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By Ben Kosky
Monday, April 28, 2014
Skipper Marc Weatherstone has backed relegated Wingate & Finchley to bounce straight back if they can keep their squad together next season.
The Blues’ three-year stay in the Premier Division came to a cruel end on Saturday when they were demoted on goal difference – despite thrashing Billericay Town 5-0 in their final game.
Central defender Weatherstone, a member of the Wingate side that won promotion in 2011, is determined to stay and repeat that achievement next year – and he hopes most of his team-mates will follow suit.
“If we keep the same players we’ll come straight back up, no doubt about it,” Weatherstone told Ham&High Sport. “That’s easier said than done – I don’t believe all our players will stay.
“But as long as we’ve got that team spirit, which Wingate have always had, we’ll be fine whoever comes in. If the club want me, I’ll be more than happy to stay next year.
“At least six of the players in the team this year won promotion before, so we know what it takes to get promoted and I’m sure that experience will help new boys who come in.
“As the captain, I’m very proud of the players, and it’s devastating to come off with a 5-0 win and still go down. But we’ll come back strong for pre-season and crack on from there.”
Ultimately, the Blues paid the price for their dreadful run of results in recent weeks – they had failed to win in 10 matches leading up to a 2-0 victory at Leiston on Easter Monday.
That meant they had to beat Billericay at the Harry Abrahams Stadium on Saturday and hope for results involving East Thurrock United and Enfield Town to go in their favour.
It looked as if it might be Wingate’s day when Ahmet Rifat pounced on a defensive slip to open the scoring with a shot that took a heavy deflection and looped over the goalkeeper on 14 minutes.
Leon Fisher’s low finish from the edge of the box made it 2-0 just three minutes later and, with East Thurrock trailing Bognor Regis Town by the same scoreline, the Blues’ last-day escape seemed to be on.
Rifat headed in his second of the afternoon early in the second half and Scott Shulton rifled home Wingate’s fourth before Rifat completed his hat-trick with a close-range finish late on.
By then, however, the scale of victory – and even the victory itself – had become irrelevant as news spread that East Thurrock had fought back to win 4-2, while Enfield Town beat bottom side Cray Wanderers 2-1.
“Billericay are not a poor team – they beat [promoted] Wealdstone in their last game,” added Weatherstone. “But we made them look average because of our heart, our passion and desire to win.
“We didn’t go down because of this game. Throughout the whole season there have been games where we should have made sure, but didn’t.
“A run of three points out of 30 is not good enough. We took seven points from the last three games and for me, that’s form that should keep you up – but it wasn’t to be.”