“That’s why he’s my skipper”, said Rifat in his match report of Ben Goode’s match-winning saves against Billericay Town. It was a decidedly brisk Saturday afternoon in North London.
He was describing the goalkeeper’s interventions, particularly in the second half, which kept the Blues in the lead and which ultimately resulted in the three points being delivered to Wingate.
And coming off the back of a similarly important performance at Carshalton last weekend, Goode is really showing just how important he is to this side - and given the the way the fans were singing and banging the tunnel in appreciation after full-time, it’s clear his impact isn’t going unnoticed, as can sometimes be true for goalkeepers.
The saves in question came towards the end of the second half. Elliot Long had restored our lead thanks to a well placed finish that crept through the legs of the goalkeeper from a tight angle, and the visitors were in the ascendency trying to salvage something from the game. They found balls into the box that were cleared with relative ease by the Blues defence, except for when they weren’t. On one occasion, a Billericay striker got their head to the ball, and diverted towards the far corner, Goode’s right. He lept at full length to palm the ball clear, and somehow keep the ball out. Even more miraculously, he was able to cover the rebound from a second Billericay attacker, ultimately diverting the ball behind for a corner.
It was a sequence of saves as good as those he made in the first half, where he parried the ball not once but three times in quick succession to keep the ball out of his goal.
But for the big saves made by his opposite number, Dan Wilks in the Billericay goal had his own moments to shine. The first came within four minutes when Anointed Chukwu advanced down on goal. Wilks saved the initial effort with his legs, and then got out well to close down the angle for Chukwu who looked to bury the rebound, but could only squirt it wide.
Equally, in the second half, he made two very important saves, again from Chukwu as his header at the back post was headed down and towards goal. Wilks managed to pull the ball back from behind him to keep it from crossing the line. Just seconds later he was called into action to acrobatically tip Matty Achuba’s effort from just outside the area over the bar.
He was helpless though for the Blues’ first goal, one of the goals of the season so far. It started in their own half, and after Garrett-Douglas did well to keep the ball in play from a cross-field switch from Alkeo Bani, he combined nicely with Elliot Long down the right hand side. Continuing his run, Garrett-Douglas popped up in the box to get on the end of Chukwu’s ball and stab it home beyond the goalkeeper from eight yards.
The goal was a mark of the brand of football that this side is able and willing to play. They cut through the defence, one that had conceded the fewest goals of any side in any division in the top seven tiers of English football (excepting Arsenal) before arriving at the MRS, and created a number of opportunities all afternoon. Two were scored, and it possibly could have and should have been more.
And so those who left the ground, with or without feeling in their fingers and toes, knew that this Wingate side they were watching are the real deal. They have added defensive grit to their already impressive palmares, conceding only six goals in their last five games after ten in three before that. Their ability to cut through teams has been unquestioned all year, and it was on show again today.
“When you’re winning you just want to play the next game”, said Ahmet at full-time. That opportunity, weather permitting, will be on the South Coast against Bognor Regis next Saturday, the 9th. They are then back at home on the 16th December to face Concord Rangers before the Christmas fixtures start in earnest. We hope that you can join us on this crazy adventure!
Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Solomon; Cracknell; Bani (Frimpong 89’); Frempah; Achuba; Garrett-Douglas (Webb 78’); Yeboah (Carvalho 63’); Chukwu; Long; Biler
Unused Subs: Hernandez; Ifil