Wingate & Finchley climbed into the final play-off spot with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Wheatsheaf Park. With just one game left of the 2016-17 season, Wingate have timed their rise well – and a solitary point versus Dulwich Hamlet will see Keith Rowland’s side into the play-off semi finals. Meanwhile the club has achieved further progression at youth level, with another cup final set for next week. The Under 18's will play the Middlesex Cup Final at North Greenford on Thursday 27th April - the same day as the 1st team's potential playoff date. The Blues are also looking to strengthen for next year - holding youth trial dates for U14 to U18's on Bank Holiday Monday 1st May 2017.
The Blues started the game much brighter than their hosts, with both Reece Beckles-Richards and Ahmet Rifat taking shots on goal. The former saw his fly over the bar from the edge of the area before Jack Turner - in the Staines goal -easily held the captain’s tame effort. With a quarter of an hour played, Staines mustered up their first chance of the game but Mohammed Bettamer’s low drive was easily gathered by Wingate’s likely player of the year – Shane Gore. Eight minutes later, Bettamer was in on goal again, but fired well wide when one-on-one with Gore.
The game’s controversial moment of the game arrived on 28 minutes. Spencer McCall was scythed down on the edge of the box but the referee deemed the tackle to have been a clean one. McCall retaliated with a late, albeit not dangerous, challenge on Tyrell Miller-Rodney, who retaliated with a hand in McCall’s face. The referee, after attempting to diffuse the situation, sent off the blood-covered McCall as well as the Staines defender.
With ten minutes of the first half remaining, Matt Worsfold was first to anticipate as Wingate’s Tanasheh Abrahams slipped and – despite beating Gore – saw his effort cleared off the line by Ola Williams to keep the score at 0-0. The second half begin with a close chance for Rowland’s side, but to no avail as Claudiu Vilcu could only steer his header, from a corner, wide of Turner’s right hand post. At the other end, Worsfold could only send his shot from the edge of the box wide of the post.
The winning goal arrived on 65 minutes. Luke Ifil expertly guided a free-kick towards the back post, where the ever-dependable Sean Cronin rose to head across goal and into the back of Turner’s net – met with ecstatic celebrations in the away end. Despite some half-chances for both, neither side were able to create any clear-cut chances before the full-time whistle. And as results from around the grounds poured in, Wingate fans saw their side sitting pretty in 5th place – putting their play off hopes in their own hands.
Dulwich Hamlet travel to Summers Lane on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off for a season defining encounter between two fantastic sides.
Report by Nikhil Saglani