Wingate & Finchley were dealt a harsh lesson on the opening day of the season, away at Merstham, losing by the same three-goal score line with which they started the 2016-17 season. The hosts controlled the opening exchanges but Wingate claimed the first chance of the game with new signing, Marc Charles-Smith forcing his way into box but his shot was saved for a corner, which was headed wide by Luke Ifil.
An injury forced Merstham into a first half substitution, allowing for the introduction of Alex Addai, an arguably pivotal moment in the game as the ex-Wingate man was a constant thorn in the Blues’ side; with his pace, energy and athleticism. The tricky winger broke the lines just after the half hour mark and forced Wingate’s Shane Gore to sprint off his line and concede a corner.
Five minutes later, Merstham turned their numerous chances into a goal. A cross from the right wing by Dan Bennett was met by Addai, who side footed past Gore to put the hosts ahead. Six minutes later, Addai secured his brace after producing a stepover, cutting inside an unleashing a powerful effort beyond Gore’s left arm – leaving Wingate two down at the break, with plenty to do if they were to begin the season positively.
Ifil nearly found a consolation after a good passing move from Sean Cronin and Charles-Smith, but the midfielder’s effort was straight at another former Blue, Chris Haigh. At the other end, Wingate shotstopper, Gore produced a superb save to deny Bennett from firing into the bottom left corner. However, the third goal soon followed after Vanderhyde brought down Addai and Ryan Hall fired home the penalty, despite Gore guessing correctly.
Wingate were dealt a lifeline on 73 minutes as Afolabi Obafemi was played in behind and his shot towards goal was slowed down by the hand of Haigh, but still trickled into the back of the net. However, the comeback was cut short just six minutes later as Youseff Bamba picked the ball up centrally, ran wide and shot across Gore from inside the box, giving the hosts an unassailable 4-1 lead, with the game finishing that way.
The Blues won’t have long to linger on the loss as Harrow Borough visit Summers Lane on Tuesday night.
Report by Nikhil Saglani