Wingate and Finchley secured a play-off place despite losing 3-0 at home to promotion rivals Dulwich Hamlet on the final day of the Ryman Premier League season. Wingate went into the game knowing that a draw would be enough to finish in at least fifth spot. But after a goal from Panutche Camara and a brace from Ibra Sekajja, all hopes rested on local rivals Enfield Town, who needed to avoid defeat to Leiston.
Things weren't looking good as Leiston held a one goal lead going into the final five minutes. But a late Enfield equaliser cued wild celebrations from the Wingate faithful. There was an agonising wait after the final whistle had blown at the Maurice Rebak Stadium before it was confirmed that Enfield had held out.
The game itself started frantically with chances at both ends, which created a lively atmosphere, especially since Dulwich had brought a sizeable away support. The first big opportunity fell the way of Rob Laney, who must have thought he had scored when he planted his head on a Reece Beckles-Richards cross from six yards out, but somehow Edwards managed to palm the ball away for a corner.
Dulwich then went up the other end and should have took the lead themselves. Nyren Clunis' cross was put agonisingly wide by Sekajja when it looked easier to find the net. Luke Ifil's free-kick was then met by Ahmet Rifat, but he could only direct his header straight at Edwards. That prompted a spell of Wingate pressure at the end of the first half - which is when the game's controversial moment occured.
Matt Drage, already on a booking for hauling down Beckles-Richards from a similar position outside the area, once again fouled the Wingate forward, and was lucky not to receive a second yellow card. Wingate continued to play on the front foot into the second period, as Rifat volleyed narrowly over from inside the box. But then Dulwich took control of the game. Ibra Sekajja beat the offside trap and rounded Shane Gore before slotting the ball into an empty net to break the deadlock three minutes after half-time.
Sekajja continued to haunt the Wingate defence on the hour mark as he tapped in from six yards out for his second of the game, following good work down the right from Clunis. Wingate continued to show fight and might have got back in the game had Sean Cronin's header not been cleared off the line. However, Dulwich secured the three points with a quarter of an hour to play courtesy of substitute Panutche Camara. Once again Clunis was the provider, crossing for Camara to slam home from inside the area with his first touch after coming on.
Tommy Tejan-Sie saw his shot fly well over, but by then the Wingate fans were only concerned with what was happening at Enfield. Ahmet Rifat picked up a second booking for descent late on, but it didn't stop the celebrations once fifth place was confirmed.
Wingate now travel to Bognor Regis Town this Thursday night (7:45) for the play-off semi-final.
Report by Sam Jones
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