a low, skimming shot under the wall and into the back of the net to complete his hat-trick with the goalkeeper and defenders left stranded.
Wingate sat off, happy to keep Needham penned into their half of the pitch. 74 minutes in, Sam Newson managed to break free into Wingate’s territory and though he was unceremoniously taken off the ball by Mark Goodman, Daniel Smith collected the rebound and drove forward into the box before drilling his shot into the side netting. Goodman got involved again a couple of minutes later when Meshach Williams rolled an inch-perfect backheel to his feet and he powered into the area, the resulting low shot held well by Phillips at his near post.
Club captain Marc Weatherstone rounded off the scoring for Wingate, rising high above the Needham defence to send Tejan-Sie’s corner sailing past the keeper after 78 minutes, capping an excellent performance in all positions of the pitch from Wingate. A 70 mile journey to Long Buckby in the FA Cup awaits them on Saturday and they will be looking to carry their fantastic league form up the M1 and across the competitions.
Wingate and Finchley FC:
Jack Metcalfe, Mark Goodman, Kyle Watson, Leon Solomon, Brad Hewitt (Ahmet Rifat 68’), Marc Weatherstone, Martel Powell, Tommy Tejan-Sie, Billy Healey (Reece Tison-Lascaris 65’), Karl Oliyide, Rob Laney (Meshach Williams 70’)
Unused subs: Karl Stevenson, Bobby Smith
Shaun Phillips, Jake Dye, Darryl Coakley, Luke Watson (Sam Newson 54’), Oliver Fenn, Joe Whight, Oliver Brown, Kemal Izzet, Luke Ingram (Regan Pelling 54’), Karl Duguid, Adam Mills (Daniel Smith 54’)
Unused subs: Nathan Munson
Post-match interviews with Marc Weatherstone and hat-trick hero Rob Laney: