Bostik Development League: Dean Barker proud of Wingate & Finchley’s under-23s after historic campaign
- Credit: Archant
The under-23s at Maurice Rebak Stadium lost both of their recent finals to see their treble hopes ended, but still won a landmark league title
Wingate & Finchley under-23s were unable to finish the 2017/18 season with more silverware last night, but Dean Barker praised the efforts of the group following the 2-0 defeat to Hastings United’s under-23s in the Bostik Development League Cup final.
The Maurice Rebak Stadium club had already been crowned champions of the Bostik Development North, but had tasted defeat on Friday in the Champion of Champions final against Margate at Aveley’s Parkside.
Blues returned to the same venue again on Tuesday to take on Hastings in the League Cup final, but two goals from substitute Luca Page handed the U’s the victory.
It was a frustrating finish for Barker, who will now take up the role of manager at Bostik South Central outfit Northwood, but he said: “I can’t fault the way we played.
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“We played really well and we had enough chances to be three or four up, but we never took them.
“Football can be a cruel game sometimes. If you don’t take your chances it can bite you and that’s what happened in the final.”
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Barker’s team failed to make the most of their opportunities on Friday too as they lost 3-2 to Margate despite goals from Ben Pattie and Ned Clarke.
It was a similar story on Tuesday as the League Cup final ended goalless at the break, though Hastings were unlucky not to take the lead when Sam Adams’ long-range lob went over Reuben Rabstein and crossed the line, but no goal was given.
After half time the Blues upped the ante and went close when Clarke was played in, but he lobbed over Louis Rogers from inside the penalty area in the 49th minute.
The same man went close again six minutes later when Emmanuel Melford-Rowe’s cross evaded Rogers, but Clarke’s best efforts to find the net were thwarted by a U’s defender.
In the 61st minute Wingate created their best opportunity of the match when Pattie cut back for Kier Dickson, but he was denied by Hastings’ goalkeeper from close range.
United punished the Blues lack of clinical touch three minutes later when a Jack Dixon shot took a big deflected and fell perfectly for Page and he slotted home.
It was harsh on Barker’s men, but they continued to press and Pattie curled wide before substitute Ricardo Price was denied by Rogers in a one-on-one situation.
With Wingate pushing for a late leveller, Hastings caught them on the break and Page fired past Rabstein to put the final to bed.
Pattie and Luke Alfano both had further shots blocked in stoppage time, but it just wasn’t the Blues night.
Barker added: “The game on Friday we missed plenty of chances as well, but it is not just the job of the strikers up front to score goals.
“Our two boys in attack, Ned and Ben, were the top goalscorers in the Bostik Development North, so they’ve had a great season.
“It just wasn’t to be in these two finals, but I can’t fault the effort of the players in both games.
“Also, I have to point out a lot of these players are 17 and 18-year-olds, so it is their first year in senior football.
“Even at 2-0, the boys coming out tried to contribute towards the team when they could have been sulking about not starting the final, so that’s a good sign.”
This was thr last match in charge of Wingate’s under-23s for Barker, who has also helped out boss Keith Rowland this season and saw a number of his young players feature for the Blues first-team.
Barker added: “This under-23s group are the first team in Wingate & Finchley’s history to win a senior league, so that’s something which will be remembered forever.
“To win the league, reach two cup finals and have a lot of the boys make first-team appearances is fantastic. Overall it has been a really enjoyable season.”