Bostik Premier: Keith Rowland pleased overall with Wingate & Finchley's season after finishing with Harlow Town win
PUBLISHED: 17:00 01 May 2018
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The former Queens Park Rangers and West Ham United footballer has delivered another impressive campaign for the Blues
Keith Rowland praised his youthful Wingate & Finchley team for standing up to the challenge imposed on them by Harlow Town on the final day of the Bostik Premier season.
A late penalty from Sean Cronin earned the Blues all three points in Essex following a 1-0 victory.
It saw them finish the campaign with a five-match unbeaten run and Rowland hailed the effort of his young side, which included a number of current under-23 players.
He said: “I’m pleased. It is a clean sheet away from home. We came here last season and knew the second balls were priority.
“The ball in the air we might not win, but I made sure the players knew the physicality of the game because a lot of teams come here and get drawn in by the pitch and think it will be a passing game, but it is not.
“Harlow are quite direct and work off seconds and they are a set-piece team and I haven’t got a big group as it is, but we relied on working off the seconds.
“If you can’t win the first, win the second and if the second ball can be won then the third becomes a possession ball and we did that terrifically well in the first half and got a grip of the game, but the half came too early for us.
“After that we came out for the second half and never really got going again, but we batted away and stood up to the challenge.”
Having withstood a slight storm from Harlow after the restart, Wingate managed to take all three points when Afolabi Obafemi was brought down inside the penalty area by Ibrahima Sonko.
Centre back Cronin stepped up and sent David Hughes the wrong way to secure a 10th-placed finish for the Maurice Rebak Stadium club.
Rowland declared himself happy with their final placing in the table – considering the age of the squad and the club’s financial resources compared to others in the division.
Wingate had reached the play-offs last season, but couldn’t replicate that achievement this time around although their points total of 75 from the 2016/17 campaign would have only been enough for eight in the table this term.
“Like I have been saying for the last few weeks, I’ve got four people aged 18 or under in the team, which is terrific for them,” said Rowland.
“I am not saying these young lads are there, they have a long way to go, but what I’ve asked them to do and what they’ve done over the last few weeks and what the squad have done is finish the season off well and to come ninth is a terrific achievement.
“What we did last season was make the play-offs with 75 points, so the league was more even – this time around I think it is 79 for fifth and fourth was 85.
“We got close late March and we just couldn’t keep up the pace, but with a bit more luck over the last few weeks and with some referee decisions going our way, like when we had two players sent off in two different games, we might have done it.
“The last week was tough for us. We went to Billericay Town (2-2), Lowestoft Town (1-1) and played Dorking Wanderers twice (2-2 and 2-0 home win).
“We had three draws and a win, it easily could have three wins and a draw and we would have come eighth with that, so it just goes to show the fine lines, but I am pleased overall.”