Blues reach FA Trophy first round

November 26, 2008
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FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round replay:
Sutton Utd 2 Wingate & Finchley 2 AET
(Wingate & Finchley 4-3 win on penalties)

In a dramatic FA Trophy third Qualifying Round replay, an injury-hit Wingate & Finchley went through on penalties following a second draw against Ryman Premier side Sutton United.

Sutton started the match as the stronger team and created the better of the openings, and David Hughes sent a powerful low drive from the edge of the area that came through a crowd of players but Gavin King was alert and saved well.

Then during an intense goalmouth scramble, Kieran Street courageously blocked a shot on the goalline.

Sutton broke through the excellent defensive resistance In the 29th minute, taking the lead through a Chukki Eribenne header who turned in a flat cross from the left wing.

Just like on Saturday, Wingate & Finchley responded well to conceding the opening goal. Ahmet Rifat shot from a free kick but was denied by a great diving save from Joe McLoughlin near his right post.

Then three minutes before the break Wingate & Finchley equalised. Tim Lees sent in a low inswinging corner which troubled the keeper, who was under pressure from Chris Chase, and the ball somehow trickled over the line.

The second half was mainly a battle in midfield, as both sides defended strongly and few chances were created. Kieran Street sent a half volley fizzing past the right post, whilst at the other end Simon Downer rose unchallenged after a looping free kick from the right side but he sent his header wide.

With 18 minutes remaining The Blues took the lead. The ball was played up to Chase on the left side of the halfway line. He had attracted two defenders towards him and that left a huge space in the middle for Joe O'Brien to run into. The pass to him was perfect and O'Brien bore down on the keeper before rolling the ball underneath him.

Sutton threw men forward for the closing stages of the game, and With just five minutes on the clock Dean Palmer equalised for the Premier Division side when he rose highest from a free kick to head home - sending the game into extra time.

Wingate & Finchley's players were understandably tired during extra time and found it hard to keep hold of the ball. Michael Sacks was brought on for the shattered Chris Chase to give some height up front, however his night ended early as he was on the receiving end of a crunching challenge that sent him hobbling off.

Sutton had the better of the chances through extra time. After a loose backpass Adam Wilde pounced but Gavin King closed the angle well and he only found the side netting.

In the second period Craig Dundas hit a ferocious drive from the edge of the area that King tipped over superbly, and Eribenne then had a chance to win the game for his side with a penalty kick that was awarded after a slight trip. He however promptly sent his spot kick over the bar and out of the stadium.

The match ended all square and went to a shootout which Wingate & Finchley won 4-3 after two saves from Gavin King. The Blues will now travel to Farnborough on Saturday December 13 in the first Round Proper.

Wingate & Finchley manager Michael Stone said: "I am so immensely proud of the players tonight. Their application and effort levels were absolutely first class and each and every player showed great mental strength to achieve what we have achieved tonight and knock out another team from a higher league than ours.

"It would be unfair to point out individual performances as there were heroes all over the pitch, each player stuck to the game plan that we had discussed and in the latter stages, when fatigue kicked in, it was sheer guts and determination that saw the team through.

"This was a memorable night for not just myself, the players and staff but everybody involved at the football club. We know we have key league matches coming up over the next couple of weeks so we will switch our attentions again before our trip to Farnborough Town FC in the next round."

Penalties:
0-0 Joe O'Brien, saved
0-0 SU saved
1-0 Tim Lees, scored
1-1 SU scored
2-1 Leon Nelson, scored
2-2 SU scored
3-2 Craig Ellis, scored
3-3 SU scored
4-3 Ahmet Rifat, scored
4-3 SU saved

Wingate & Finchley: Gavin King, Marc Weatherstone, Kieran Street (Ola Williams 86), Craig Ellis, Bobby Aisien, Ahmet Rifat, Daniel Nielsen, Joe O'Brien,, Leon Nelson, Chris Chase [(Michael Sacks 97) (Anthony Limbrick 119)] Tim Lees. Subs: Callum Horton, Jake Furman

    Last updated: 11:50am, November 26 2008