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Playoffs Secured.

I want to take you back to our 1-0 victory over Cheshunt away from home in sunny August. Having turned in a top notch performance against a side who were at that point considered to be a shoe-in for a top half finish, the message from the management team was very clear: This is a squad game, and our success during the season will live or die by the quality of the squad of players that we assemble throughout the year, not on any one individual. 

Individual players will give you champagne moments, but a full, committed squad is what it takes to take you to where you want to get to as a team. Nobody was talking about a 4th placed finish all those months ago, but the prophetic message of Rifat, Machel, and co. has proved to be spot on as the season has progressed. 

And Saturday’s 3-0 win over Carshalton was the perfect encapsulation of it. 

Coming in to the game, there were injury doubts for a number of players: Achuba, Biler, Bani, Chukwu, Seager, and Solomon had all had to be replaced early in recent weeks, and given our defeat to Margate the week prior, there was the potential for things to spiral on a huge day for the club. 

But as we all know by now, this team is made of sterner stuff than that. Zack Newton found himself covering at RWB, with Rhamar Garrett-Douglas shifting to his unnatural left side. Player of the Season Matty Achuba was only fit enough for the bench, which meant that Alkeo Bani and Christian Frimpong formed the partnership in midfield, something they have not done together this season very often at all. Not that you would have known, with Bani taking home Player of the Match for the way he managed to get into passing lanes and disrupt the opposition’s flow of play, and with Newton and Garrett-Douglas both influencing the game well from each flank. 

And so it seemed fitting that on a day that was about the success of the club as a whole, it was down to the excellent performances of the entire squad that we were able to emerge victorious. The goals aside, and we’ll get to those shortly, the Blues defensive unit again looked solid. They allowed Carshalton to pass it around their back four at their own leisure, and then sprung into action to sniff out any danger. The fact that Ben Goode only had one save to make, a diving stop in the 90th minute in a testament to the way that they managed the game, and held their opponents at an arm’s length for the entirety of the 90 minutes. 

It was that foundation that allowed our forwards to flourish, as it has done all season.

It took only 41 seconds for the first goal to go in, something which the majority of the 373 fans in attendance (the largest crowd at the Maurice Rebak Stadium for years) would have been very grateful for, to help settle the nerves early on. Elliot Long won the ball high up the pitch, took it to the edge of the area, and put it beyond the outstretched arm of the Carshalton keeper. 

His second, the third Blues goal was of a similar fashion. We managed to get the ball forward quickly, and Elliot again put it beyond the reach of the keeper from 20 yards or so. This time, his preferred location was the top corner rather than the bottom. 

It was an important goal for a number of reasons. Firstly, while no games are ever really beyond doubt (see: Bowers & Pitsea last season), it meant that Carshalton needed to score 4 times in half an hour to stop us from getting into the playoffs. It was either that or the beer, but the goal relaxed many of the fans at the ground. Importantly, though it brought Elliot level on goals with Ruben this season, at 23 a piece. They were both recognised for their goal scoring at the end of season awards that happened after the final whistle, and it seemed almost fitting that they shared the award given their performances this season. 

There was one person pushing them all the way throughout the season, and that was Anointed Chukwu who finished the season with 18. His 18th came on 22 minutes, and as he chested down a Garrett-Douglas cross from the left. He controlled, spun, and fired it under the keeper from 10 yards out to double the lead and put another toe into the playoff places. 

And so those three goals, plus some solid defensive work, ensured the Blues finished the campaign in 4th place, which is the highest ever finish in the pyramid in the club’s history. 

It means the season is not over yet, as we travel the short distance to Enfield Town on Wednesday night for the playoff semi-final. Kickoff will be at 7:45 and there is expected to be a sizable Blue Army in attendance, so make your way there if you can to celebrate the phenomenal season we’ve had, and to see if we can spring one more surprise this year. 

It would be remiss not to mention the end of season award winners, who were the players that really stood out this season, although of course as we have mentioned, this has been a total squad effort, and it was a shame that we couldn’t recognise everyone’s superb performances. 

Player of the Season: Matty Achuba

Young Player of the Season: Ahmet Biler

Directors’ Player of the Season: Ben Frempah

Players’ Player of the Season: Elliot Long

Supporters’ Player of the Season: Ruben Carvalho

So, it comes down to 90 minutes in Enfield in midweek. We’ll see you there. 

Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Solomon (Seager 64’); Cracknell; Bani; Frempah; Frimpong; Garrett-Douglas; Carvalho (Webb 85’); Chukwu (Deslandes 84’); Long; Newton

Unused Subs: Boachie; Achuba


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