Monday 6th April 2015
Wingate & Finchley
McClren 18, Murphy 32(pen)
Ryman Premier League
Wingate & Finchley's play-off hopes were dealt a blow in a 2-1 home defeat to title challengers Hendon. The hosts began the game in much better fashion, with Karl Oliyide testing Ben McNamara in the first minute. David Knight's free kick was headed over by captain Marc Weatherstone five minutes later, before Knight himself saw a speculative effort fly just over when he span and hit a half volley from 30 yards out on 11 minutes.
The hosts were unable to take any of the early chances and were made to pay when, on 18 minutes, a Hendon corner wasn't cleared and the ball was bundled home by Casey MacLaren, despite Wingate appeals for a foul in the box. Kezie Ibe then headed well wide from a Oliver Sprague cross, which would have doubled the visitors' lead on 29 minutes. But three minutes later, it was 2-0. Weatherstone tripped Ibe in the area and talisman Sam Murphy sent Wingate keeper Bobby Smith the wrong way from the spot.
The second half began like the reverse fixture at the Earlsmead Stadium, with Wingate pulling a goal back. Knight was brilliantly played in via a Mark Goodman pass and slotted under McNamara to halve the deficit. Two minutes later, it could have been 3-1 but Aaron Morgan saw his fantastic shot bounce back off the post and away to safety.
Link up between young left-back Orlando Joao and Knight led to the former striking an effort from 18 yards, but into the hands of McNamara. On 71 minutes, Elliott Braithwaite made a dangerous tackle on substitute Jack Read with studs showing, but escaped with a yellow card. Read then had a goal disallowed on 83 minutes because of an alleged foul on McNamara, despite it looking like his own player had impeded his view and felled him, not Karl Oliyide.
Wingate's last chance fell to Knight, but he hit his free-kick over the bar and kept his tally for the season at 31 goals. As the whistle blew, Hendon edged closer to the League title and Wingate were left to recover from a second agonising defeat in six days.
Goalkeeper Bobby Smith said, "We started brightly in the first twenty five minutes, but conceded from a corner - which myself and the lads thought was a foul - and it knocked the wind out of our sails. We could have dealt with the penalty situation better but we were 2-0 down and it was probably a fair result at half time. We had a great spell in the second half where we made them work hard. Overall, it was a fair reflection on the game because we were poor going two goals down but improved later on."
On the injured Ahmet Rifat: "No, I wouldn't say we missed him as such. Brad (Hewitt) and Weatherstone have been brilliant together when they've come in so, without trying to sound harsh, we didn't necessarily miss him. He's been a different class when he's played."
On his own season: "To be fair, the back four have been brilliant. Weatherstone has been superb all season. For a team that got relegated last year and to bounce back like this is incredible. We have three winnable games to come now and it would be a nice touch if we can finish the season with the most clean sheets."
On David Knight: "He and Laney have worked their socks off this season and with them scoring goals, it takes pressure off us at the back and allows us to keep more clean sheets."
Report by Nikhil Saglani
Wingate & Finchley