True Blue: A Wingate & Finchley fan’s view of the victory over East Thurrock
- Credit: Archant
The Ham&High’s Wingate & Finchley blogger Simon Swingler delivers a blow by blow account of Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 home win over East Thurrock United.
Following our rather poor showing in the FA Trophy replay on Tuesday night away at Daventry Town, it was back to league duty for the Blue Gods as we welcomed fellow strugglers East Thurrock to Summers Lane.
Our opponents started the day below us in the league and in quite a poor run of form. However, over the past few years the more hardened and weary of the Wingate faithful have witnessed us end many a club’s poor run by handing them a resounding win, so no-one was expecting an easy ride.
Last season, East Thurrock exceeded all expectations when they reached the play-offs before narrowly losing out in the semi-finals, so although they appeared to be struggling this season they still remain an outfit to be reckoned with.
Saturday’s line-up saw Danny Nielsen handing out two full debuts as Spanish winger Hector Morante who had a rather successful pre-season with the club, started his first game. In addition centre-back Bobby Aisien, who has been on loan at Ryman Division One North outfit Cheshunt, replaced the suspended Marc Weatherstone.
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After surviving a nervy moment when the referee waived away the visitors’ claims for a penalty, Wingate opened the scoring on 15 minutes. Mark Henry did very well to reach the by-line on the right-hand side before pulling the ball back into the path of Ahmet Rifat, who slotted home.
The Blue Gods proceeded to play some quite scintillating football but couldn’t find the second goal. Firstly, Morante went through his repertoire of tricks before releasing Kieron Street, who shot over the bar from the angle.
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Rifat then had another snapshot that was unfortunately straight at the keeper, and he also tried a cheeky little Bergkamp-esque lob as the game neared half-time - but it sailed just over.
In the second period the home side continued to probe for the vital second goal. Rifat this time turned supplier and squared a need ball to TJ on the edge of the area, but he hit his shot high and wide with the goal seemingly at his mercy.
With every missed chance the tension in the home crowd rose as we anticipated the inevitable - and so it transpired as a scramble in the box following a set piece saw the East Thurrock left-back drill a shot past Bobby Smith to restore parity.
East Thurrock were soon in the lead as Wingate pressed the self destruct button. Another corner was poorly defended and an unmarked Leon McKenzie nodded home.
As the East Thurrock players celebrated their unlikely good fortune on the pitch, we the fans stood in stunned silence, thoroughly convinced that we had successfully once against grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.
However, Rifat was really in the mood and he equalised almost immediately when he headed a beautiful cross from Ola Williams past the despairing dive of the East Thurrock keeper.
With this quite thrilling game hurtling towards full-time, Finchley took the lead for the second time when substitute Leon Smith hit an unstoppable drive from the edge of the box.
We were still recovering from the exertions of celebrating our late winner when the East Thurrock right winger found himself in enough space to build a farm in. He whipped in a brilliant cross which was duly finished by one of his colleagues, and ecstasy turned to despair once again.
The rollercoaster of emotions was completed in injury-time when Dean Mason found Rifat, who held off the challenging defender before feeding the ball to Leon Smith, who was lurking in the six-yard box - and the big striker appeared to scuff his shot, which crept apologetically over the line to hand Wingate a very welcome three points and leaving us sitting pretty in midtable.
Next up, Wingate & Finchley travel to Enfield Town in a big north London derby. I urge any neutrals reading this to come down to Donkey Lane (home of Enfield Town) on Tuesday evening (kick-off 7.45pm) to witness this intense yet friendly derby.