Wingate & Finchley secure survival after shock victory over Lowestoft

Wingate & Finchley secured their Premier Division status in the Ryman League last night after with an incredible and unlikely 3-2 win over second-placed Lowestoft Town.

Lowestoft took an early lead in the fifth minute with a goal out of nowhere as a mix-up in the Wingate defence led to a poor clearance, and Joe Benjamin fired an arrowing shot across goal into the bottom left corner of the net.

Lowestoft were dominant for the opening 20 minutes, but Wingate held them at bay to stay in the contest.

Blues striker Leon Smith sent a curling effort wide, and Ryan Scott then levelled on 28 minutes, bundling home from a left-sided corner.

Shortly afterwards Ahmet Rifat, who had been pushed forwards, went dancing through the defence and squared to Hector Mackie, but his backheel was blocked by the diving keeper.

The game was very open and very even, with both sides looking to play intelligent and entertaining football.

At the end of the half Lowestoft’s Adam Smith sent a swerving effort on goal which Bobby Smith was equal to, and Mackie’s free-kick which was tipped around the post at the other end.

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Mackie went one better three minutes later into the second half, curling the ball through the wall and into the bottom left corner after Scott Shulton had been tripped on the edge of the box.

Wingate then began to rip through Lowestoft, and Rifat and Smith both went through one-on-one with the visiting keeper but failed to extend the lead.

The hosts were punished for their profligacy in the 66th minute as Lowestoft made it 2-2, their veteran striker Hakeem Araba turning and rifling into the top left corner.

It could have been worse for Wingate as Lowestoft broke away on the counter-attack and found Benjamin, but Bobby Smith saved his low shot.

At the other end, Leon Smith curled an effort just wide via a defender’s block – and the Blues went on to score the crucial winning goal in the 77th minute.

A throw-in on the right wing was played to Wayne O’Sullivan, and he whipped in a superb cross for Rifat. Time seemed to stand still, but his header crept slowly in at the far post.

Lowestoft, who were clearly tired after their recent exertions on the road, couldn’t muster a cutting edge and find another equaliser despite their efforts, and Wingate held on for the most vital of victories.

Wingate & Finchley: B Smith, Nielsen, Braithwaite, Weatherstone, Scott (Bellotti 78), McCall, Rifat, Shulton, L Smith, O’Sullivan (Christian 83), Mackie (McGonigle 86). Subs: Hutchinson, Thomas.