True Blue: A Wingate & Finchley fan’s view of the draw at Wealdstone

Wingate & Finchley captain Marc Weatherstone prepares to lead the Blues out of the tunnel. Pic: Mart

Wingate & Finchley captain Marc Weatherstone prepares to lead the Blues out of the tunnel. Pic: Martin Addison - Credit: Archant

Wingate & Finchley supporter Simon Swingler gives his verdict on Saturday’s 2-2 draw away at Wealdstone.

Following our impressive 4-0 victory at home last Saturday against Carshalton and our 3-1 reverse away at the Metropolitan Police in midweek, the Wingate faithful trooped up to north-west London to hopefully witness The Blue Gods win their third successive game away at Grosvenor Vale, the home of Wealdstone Football Club.

Wealdstone boast an average attendance that is four or five times that of the average Ryman Premier League team, and they presumably operate with a budget far in excess of our own, so despite our good record in recent years at Grosvenor Vale the travelling fans were under no illusions as to how tough Saturday’s game against one of the league’s front runners would be.

There was a nice little monent I thought I would share just to explain to those reading who may not be aware of what life is like in Ryman League - on our way to the game we bumped into new signing Farai Hallam, who was making his way to the game via the Metropolitan Line! You wouldn’t catch any of the Premier League’s pampered stars travelling with the rest of us mere mortals.

Two changes were made from the side that by all accounts acquitted themselves very well at the Met Police on Tuesday for no reward, with Scott Shulton returning to the side at the expense of John Christian, and Marcus Milner replacing the presumably injured Hector Mackie.

Looking at the personnel on the team sheet it appeared we would be once again operating with a 4-5-1 formation with leading scorer for the past three seasons, Leon Smith, spearheading the attack.

This was probably a sensible precaution undertaken by our new head coach Danny Nielsen when you consider that we where playing away from home against one of the league’s bigger clubs.

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We burst out of the blocks much quicker than our lethargic hosts as Wealdstone struggled to gain a foothold in the game as we started to spread the ball around nicely, using new signings Dean Mason and Marcus Milner to good effect on either flank. Scotty Shulton was floating around in that little gap between the opposition defence and midfield and was subsequently causing The Stones all sorts of grief as they attempted to track his stealthy movements.

In football it is always said that it is vitally important to convert pressure into goals and that is exactly what The Blue Gods did in the eighth minutes. Ola Williams crossed the ball into the box were Leon intelligently nodded the ball back to the elusive Shulton, who gleefully stuck the ball in the onion bag to send the 20 or so travelling fans into raptures.

Our travelling fans are more than long in the tooth enough to appreciate that Shulton’s goal probably wasn’t going to be the only goal of the game and, in equal measure, we anticipated that our lead probably wouldn’t remain intact for the rest of the game. However, we were rather hopeful that our lead was going to last more than the 90 seconds that it did.

Almost immediately, Wealdstone were level when the W&F back line were caught cold by a long ball over the top and veteran Stones striker Chris Moore was on hand with a clever run to collect the ball and shoot past Bobby Smith for the equaliser.

To our credit, we did not allow this setback to deter us from our game plan as our midfield trio continued to outnumber their Wealdstone counterparts and enjoy quality possession. Dean Mason was roasting his full-back every time he was able to isolate him and I personally felt quietly confident that we would score again - and so it transpired.

Midway through the first half an untidy passage of play on the edge of the Wealdstone box occurred. Neither side could seem to get hold of the ball until Leon Smith unleashed a screamer which left the Wealdstone keeper groping vainly at thin air as the ball rifled into the back of the net to hand the lead back to Wingate.

This time we nearly held on to our lead for 20 minutes! However Wealdstone’s classy forward Tom Pett capitalised on some sloppy play at the back from W&F and hit a finish of some distinction past Bobby on the stroke of half-time to send the two sides into break deadlocked at two apiece.

At half-time Daniel Nielsen showed that he isn’t afraid to make tactical changes early in proceedings when he pulled off centre-back Frankie Webb and replaced him with debutant Jesse Parsons.

We secured the services of young centre-back Parsons following his release from Stevenage’s academy and my initial analysis of Jesse taken from the one pre-season friendly he played is that the young lad isn’t your typical “battering ram” non-league centre-back.

He is an athletic, technically sound defender - a complete contrast to the man who he was replacing, who is more of streetwise fighter of a centre-back, able to match any forward physically but perhaps susceptible to genuine pace. Clearly Nielsen had spotted something along the back line that needed tweaking and duly made the change.

The second half saw Wealdstone come into the ascendancy and enjoy not only the lions’ share of possession but also most of the chances too.

Throughout the second half I was convinced that Wealdstone were going to grab the winner, and my heart was well and truly in my mouth when first ex-Leyton Orient and Northampton frontman Scott McLeish banged a piledriver into the side-netting and then, in the very last minute, Wes Parker’s header rebounded off the woodwork.

After what seemed like an eternity, the referee’s whistle signalled an end to proceedings and handed us a very satisfactory and hard-fought for point away at one of the bookies’ favourites to gain promotion this season.

Wingate currently find themselves in a very solid 11th place after three games having accumulated four points. Our next two games are at both at home on Tuesday and Saturday against Grays Athletic and Kingstonian respectively.

As it currently stands, both Grays and Kingstonian both have 100 per cent records so will definitely be no pushovers.

However, I feel we need to win at least one of these just to keep the momentum going and add to our points tally to keep us floating nicely in midtable in a bid to avoid being sucked into the relegation battle that very nearly gave me several heart attacks last season!

If you are in the N12 area, please come along on Tuesday and/or Saturday. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Come On You Blue Gods!