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Blues’ incredible campaign ends in Enfield

The playoffs are not for the faint-hearted. Usually cagey affairs, they regularly pit two in-form sides against one another in what is often a battle of attrition after a long and hard-fought season. To say this particular playoff semi-final, in front of a mammoth 2,225 fans in Enfield was any different, would be to do a disservice to the many playoff classics that have happened throughout the years, across a range of divisions. 

And while the events of this Wednesday night in spring had all the ingredients of an immense playoff struggle, it was also a microcosm of the season for both Wingate & Finchley and Enfield in how it played out. 

The Blues, clearly not overawed by the occasion, came out of the blocks firing, as they have done all season. They got the ball into the channels, using their neat footwork and crisp passing to get the ball down and play, and to create dangerous chances for themselves throughout the first half. Chukwu was a nuisance up front for the two Enfield centre-halves, and Biler and Garrett-Douglas were able to get forward down each wing to put balls into the area. The fact that none found a neon-yellow shirt for the simple tap in just yards out is no reflection of the quality of the buildup. 

Long and Carvalho were their usual busy selves in the 10 role, and whenever Enfield tried to break quickly, the three centre halves and two midfielders were in quickly to break things up and stop the likes of Wyllie and Youngs from doing the sort of damage that anyone who’s been around the league this season knows they can do. 

And so while the Blues (in yellow in Enfield) were perhaps a little aggrieved not to be taking a lead into half-time, Enfield Town showed why they were in this game with their own strengths. As said by their manager at full-time, they have been particularly strong in the second half of games this season, and the same was true in this one. Their striker Jake Cass was forced off through injury, and instead of bringing on a like-for-like replacement, they opted to bring on a left back so that they could match up our 5-2-2-1 formation. 

It proved to work well, and Enfield came out in the second half looking the more likely to score. They created some good chances, the best of which was where it appeared that a Scott Thomas shot was cleared off the line by his own man, much to the relief of those in the Wingate defence. But it proved to be just a brief respite, as the telling contribution came just moments later. 

It came from a long throw-in, where centre-half Taylor McKenzie managed to make good contact and send it past Goode to put the hosts into the lead - one that they would never relinquish. 

Deslandes and Newton were thrown onto the pitch in an attempt to create an opening for the equaliser, and while the Blues did look the more likely to score in the closing stages of the match, it was obviously not to be. 

And so 1-0 was how it finished, with the home side now moving on to face Chatham Town in the final for a place in the National League South, after they emerged victorious over Horsham following a penalty shoot out. 

Does this result take the glint off of what has been a superb season? Not a chance. Rifat was very clear in his post-match debrief about how much pride the players and club should feel in what they have built this season. The highest finish for the club in our history, scoring more goals and finishing with more points than ever before. There was a full stand of away supporters who made the journey up north on a Wednesday night, and they were in full voice all night, enthused by the performances of the team not only on this night, but on so many others throughout the season. 

There will be time in the summer for a full debrief and to reflect on just how far we’ve come this year, but for now, we wish Enfield the best in the final, and will look to enjoy the summer as much as we can. 

Who fancies another spin on this rollercoaster next season?

Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Solomon (Deslandes 84’); Cracknell; Frimpong (Newton 75’); Frempah; Achuba; Garrett-Douglas; Carvalho; Chukwu; Long; Biler

Unused Subs: Seager; Webb; Boachie


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