Conceding late goals is never a pleasant experience. Even less so when you perhaps feel that a point would have been a fairer reflection of the 90 minute game. But a stoppage time winner from Chatham was enough for them to emerge 2-1 victors on a brisk Tuesday evening in Kent.
The game kicked off as 3rd vs 5th, and it was one between two sides who had made bright starts to the year, one having been promoted from Step 4, and one off the back of two seasons finishing in the lower mid-table. And if there was little to choose between them before kickoff, the status quo continued through the first half as neither side got too close. It was Elliot Long who caused the only saves of the first half, both from long range as the Chats keeper managed to unceremoniously bundle both around the post and out for a corner.
It was Chatham who finished stronger in the second half, and they began that way in the second. The crucial difference was the introduction of Jamie Yila who single-handedly turned the game in favour of the Kent side. He was a menace down their left-flank for the opening 20 minutes of the second half, showing his strength and pace to create space each time he got the ball. He was largely well-martialled by Bobby Webb and Rhamar Garrett-Douglas, but in the end his ability shone through.
The Blues were unable to clear the ball after Webb had dispossessed Yila, and the ball fell to Jack Evans who fired it low and hard under Ben Goode for the opening goal.
It was probably a fair reflection of the hosts’ ascendency, but the Blues have been nothing this season if not resilient. They have not been fazed by going a goal down, and have shown a strength of character on numerous occasions to get themselves back into games. This was the case again on Tuesday as an extended period of pressure and intricate buildup play led to a penalty with 10 minutes to play. Defender Reece Butler was adjudged to have raised his arm to an unnatural position when blocking a shot near the edge of the area, and the ref had little hesitation pointing to the spot.
Anointed Chukwu calmly stepped up and slotted the spotkick into the right corner, sending the keeper the wrong way, levelling the scores and bringing the Blues back into the game, which was very much deserved given their dominance both as they had gone behind, but also for the first 20 minutes of the first half.
But unfortunately, late goals are part and parcel of the game, and it proved to be no different this night. It was substitute Ashley Nzala who struck as the clock ticked past 90 minutes. He fired at the goal from the right edge of the area, which was fantastically saved by Goode, but he was helpless when a similar attempt was rifled into his right corner just moments later to break the deadlock and secure the points for the hosts, who gave themselves a small cushion to fourth place with the win.
It will be a tough pill to swallow for the Blues who looked strong and were able to compete for the full 90 with a side aiming for back-to-back promotions. Matty Achuba in particular was dynamic and put in a stellar performance in the middle of the pitch, but he was ably supported all over the pitch. Bobby Webb won a number of crucial tackles in a return to the side, while Biler and Garrett-Douglas were able to get balls into the box all evening.
Sometimes the rub of the green just doesn’t go your way, and so the Blues will look to take the positives from matching up well against a very good side, and take it to Carshalton, who they face on Saturday.
You can follow the game through social media, and the Blues are next at home on December 2nd when Billericay Town make their way to North London.
Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Webb (Hernandez 80’); Cracknell; Frimpong; Frempah; Achuba; Garrett-Douglas; Carvalho (Yeboah 74’); Newton (Chukwu 68’); Long; Biler
Unused Subs: Siggers; Nazor