Wingate & Finchley progressed to the Second Round of the FA Trophy for the first time in their history following an impressive 2-0 victory at home to Conference South opposition Dulwich Hamlet.
Whilst Wingate were certainly on top in the first half and deserved to go into the lead, it was only for a succession of great saves by Shane Gore that prevented Dulwich from running out comfortable winners in the second.
With the rain coming down in sheets from the first whistle, it was Wingate who came out of the traps with more impetus to attack and get at the Dulwich defence despite their lower league status. Reece Beckles-Richards had the first chance of the match within two minutes of the start, after being set up with a good cross however he fired over the bar.
On 10 minutes, the Blues were left scratching their heads as to how they didn’t take the lead. A corner was cleared directly off the line and the ball fell to Ahmet Rifat whose venomous shot was saved well by Preston Edwards. What happened next was quite extraordinary; four attempts, all from inside the six yard box, were blocked. First Rob Laney saw his strike blocked by Ibrahim Kargbo, then Ola Williams had two shots stopped and finally Lewis Putman’s diving header was heroically kept out by Kargbo – a scramble unlike that needed to be seen to be believed.
Dulwich nearly took the lead at the other end a couple of minutes later but Gore did well to make a double save from Dipo Akinyemi. The high tempo of the early stages continued throughout the half and Wingate continued to look threatening, with their pressure paying off just before the half hour mark. Layne Eadie’s free kick was flicked on by Rifat and in a failed attempt at a headed clearance, a Dulwich defender put it on a plate for Laney who poked home from two yards out.
The rest of the half saw fewer clear chances created however Ashley Carew’s curling free kick nearly equalised and Gore was called into action again to save Akinyemi’s powerful drive, a save which retained the Blues advantage going into the break. The second period saw the visitors up the tempo and begin to pepper the Wingate goal more often; Carew’s set-piece ability once again proved a threat, this time seeing a long range attempt saved by the impeccable Gore.
Following a dangerous Dulwich break which culminated in another stop by Gore, it was Wingate who grabbed their key second goal. On the hour mark, Tim Monsheju drove at an exposed Hamlet defence before laying it off to Laney 25 yards out. The shot didn’t look to be on however Laney’s first time strike flew magnificently over the keeper and nestled in the back of the net, leaving everyone in the ground, not least Edwards, marvelling at the winger’s exquisite technique.
From this point on, a rear-guard defensive effort, with Gore standing strong as the last line of defence, was to thank for Wingate’s ticket to the next round. A succession of stops from the Blues’ stalwart keeper, most notably from Carew’s low strike and a powerful attempt with two minutes remaining, prevented Dulwich from even getting on the scoresheet, let alone mounting a comeback.
This victory signified a huge achievement for Wingate & Finchley, not only impressively beating higher division opposition for the second consecutive round of the FA Trophy, but also seeing the Blues into the Second Round for the first time in their history.
Report by Jamie Grossman