Wingate & Finchley qualified for the First Round Proper of the Buildbase FA Trophy for only the second ever time after an impressive 3-2 win over National League South side, Chippenham Town. The scoreline didn’t reflect the Blues’ dominance in a game that the hosts controlled for large parts. Goals from Rob Laney, Reece Beckles and Luke Ifil won the replay after a 1-1 draw in Chippenham on Saturday.
The game began in bizarre fashion, with the hosts forced into a kit change after the blue strip clashed with the visitors’ green. And just minutes later, the Blues were forced to pick the ball out of their own net, too. Karnell Chambers received the ball in a central position, made his way into the area and saw his shot take a mean deflection off Wingate skipper, Sean Cronin and past a helpless Shane Gore.
But the next meaningful chance of the game saw Glen Little’s side draw level. Reece Mitchell’s hard work and patience on the right wing allowed him to cross deep for Laney to stoop and header past Brad House in the Chippenham net. It was nearly 2-1 just five minutes later, but House was able to hold Beckles’ stinging low effort. But the Wingate striker was successful with his second attempt just a minute later. He received the ball 30 yards from goal, made his way across two defenders and rifled an effort towards goal, which found its way past House thanks to a small deflection - and the Blues took a deserved lead.
The visitors almost responded just before half-time, but a pinball in the penalty area was prevented from levelling affairs thanks to Cronin, who cleared off the line - and the hosts went into the break ahead.
Wingate continued to dominate proceedings in the second half, with several crosses not finding their men and a blocked shot being cleared to safety. It took a moment of magic to give Little’s men some breathing space. Ifil received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, flicked the ball over his head, collected the ball beyond the defender and stroked his effort beyond a helpless House to put Wingate 3-1 ahead.
Beckles’ dangerous cross ended up striking the crossbar just after the hour mark, with Laney unable to head home for his brace while at the other end, Will Richards headed wide from close range. However, the visitors did find a way back into the game on 79 minutes, as Chambers stabbed home at the back post after Gore was forced into a superb save - swinging the momentum into the National League South’s side with just over 10 minutes to go.
And the equaliser nearly arrived on 86 minutes as a whipped free-kick was headed towards the top corner, only for Gore to reach out a strong hand and parry the ball out for a corner - defying the belief of all inside the Maurice Rebak Stadium.
The hosts held on and will face Welling United or Dulwich Hamlet, who play on Wednesday, in the First Round on December 15th.
Report by Nikhil Saglani