Cole, Cronin (P)
Wingate & Finchley salvaged what could prove to be a valuable point at home to Brightlingsea Regent on Saturday in a 2-2 draw.
The Blues showed tremendous fighting spirit to come back from behind on two occasions, in their second match under interim manager David Norman.
Brightlingsea were on top in the early stages and threatened early on, with Matt Cripps heading onto the roof of the net from a free kick.
Following a run of six successive defeats in all competitions, this match had the feel of a must-win, or at least a must-not-lose, however their troubles seemed to be compounded on 18 minutes. Harvey Hodd’s curling free kick from 25 yards out left Shane Gore with no chance and put the R’s into a first-half lead.
As the first period wore on, Wingate grew into the game more and began to create some half-chances; Alieu N’Jie struck the side netting and Reece Beckles-Richards saw both a deflected shot and a knuckleball free-kick fall into the arms of James Bradbrook.
Going into the break, the Blues didn’t have much encouragement to draw on from previous results as the last time Wingate avoided defeat after conceding the first goal was in August.
However, minutes before half time, the equaliser came through Charlie Cole. The striker tapped home a neat volley from a Beckles-Richards cross, meaning that he had scored both home and away against Brightlingsea.
Much like the whole of the first, the early stages of the second half were largely devoid of great football or clear-cut chances, but on the hour mark, the visitors fired themselves back into the lead. A free kick came in and was met by Billy Jones whose first attempt was saved however he was on hand to stab home from close range from the rebound.
Brightlingsea kept the pressure up and continued to test the Blues defence and minutes after the goal, Aaron Condon was played clean through on goal but was unable to find the finish, with Gore making a strong save. Condon missed another great chance to put the game out of sight soon after, heading over from inside the six yard box.
As the match began to draw to a close, Wingate fans would have been beginning to consign themselves to a seventh consecutive defeat, yet the Blues players hadn’t given up yet. Cole forced Bradbrook into a good save with 10 minutes remaining, shooting from an N’Jie cross.
With injury time moments away, Wingate were finally able to draw upon their fighting spirit which had been on show on so many occasions in the FA Trophy. The ball fell to Tim Monsheju following a blocked Cole shot and as the substitute was about to pull the trigger, he was brought down from behind, giving the referee no choice but to point for a late Blues penalty.
Sean Cronin, with the huge weight of expectation on his shoulders, stepped up and fired home a confident spot kick to the keeper’s right. Whilst this result wasn’t enough for Wingate to climb out of the relegation zone, it prevented them from being cut further adrift and proved that their bounceback-ability is still very much present.
Report by Jamie Grossman