Darren Rolfe is confident his troops can use the pain of last season’s cup final defeat to spur them on to victory against Division Three rivals North West Neasden C in the JC Barry Goldstein Trophy final on Sunday.
A goal from Jonny Blain inflicted a heartbreaking defeat on UJIA and player-manager Rolfe believes his team has what it takes to come away from Wingate & Finchley with silverware.
"I think it’s quite an important factor that we’ve been to Wingate before,” Rolfe said. “It’s every Jewish player’s dream to represent their club in a final and we are deservedly going back for the second year in succession.
"Last year’s experience, including the result, will be a huge learning curve. We have kept virtually the same squad, bar one or two players, so let’s hope we can learn from that. We must remain focused and not let the occasion get in the way of the task at hand."
Israeli striker Assi Avital will be looking to maintain his excellent run of form that has seen him score in all but one of the matches in this season’s competition. Jeremy Teacher has also chipped in with important goals in recent weeks. Jeremy Leigh, Gavin Sherman and Paul Shamplina offer a combination of grit, determination and a winning mentality to what is an experienced squad.
Rolfe believes that Neasden start as favourites. “They beaten us twice in the league this season but they were our first two games. We then went on an eight-game unbeaten, so although we will be mindful of those results, there will be no excuses on Sunday."
Asked what can spectators watching UJIA for the first time should expect, Rolfe commented: “Our fans, who will come in their hundreds, will watch some entertaining slick passing football. "They will see how determined we are in the tackle and our never-say-die attitude. We’ll be well worth the £3 entry fee!"
Neasden reached the final following a memorable 2-1 victory at Division Three champions Glenthorne United B. Manager Louis Taylor said: "The whole of the club is buzzing after reaching Wingate."
Both Neasden and UJIA have one league game remaining in their pursuit of a third place finish and Taylor is confident his big-match players will stand up and be counted on Sunday.
"Benji Gourgey has been the stand-out performer in our cup run,” he said. "He's been full of energy and pops up with important goals at vital times."
Much is also expected from captain Adam Levene, who has played at Wingate several times for the club’s A-team.
Paying tribute to his skipper, Taylor said: “Adam has been the heartbeat of the team since he and I set it up two years ago. We simply don’t let in many goals when he’s playing in defence.
Although the UJIA squad has more experience, the presence of Oli Joseph will ensure Neasden are strong at set-pieces. Taylor describes him as "an inspired signing at the start of the season". He went on to say: "Oli has chipped in with important goals and some fantastic performances."
Looking back on this season’s cup run, Taylor said: "We did things the hard way - beating the two favourites after only going through on goal difference from the group stage.
"We won't be taking our opponents lightly and after beating them in our first two league games, we are aware of how much they have improved.
"I believe we can win the game with a defensive display like the ones we put in against Glenthorne and Faithfold. There are not many back fours stronger than ours in this league or others. Going forward, we have enough quality to create chances. It’s just about taking them."
UJIA: Darren Rolfe, Ben Radstone, Jeremy Leigh, Elliot Norman, Gavin Rhodes, Gavin Sherman, Matt Radstone, Ashley Freeman, Nick Russell, Tony Plaskow, Assi Avital, Ben Nassim, Jeremy Teacher, Ben Sokel, Paul Shamplina, Paul Rodin, Alex Seligman. Coach: Simon Sokel
NEASDEN: Louis Taylor, Adam Levene (capt), Michael Perkin, Richie Braham, Jon Benjamin, Joel Kanutin, Ali Marks, Tony Chadwick, Simon Cohen, Benji Gourgey, Simon Levene, Jamie Isenwater, Mark Engel, Elliot Setyon, Aron Lewis, Oli Joseph, Sam Cicurel, Jonny Franks, Daniel Langer, Ross Kester, Phil Benson. Mascots: Joshua Taylor, Zane Levene
Officials: Ref – Martin Lavender, Asst-refs – Quentin Fox, Brandon Pieters, 4th official – Laurie Benson
Venue - The Harry Abrahams Stadium, Wingate & Finchley FC, KO - 2.30pm
JC star man: Ben Nassim (UJIA)
DC Prediction: UJIA 2 NW Neasden C 1