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True Blue: A Wingate & Finchley fan’s view of the trip to Maidstone

11:12 24 February 2014

The Ham&High

The Ham&High's Wingate & Finchley blogger Simon Swingler

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Wingate & Finchley blogger Simon Swingler says Saturday’s visit to Maidstone was the most enjoyable 5-0 defeat he has experienced.

Our visit to league leaders Maidstone was a slightly surreal yet pleasant experience on Saturday - despite the 5-0 defeat.

Maidstone are basically a phenomenon who are rising through the non-league pyramid structure like a helium balloon.

Usually, when a side does this they take one of two forms. Either they are a massive club with a massive fanbase who have fallen on hard times like AFC Wimbledon, or they are a smaller club being bankrolled by a non-league Roman Abramovich, like Colne Dynamos or Rushden & Diamonds.

The latter business model usually ends in tears - Colne and Rushden both went out of business.

Ex-Football League side Maidstone clearly fall under the former category, which usually concludes with the said club rising to their natural level.

What that level is for Maidstone is unclear, but their current home attendances are higher than a few League Two outfits.

The attendance on Saturday at Maidstone’s compact Gallagher Stadium was 1,723 – 19 of them coming from Wingate & Finchley!

When you consider that most sides who are currently plying their trade in the Ryman League Premier Division struggle to get into triple figures, Maidstone’s attendances are mind-boggling.

Even the better-supported clubs in this division such as Lewes, Lowestoft and Wealdstone can only dream of the sort of bodies coming through the gate that Maidstone can rely on week in, week out.

It wasn’t a great surprise when Maidstone brushed the Blue Gods aside, scoring five goals without reply.

I have actually seen us play worse and get something out of the game, but gifting our hosts two of their goals didn’t exactly help our cause on the day.

We did have a gilt-edged chance with the scores still at 0-0, however Ahmet Rifat put his effort narrowly wide with the goal at his mercy.

Even if we had taken a surprise lead, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have had our work cut out to cling onto the lead for any great length of time.

One area where Maidstone and Wingate & Finchley are remarkably similar is the friendliness of the two clubs towards visiting fans.

We were actually met at the turnstiles by a volunteer whose official title at the club was Away Fans Liaison Officer. He told us the best places to get a drink and eat, as well as advising us of the best vantage points in the ground and where we could hang our collection of flags.

Because the Gallagher Stadium at Maidstone is quite compact and the attendances so large, the Maidstone fans like to stand at either end of the ground.

That meant we enjoyed the unusual experience of mingling with opposition fans, and they couldn’t have been a friendlier bunch.

The fact that they were romping to an empathic win probably helped, but we all found them to be very knowledgeable and gracious individuals who enjoyed the travelling Wingate fans’ comical collection of flags, and some our more unusual songs.

When the game ended I was offered the hand of a number of Maidstone fans, who congratulated us on being the best away fans they had met this season. It was the most enjoyable 5-0 defeat I have experienced!

I sincerely hope that when Maidstone eventually secure their promotion, the powers that be at Conference level see sense regarding synthetic 3G pitches - this club would be a massive asset to their membership.

Our next game is on Saturday at Summers Lane against local rivals Harrow Borough, a derby which takes on extra importance due to their proximity to us in the league table.

Three points would be massive, following three consecutive defeats.

Follow me on Twitter @JMascis666

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