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Blues advance in FA Cup after third successive win

Even the best laid plans can go out of the window in the FA Cup. Whatever script you had in mind before the First Qualifying Round tie against Whitstable in Kent, it probably didn’t involve Matty Achuba throwing himself in front of a 100th minute attempt from the hosts as they attempted to overturn a 3-2 deficit in the dying embers to salvage a replay on Tuesday night. 

But such was the course of events on a beautiful afternoon in the South East, and it was that action, a vital block, that was the final act of a game that in many ways was a microcosm of the Blues’ season so far. So let’s look back at the first few games, including today, to see what we know so far about the 2023 edition of Wingate & Finchley.

We possess a potent attacking threat

Having scored 11 goals in six games, it is clear to see that we know how, and are able to score goals. There were three more shared between the front three in the victory over Whitstable, the pick of which was Ruben Carvalho’s twenty yard strike in the first half that extended our lead to two goals. It was not much better than our third of the game, Ruben’s second of the match and team-leading fifth of the season. He struck it from a similar position, and this one managed to find its way over the goalie, who was unable to keep it out. Elliot Long and Anointed Chukwu looked threatening all afternoon, as has Zack Newton in our previous outings, and so there is a real confidence floating around our forwards right now. We also welcomed Ben Ward-Cochrane into the team to make his first appearance this season for the Blues, which is an encouraging development for all at the football club.

We react quickly to conceding

Ruben’s second goal came after Whistable had scored to make the score 2-1, and it represented the third time this season that the team had reacted quickly to conceding, bouncing back with a goal of their own. Both against Haringey and Kingstonian, they found a quick response to an opposition goal, not only not allowing the other side back into the game, but also building confidence of our own to continue in a positive fashion and close out the game.

We look confident out of possession and are able to control games nicely

Once again, the back three of Frempah, Seager, and Williams looked composed and organised when Whitstable were coming forward, which was very similar to the performance against Cheshunt on Monday. Bani and Achuba in midfield were able to quickly spread the ball to Garrett-Douglas and Biler patrolling the flanks, giving us the front foot and a chance for a quick break, and it was this movement that did the damage for our opening goal, as it was Garrett-Douglas who found space and squared to an unmarked Chuks in the area to apply a classy finish. The aberration of the opening day defeat to Folkestone aside, we have largely been in the ascendancy for the majority of our encounters, which is in no small part down to our ability to control the midfield battle and spread the ball quickly when we win back possession. 

Closing out games can be a bit of a rollercoaster

We have won four out of the last five games, but never by more than a one goal margin. Particularly against Whitehawk, but also today, we let the opposition back into the game when it looked like it was dead and buried. This will be a concern for Rifat and the management team, as they look to ensure that we are able to pick up points along the road that are a fair reflection of our performances, without gifting anything to our opponents. That said, the resoluteness on display thus far, to hold on in Kent, but also to close out victories against Haringey, Kingstonian and Cheshunt feels like a real step-forward for the club, whose sides of yore may not have picked up as many points.

Our last-ditch defending has been superb

Even in Kent, as we played 10 minutes of injury time with our backs to the wall, the ability for a Blue shirt to be in the right place at the right time has been excellent. Achuba and Frempah both had big blocks in the dying moments, and Garrett-Douglas made a superb last-ditch tackle in the first half to prevent Whistable from taking a one-nil lead. Elliot Long did something similar in Cheshunt, and Will Seager was the hero against Kingstonian in a similar situation. The never-say-die attitude will be really pleasing to see, and bodes well for the rest of the season. 

And so it was a 3-2 final. While we gave them a sniff in the last 15 minutes, it is a very deserved place in the hat for the Second Qualifying Round on the weekend of the 16th September, where Step 2 National League North/South sides enter the draw. But before then, we face Hornchurch at home in Isthmian League action. Despite only being separated by one point in the league, it will be a true test of where this team is, against one of the toughest sides in the division. 

Given it’s the international break and there’ll be no Premier League football this coming weekend, why not head down to the beautiful Maurice Rebak to watch a Wingate & Finchley side who are now unbeaten in 5, and scoring plenty of goals?

Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Williams; Seager; Bani (Nazor 55’); Frempah; Achuba; Garrett-Douglas; Carvalho; Chukwu (Ward-Cochrane 70’); Long (Newton 82’); Biler

Unused Subs: McLeod; Hale-Brown; Mitchell-Nelson; Roberts

By Chris Cummings


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