Wingate & Finchley miss out on top 10 after defeat in final game of record-breaking season

Head coach Daniel Nielsen and captain Marc Weatherstone both rued Wingate & Finchley’s failure to secure a 10-top finish as their record-breaking season ended with a defeat away at Canvey Island.

The Blues earned more points in the Ryman League Premier Division than ever before, with their total of 67 easily beating their previous best of 59 from 2011-12.

Another three points at Canvey on Saturday would have left Wingate eighth in the final standings, while a draw would have put them ninth – and they established a 2-0 lead after first-half goals from Karl Oliyide and Rob Laney.

But the hosts, who needed to win to avoid relegation, battled back heroically to triumph 3-2, leaving the Blues with a fourth defeat from their final five games in April, and 12th place overall.

“First of all, congratulations to Canvey for staying up,” said a gracious Nielsen. “We were in a similar position last season and it was a nerve-wracking day.

“We were brilliant in the first half and really should have killed the game off but their set piece goal [Steve Smith’s header from a free kick just two minutes after Wingate had gone 2-0 up] changed the game.

“They pressed us well in the second half and they probably deserved it. Our boys deserved to finish ninth, which is what a draw would have got us, but it’s been a brilliant season – as fantastic as the last one was a disappointment.

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“We’ve been so pleased with the football and the wins, but we’ve also learned to grind out wins often. You can’t just rely on the best pitch in the league and we’ve had to change our game at away matches and that’s something we’ve done well, proving we can get results.

“Thank you to everyone at the club. We all deserved a season like the one we’ve had and now we will look to solidify our place in the league and move onwards and upwards.”

Captain Weatherstone added: “It’s been a fantastic season, we built on last year and pushed on. I’m very happy with it.

“Bobby Smith had a brilliant season, he’s the best keeper in the league by a country mile. You look at David Knight, the best striker in the league, who has scored consistently. I could go on about individuals all day and that shows.

“This month hasn’t been great for results and we deserved to be in the top 10 before that.”