Wingate & Finchley boss rues ‘missed opportunity’ after FA Cup exit

Weston-super-Mare goalkeeper Luke Purnell makes a low save and holds on under pressure from Wingate'

Weston-super-Mare goalkeeper Luke Purnell makes a low save and holds on under pressure from Wingate's Ola Sogbanmu (in blue). Pic: Martin Addison - Credit: Archant

Wingate & Finchley manager Simon Lane feels Saturday’s FA Cup exit was a “missed opportunity” as the Blues lost 3-1 to Weston-super-Mare in the third qualifying round.

Playing in front of a bumper crowd of 337 on Non-League Day, Wingate hosted a side lying second from bottom in the Conference South – six places below the Concord Rangers outfit they had beaten at Summers Lane in the previous stage.

Another home win would have taken the Blues into the fourth qualifying round for the first time ever – and secured £7,500 in prize money on top of the £7,500 they had already earned.

The hosts started confidently but left themselves wide open in only the ninth minute, allowing Bradley Ash to go through one on one and score – and Tommy Tejan-Sie was denied an equaliser by a fine low save from Luke Purnell before Jake Mawford doubled Weston’s lead just before the half-hour mark with a curling 25-yard effort that went in off the bar.

Wingate continued to be frustrated as Purnell tipped Marc Weatherstone’s looping header over the bar and a Lee Barney goal was disallowed for offside – and the visitors made it 3-0 seven minutes after the break, with goalkeeper Bobby Smith saving from Scott Wilson, only for Ash to follow up.

Karl Oliyide pulled a goal back with a 68th-minute penalty and substitute Rob Laney twice tested Purnell, while Barney was also denied, but there was to be no comeback.

“It feels very much like a missed opportunity, I said that to the guys afterwards,” Lane told Ham&High Sport. “We had lots of opportunities to score and their goals were unfortunate as well.

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“One was a lack of concentration and the second was a worldie which came from nowhere, and I think it affected us in terms of the manner and timing of the goal.

“The third one, Bobby’s made a great save and it’s just landed to them and it’s killed the atmosphere at that point. But then again we kept going and we had a number of opportunities again.

“We tried to be positive all the way through from the start so there’s a bit of a missed opportunity for sure – especially when you see lots of people coming through the gate and enjoying the day.

“It’s a frustration, the guys are very disappointed. They know how close we came to prolonging this run and making history at the club.

“When you look back at the game in the round you’ll see that we were the better side and we created lots of chances - but at that level above they’ll finish them and the second goal was from a different planet really.

“Those guys are obviously on decent money and ex-pros so that was the difference in the end. But hopefully our guys can take confidence from it and knowing what the future could hold if they carry on progressing in our league.”

Lane added: “I can’t really complain about the effort, I just thought we were shaken a little bit, simply by the second goal, and we got too disappointed too quickly.

“There are disappointments in any one game and you’ve got to forget them and keep mentally strong to progress. That’s the main learning point and of course we’ve got to finish our chances when we’re on top.”

Wingate’s FA Cup showdown was their fourth game in eight days – and they won the first three, all of which came away from home.

The Blues triumphed 1-0 at Burgess Hill Town in the Ryman League Premier Division on Saturday October 3 and they went on to win 4-3 at Waltham Abbey in the League Cup last Tuesday before thumping Broadfields United 8-0 in the Middlesex Cup 24 hours later. However, they went on to lose the biggest game of the week, against Weston-super-Mare.

“I thought our energy was ok, it could have been better,” said Lane. “It’s certainly not ideal. These guys work all day and they’re doing a Tuesday match, a Wednesday match and a Thursday training session in preparation for a big game.

“We did try to get the FA to change it but there was nothing we could do, so I had to manage it carefully.”

Asked if he would now swap last week’s League Cup and Middlesex Cup triumphs for a victory in Saturday’s FA Cup clash, Lane admitted: “I probably would, because of the finances. It’s such a difference for us at this club.

“It’s no secret, everybody knows our budget is probably a bottom-two budget in our league, so every single penny helps, and it would have been great to have just got that big one at the weekend.

“But I’ve chatted to the chairman and I’m hoping that, with the run we’ve had, we can keep this squad together. That’s the main thing, when the predators come in for them - which they are and they will - and maybe we can add to the squad when we get more injuries.

“We’ve got good players here and they don’t earn great money, whereas every other club in our league does.

“That’s always a challenge but they’re here for different reasons. They’re here for football reasons, because they’re progressing, they’re learning and they seem to be buying into what we’re trying to do with them – and the club looks after them in other ways and it feels like a family, so those things are important too.

“Of course we’ve got a lot of local boys as well here, so that’s a good pull for the club as well. We’re in a positive state of mind. It’s obviously disappointing to go out but the club as a whole is in rude health so hopefully we can continue progressing.”