Wingate & Finchley’s promotion hopes dashed


Wingate & Finchley’s hopes of reaching the Ryman League Premier Division came to an end on Tuesday night when they were beaten 3-2 by Enfield Town in the Division One North Playoff semi-final.

With the team’s meeting three days after they played out a goalless draw in their final league game, the visitors virtually had the game wrapped up, scoring early three goals at the Abrahams Stadium.

In a stark contrast to the tactical deadlock of Saturday’s goalless draw both sides came out with immediate attacking intent, and in only the second minute Wingate’s full-back Marc Weatherstone saw an 25 yard piledriver from bounce down from the crossbar but unfortunately onto the wrong side of the goal line.

Enfield forged ahead after 16th minute after two Wingate defenders collided on the edge of the area. Daniel Nielsen’s partial clearance fell into path of Paul Marks who drilled it sweetly into the bottom right corner.

Wingate & Finchley responded with Dave Laird flicking the ball over Enfield’s defensive line for the onrushing Leon Smith to collect, but he clipped the ball past the keeper only to find the side netting

Clinical finishing and a little bit of luck was the difference between the sides, and midway through the first half the visitors’ lead was doubled. Gavin King was on the receiving end of a deflected free kick, and did well to stop the shot but the ball fell at the feet of Stuart Blackburne who was left to score a simple tap-in.

Chris Chase sent a curling free kick from 25 yards that was tipped over the bar by Rob Blackburne, but before the half hour mark Enfield’s lead was extended to three goals. Again fortune favoured Enfield, as a corner was flicked on by a defender straight to Stuart Blackburne who headed home near the far post.

Three goals down, Wingate & Finchley did not let their heads drop. They pulled one back minutes later with Jordan Fowler converting a penalty given for handball.

Leon Smith headed over from a Fowler cross shortly before the break, and after half-time it was Wingate who continued to do all the pressing. Ahmet Rifat touched a long ball on to Laird but he toe-poked the ball beyond the right post.

With 62 minutes gone the deserved second goal arrived. Gary Burrell sent over a flat in-swinging corner and goalkeeper Blackburne lost the flight of it in the floodlights and it nestled kindly over his head into the goal.

Ten minutes later Blackburne made amends for that error by making an incredible block in his goalline.

Substitute Paul Hakim struck a close range volley from a corner but the keeper somehow dived low to parry the ball away.

Enfield brought on fresh defensive legs, whilst Wingate began to tire in their pursuit of completing the long comeback. In the closing stages every cross was dealt with impeccably by the Enfield defence and the chances dried up for the hosts - leaving Enfield to secure an away trip to Concord Rangers in Saturday’s final, whilst Wingate & Finchley will look to next season where they will hope to build on a Club record league finish.

Wingate: King, Weatherstone, Wright (Hakim 60), Fowler, Nielsen, Ellis, Chase, Rifat, Smith, Laird (McLachlan 83), Burrell. Subs: Lenahan, Shehu, Henry.

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