On a day that could have seen Corinthians relegated had they succumbed at home, and had Kingstonian managed to defeat Haringey, the South West Londoners left King George’s Field living to fight another day in this league.
Quite how that result happened, or how Wingate were unable to turn 89 minutes of dominance into three points, is a question that most of the 238 in attendance will have left the ground asking themselves.
The Blues created chance after chance throughout the game, and particularly in the second half, but couldn’t find that crucial finish to find the goal. Ben Siggers twice came agonisingly close in the first half, twice getting himself free at the back post, and twice making weak contact with his head which provided a lifeline for the hosts. It was the first of many.
Shortly after, and all before half time, Antonis Vasiliou was laid through one on one with the Casuals goalkeeper, but Callum Coulter to his credit was able to get out very quickly and smother the danger. It was his finest moment in the game, which speaks both to the quality of the save, but also to Wingate’s inability to properly test him throughout the 90.
If the home side thought that the second half would have provided a change of pace, they were disabused of that notion very quickly. Wingate very much picked up where they left off in the first half, with both Ifil and Siggers able to get a number of crosses into the penalty area; ultimately though there was no one able to make that decisive final touch.
Vasiliou was the beneficiary of two of those crosses, finding himself trying to steer awkward volleys past Coulter in the Casuals goal. Unable to break the pattern of the game, he too was unable to get any significant contact on the ball, and Coulter was able to collect both attempts with relative ease.
As the clocked ticked further down, the Blue wave continued in full force, this time it was Daniel Emovon who managed to create some space on the left edge of the penalty area from a corner, where he flashed a good ball across the face of the goal, and all the Casuals’ defenders could do was breathe a sigh of relief as it whistled harmlessly through the six yard box and out of danger.
Late goals have been common for Wingate and Finchley this season, and while many in Blue will have been hoping (or expecting) Coulter’s net to bulge, it was in fact Goode’s goal that saw the decisive action. It came from a freekick on the left that Wingate were unable to clear. After some pinball in the area, centre-half Malaki Hyman found himself free at the back post, where he gleefully tucked the ball into the gaping net, cuing scenes of jubilation from the Casuals followers. Who knows how important that goal could turn out to be when all is said and done in this division.
Even as injury time ran it’s course, there were more chances for the Blues. Ben Goode, looking to repeat the heroics of his late equaliser against Bowers and Pitsea, was in the area for a late corner. He was watching though as first Cam Gbadebo and then Elliot Long stabbed the ball towards goal, only to be met by a wall of brown and pink shirts willing to get their body in the way and keep the ball out of the net.
And so 1-0 was how it finished.
It will be a bitter pill for the Blues to swallow given their dominance throughout the game. As happened at Horsham and Herne Bay, late goals away from home have once again cost the Blues, and once again find themselves heading back to North London wondering how they haven’t managed to secure the three points.
It leaves just five games left this season, with an eight point gap to Herne Bay in 19th. But before that there is the small matter of the London Senior FA Cup semi-final against neighbours Haringey Borough on Tuesday night.
By Chris Cummings