Wingate & Finchley took an enormous step towards safety in a thrilling local derby win over high-flying Haringey Borough. The hosts, in their first season in the Bostik Premier League, have secured play-off status - a remarkable feat - and sought to solidify a home semi-final. However, they were met with a hungry Wingate side who were scrapping for their lives at the bottom; coming into the game after four straight losses.
And the desire of Dave Norman’s side was clear from the offset. Anthony Mendy was played in behind after a smart ball, but couldn’t squirm his effort underneath Curtis Jackson. Five minutes later, Rob Laney headed inches over the crossbar from a Luke Ifil corner, as the Blues sought to strike first in a crucial game. Mendy was again gifted the chance to open the scoring, but his smart lobbed effort struck the side netting of Haringey’s goal.
The hosts fought back with Georgios Aresti firing wide and Joseph Staunton only finding the palms of Shane Gore in the Wingate net. After Wingate were denied what looked to be a clear penalty for a foul on Laney, Boro capitalised on a loose Sean Cronin pass and Karl Akinwande stroked the ball beyond Gore from just inside the area to give the hosts the lead.
The Blues needed a response to give their relegation scrap any sort of hope going into the final day and it arrived through Alieu Njie. Ifil’s floated free kick was headed across goal by Laney and met by Njie, whose effort flew beyond a helpless Jackson and gave Norman’s side hope.
Boro’s response was to pepper the Blues’ goal and Lyle Della Verde forced Gore to tip a dipping effort over his crossbar.
Five minutes later, the winner arrived. Laney’s hold up play allowed him to lay the ball off to Tanasheh Abrahams, whose touch and cross landed onto the welcoming boot of Mendy - and his volley left Jackson with no chance; sending the away fans into bedlam.
The Blues’ task was to hold on, and hope the Bognor Regis Town could do the same versus Whitehawk. But Norman’s side smelled blood on the counter, with Njie seeing his shot saved and numerous counter attack being snuffed out at the final ball.
With minutes to go, Boro cranked up the pressure. First, Gore was forced to tip the ball onto his right hand post before watching the ball trickle across the line and away to safety. Moments later, Coby Rowe curled a free kick inches wide of Gore’s left hand post. And finally, in the dying embers, Mark Kirby headed a cross back towards the far post and saw it sail narrowly over the crossbar.
Wingate held on under severe pressure and now need to match - or better - Whitehawk’s result on the final day of the season to ensure survival.
Report by Nikhil Saglani