If there’s one lesson any Wingate fan can teach you, it’s this: do not leave a football match early.
Some great Wingate moments have come deep into injury time in the club’s recent history (4-3 comeback anyone?), but last season it felt like we were on the wrong end of these dramatic shifts more often than not - with late late goals conceded at Herne Bay, Horsham, and at home to Margate.
Not on Tuesday, however, as Zack Newton popped up from a corner in the 93rd minute to put Wingate on the winning end of a late reverse, and to pay back, at least in some way, the heartbreak inflicted on us by Harigney Borough last season at the same venue, where their 120th minute strike knocked us out of the London Senior Cup.
Late goals like this one, particularly away from home, usually indicate smash and grab jobs - sides who have had their backs to the wall for much of the game ‘rescuing’ points at the death. But it didn’t feel like that at all on Tuesday, such was the performance from the Blues that was night and day (quite literally) from the weekend.
“It’s always nice to score right at the end, but I think we deserved the three points anyway” said Ahmet as he reflected on the game after full-time. “We probably could have had three or four in the game”.
Such a narrative began early in the first half, as the Blues began in a positive manner, looking to put things right from what was a poor result and a poor performance from the weekend. A backline that included Will Seager, making his club debut, looked solid, winning their aerial battles and reading the game really well to snuff out any Haringey chances. Anointed Chukwu worked tirelessly to hold the ball up and win possession up the field, but the real difference was the space that Achuba and Garrett-Douglas found themselves in out wide each time we pushed forward. There were countless occasions of overlaps and an extra man, and it led to numerous chances in the first half.
Zack Newton twice found himself in a pocket of space in the area, but each time was unable to connect sweetly and the ball went wide of the goal. Achuba had his chances too, once heading over the bar from close range, and once seeing a mazy run into the box finish with a blocked shot.
Then the goals came. First was the turn of Haringey, who won a corner. The ball found its way to Michael O’Donoghue on the edge of the area, and he beat his man before placing the ball in the bottom right corner, just out of the reach of Ben Goode diving away to his left. It was a great goal, and one that Wingate will have felt a little aggrieved to have conceded given the opportunities they had created to that point.
There was little time for self-doubt to creep in, however, as Anointed Chukwu had equalised just two minutes later. Dillon Barnes in the Haringey goal had come a long way out to clear his lines, and was hassled by Chukwu. Anointed managed to partially block the clearance, pick up the rebound which dribbled wide of the goal, and finish from a tight angle. It was a great finish from the striker, and a nice way to get his first Wingate goal.
“I just chased a lost cause. It came into my path and it was a bit of a tight angle, but I managed to squeeze it in”, he said of the goal.
The second half began in a much similar vein to the first - frantically, with chances at both ends. The best of those chances came immediately, where two Haringey attackers were bearing down on goal with only Will Seager in their path. It fell to Temi Babaloa, whose strike from close range was really well saved by Ben Goode, and following a short scramble, the ball was eventually cleared to safety.
There was one other key moment in the half, before Zack Newton’s telling contribution in injury time. It came in the 73rd minute, when Elliot Long looked to be through on goal on the edge of the penalty area. Ex-Wingate man Dexter Peter, who found himself on the ground and out of the game, appeared to reach out with his arm and push the ball away from Long to prevent the attacker from closing in on goal. That nearly everyone in the stadium thought it was a penalty and clear Red Card became irrelevant as the man that mattered saw it differently and waved play on, despite the incredulous protests of the Blues.
And it would have been a cruel way to see the game drawn, had it not been for the last minute heroics. With the clock ticking down, Wingate won a corner on the left hand side that 17 year old academy graduate Tommy Roberts went over the take. His cross went under the foot of the man on the front post and fell, like a gift wrapped bundle of points, to Zack Newton who didn’t need asking twice before he poked it home from what can only have been two yards out.
Cue scenes of jubilation.
There was a big Wingate contingent that had made the short trip east into Haringey, and they were watching from metres away as Zack made the net bulge. They mobbed the new striker, quickly becoming a favourite because of his work ethic, and were rewarded for their support with three points and an outpouring of emotion from the team.
Ahmet was very complimentary of his new striker following the strike. “He’s worked his socks off all game, and he worked hard all Saturday as well. When you work hard, you make your own luck.”
It sets up Saturday’s visit to the South Coast perfectly, as we take on newly promoted Whitehawk who, having managed to get a point with 9 men on Tuesday, look to pick up their first win in this division. It promises to be another cracking game.
Final Score: Haringey Borough 1-2 Wingate & Finchley
Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Frempah; Seager; Bani (Nazor 89’); Mitchell-Nelson; Frimpong; Garrett-Douglas; Newton; Chukwu; Carvalho (Roberts 85’); Achuba (Long 65’). Unused subs: McLeod; Webb
By Chris Cummings