Local non league blog "The cold end" billed this fixture as the overachievers vs the underachievers; with Wingate & Finchley heading into this fixture sitting in their highest league position in a number of years facing Dulwich Hamlet, on their return to the Isthmian Premier League after relegation from the National League South in 2022/23 who have struggled thus far to reach 11 points from their first 11 games and were without an away win since January. The game provided plenty of goalmouth action but ultimately the Blues will feel disappointed not to have seized the initiative and taken a point, if not all 3 despite their underdog status in this fixture.
Wingate have been scoring goals aplenty in recent matches including a 6-2 thumping of Canvey Island on Saturday so it wasn't entirely surprising to see the Blues take the lead after 24 minutes when Ruben Carvalho intercepted a wayward pass in the Hamlet back line and coolly slotted home past the visiting keeper to take his tally to 9 goals in his first 15 games for the club this season in all competitions.
Dulwich Hamlet came to N12 with a clear playing style and that was generally route one football, aiming to get balls into the Blues' box as quickly as possible and utilising their much more physical presence across the pitch to their advantage. They made this physical advantage count just two minutes later, with Montserrat international forward Adrian Clifton rising highest at the near post from a corner to send a header past Ben Goode and level the scores, and that is how the half concluded.
The Blues will feel slightly disappointed to have gone into the break level after having a number of good chances throughout the half with golden opportunities falling to Chukwu and Long but neither able to apply the required finishing touch. Overall the first half was a strong showing from the Blues and this helped to keep the strong travelling contingent of fans from South London quiet.
After the break however, the travelling fans had a lot more to sing about and a near-instant goal in the second half from midfielder Ryley Scott completed the turnaround and sent "the Rabble" into raptures behind the goal as he stroked home from 20 yards. The goal provided Dulwich with the confidence to get on the ball a bit more and dictate play but didn't stop Wingate & Finchley from continuing to knock on the door and make their presence known. After 72 minutes, Elliot Long got on the end of an Ahmet Biler cross from the left flank with a sliding finish and only a top drawer reaction save from keeper Will Lakin could prevent what was an almost inevitable goal.
Just five minutes later, Luke Wanadio converted in very similar fashion to Scott's earlier goal to give the Hamlet a 2-goal cushion with just 15 minutes of normal time to play. The team in pink and blue then showed all of their experience and expertise in game management by seeing out the rest of the 90 minutes without allowing the game to flow at all and ensuring that they gave themselves the best opportunity to return to South London with all 3 points.
A late goal from Anointed Chukwu in time added on, whose strong hold-up play had been an excellent focal point for the Blues all night, was certainly no less than deserved but proved too little too late as the 8 minutes of added time drifted away without any further clear-cut chances for either side.
That result ends a string of three league victories on the bounce for the Blues, but certainly they did not do themselves a disservice on the pitch by going toe-to-toe with strong opposition and keeping positive momentum going.
The next game is a keenly anticipated local derby on 31st October when Enfield Town make the short journey across North London, with the teams separated in the table by just one point at the time of writing.
Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Williams (Ifil 59'); Hernandez; Wilkinson; Frempah (Frimpong 74'); Achuba; Garrett-Douglas; Carvalho (Newton 84’); Chukwu; Long; Biler
Unused Subs: McLeod; Yeboah