Bostik Premier: Wingate & Finchley 4 Burgess Hill Town 2
PUBLISHED: 17:20 27 April 2019 | UPDATED: 21:05 27 April 2019
In dramatic fashion, Wingate & Finchley staved off relegation in their final game of the Bostik Premier season with victory over Burgess Hill.
The Blues came into the game knowing three points would guarantee their safety but should they fail to win, and fellow strugglers Whitehawk emerge victorious over Corinthian-Casuals, they would be relegated.
All too aware of what was riding on the game, it was Wingate who made the early running, with Anthony Mendy looking dangerous.
After adjusting to the blustery, overcast conditions, Rob Laney had the Blues' first chance of note, with his low shot gathered comfortably by Hillians' goalkeeper Josh James.
With six goals from his last seven games, it was Wingate front man Mendy who broke the deadlock on 14 minutes.
After Luke Ifil's free-kick found its way to the back post, Mendy created a yard of space inside the penalty area, which was just enough time for the Blues' striker to curl in a shot beyond the helpless James.
Burgess Hill responded immediately, with Ross Murdoch flashing a header over the bar.
But it was Wingate who doubled their advantage just before the break with almost a carbon copy to their first goal, but this time instead on the right-hand side of the area, Mendy received the ball from Ahmet Rifat, cutting in on his left foot before curling past James.
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Although the Blues went into the break ahead 2-0 they knew Whitehawk were matching them every step of the way, with their relegation rivals also 2-0 up.
Wingate started the second period shakily and their nerves got the better of them on 54 minutes as the Hillians' pulled one back through skipper Dan Beck who converted from a few yards out after Murdoch's shot rebounded off the crossbar.
The Blues were suddenly on the back foot and, before they knew it, Burgess Hill dragged themselves level as a fast counter attack saw right winger Joseph Felix crash a shot high into the roof of the net.
The Blues had to respond – and they did.
With less than 10 minutes left on the clock, an attempted overhead kick by Mendy fell to substitute Charlie Ruff on the edge of the area and he drove a fierce strike into the back of the net.
The wind was in the Blues' sails and only a couple of minutes later Ifil secured the three points in heroic style.
Starting out with the ball in his own half, Ifil drove down the right-hand side, leaving the Hillians' defence in his wake before firing low and beyond James to restore the two-goal cushion.
And as the final whistle brought a close to a frantic, frenetic game, Wingate players and coaching staff celebrated on the pitch, knowing their place in the Bostik Premier was secure.
Wingate: Gore, Ifil, Eadie, Tejan-Sie, Cronin, Njie, Makoma (Beckles-Richards 74), Rifat, Laney (Ruff 78), Mendy (Cole 90), Abrahams. Unused subs: Willliams, Ripai.