True Blue: A Wingate & Finchley fan’s view of the victory at Thamesmead

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 blogger Simon Swingler gives his verdict on Saturday’s 10-man triumph away at Thamesmead Town.

Saturday was an extremely special day in the non-league footballing calendar. To the untrained eye it may appear to have just been another Saturday containing a bog standard set of fixtures. However, due to the fact that the national team played over the weekend, fixtures were suspended in the top two leagues.

Over the past few years this day has been designated ‘Non-League Day’ and it often sees many of the smaller clubs who ply their trade up and down the country entering into initiatives to coax armchair fans or season-ticket holders of bigger clubs to their games in a bid to boost both their attendances and profiles.

For example, Farnborough of the Conference South were offering free entry to everyone, where Bungay Town were paying people (albeit with a very small sum of cash) to attend their game.

These initiatives can prove quite successful. On Non-League Day last season, Wingate & Finchley hosted Concord Rangers and attracted a gate of 262.

This figure may seem quite low, but when you consider this is more than double our average attendance you begin to understand why the clubs do these things. The chance of getting 130 potential new fans into Summers Lane is an opportunity the club happily grabbed with both hands.

As mentioned in previous blogs, the league is separated into three distinct sections - the big boys, the middle guys and the teams who are just hoping to stay in the division.

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We, of course are under no illusions that we fall into this final category, and to be honest so did our opponents on Saturday, Thamesmead.

Since gaining promotion to the Premier League, Thamesmead have found life tough and are currently languishing in the relegation zone - a defeat for the Blue Gods away in south-east London would have been a bitter blow to our survival chances.

Proceedings did not start well, with a majority of our squad getting stuck on the Woolwich Ferry with no ETA available, although in the end the game was only delayed by around 15 minutes.

Despite enduring the journey from hell, The Blue Gods started the game brightly and looked much the better side. Usually when we start a game well we heap the pressure onto our opponents but never convert that pressure into goals, and then are hit with a sucker punch at the other end.

However, Lady Luck appeared to be smiling on us on this occasion. While most of the crowd was looking elsewhere, an horrific back pass by a Thamesmead defender found the lurking Leon Smith, who rounded the keeper and tapped into an open net to give Wingate the lead.

Fleet-footed winger Dean Mason then failed to convert two glorious chances to double our lead. On both occasions, his pace had put him clear of the defence, but he was thwarted by the Thamesmead keeper.

The assembled Wingate fans (19 of us travelled if you’re interested!) knew that our missed chances were going to come back to bite us, and so it proved when, just before half-time, a Thamesmead forward bypassed Marc Weatherstone and then proceeded to walk through the challenges of Farai Hallam and Paul Wright and finish past the onrushing Bobby Smith leave the scores level at half-time.

Wingate were not as dominant in the second period as the hosts, with their confidence boosted by their goal just before the interval, grew into the game.

However, Wingate were not without their chances. Leon Smith was fed by the midfield and, despite one of The Thamesmead defenders trying to pull his shirt off, he still managed to get a decent shot off, which flashed narrowly wide.

Daniel McGonigle was also thwarted by the impressive Thamesmead goalkeeper when he saw his long-range effort tipped over the bar.

Then came the moment I thought was going to be the turning point of the match. Captain Marc Weatherstone was given his marching orders for his second bookable offence following what the referee deemed to be deliberate handball.

We instantly reverted to a 4-4-1 formation with Dan McGonigle filling in well at centre-half in the absence of Weathers.

But, despite the numerical advantage, the hosts did not really create anything resembling a decent chance - indeed it was Wingate who looked the more dangerous on the counter-attack.

With only seven minutes remaining on the clock, substitute Scott Shulton cut in from the left-hand side and curled a delightful Dennis Bergkamp-esque effort past the groping hand of the Thamesmead keeper and into the net via the inside of the post to send the travelling fans into raptures.

A few hairy moments ensued as Thamesmead streamed forward but, unlike at Hendon a few weeks ago, we held on for the crucial three points.

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