There’s something different about this Wingate & Finchley squad in 2023/24. It was said before the season began, it was said after the fast start that was made in the league, and we hope that it will continue to be said as the season progresses and we move into the new year.
Looking at the results on paper, you might disregard that statement as unqualified optimism from a biased observer who is willing the team to score goals and win games. And you might be right to think like that. But scoring goals and winning games is really only half of the story.
At Hastings, after a fast start, which was admittedly handed to them on a plate by some poor goalkeeping, the Blues had their backs to the wall as the home side, roared on by one of the biggest crowds in the league, scored once and then twice to bring themselves back into the game; it looked for all money like they would have equalised in the final half and hour.
Or perhaps you could look at Cheshunt, where a Blues side, still finding their feet as a squad, displayed a dominant performance away from home, winning the game without allowing a single shot on target.
What is evident from both of those games is that this squad can bend without breaking. They can absorb spells of pressure that sides will inevitably have, and they can retain a certain swagger, or arrogance if you will, about their play that demands a complete performance for ninety minutes, no matter the situation.
And so it was on Saturday as the Blues ran out 6-2 victors over Canvey Island on a wet afternoon in North London.
The key moment was just after half-time.
The sides had gone into the sheds at 1-1, and Wingate & Finchley will have felt a little aggrieved not to be winning the game, after Chukwu, Carvalho, and Wilkinson had all forced fine saves from Sam Jackson in the Canvey goal.
Any positive momentum they had hoped to retain in the second half was swiftly extinguished as Luke Deslandes drove forward into the area, and fired a bullet past Goode to restore his side’s one goal advantage.
At this moment the rain started to fall and it would have been very easy for the Blues to drop their heads, retreat into their shells, and try to knick a point.
Not this side though - they trusted their ability, knew they were good enough to win the game, and ultimately put on a clinic for the last 35 minutes of the game, scoring five unanswered goals and potentially could have had even more.
All five, and indeed Anointed Chukwu’s first before half-time, were fantastic goals; each goal representative of the player who scored them:
Ruben’s goals were two free kicks straight out of the top drawer from 25 yards out. One was into the top left corner, one into the bottom right corner, each evading the keeper and wall masterfully.
Chukwu’s goals were the ultimate team goals, as if to honour the ultimate team player that Anointed has been to date. He twice found space away from his defender and was able to finish smartly after some neat play down the flanks had allowed good balls into the box.
Elliot’s were cool and collected finishes, where he was able to use his quickness and agility to get around his man, before firing low and hard into the net.
It would be remiss not to mention some of the defensive and midfield work that helped to shore up the lead. Rhamar Garrett-Douglas made a vital block when the score was 3-2 to keep Canvey Island from levelling things on the hour mark, and setting the foundation for the attackers to add on three more goals later in the game. And George’s Wilkinson’s control of possession and dictating of the play was a real asset to the side that looked to take advantage of the space that was given to them in midfield.
And so 6-2 was how it finished, thanks to two goals a piece from Chukwu, Carvalho, and Long. Canvey came into this game with the second best form in the division, having won four out of their last 5 games, but that was a run that was ended emphatically at the Maurice Rebak Stadium.
It’s now three league wins on the bounce for the Blues, who find themselves in fourth position in the league. Over that three-game spell they have scored eleven goals, and the goalscoring issues that abounded during the extended run of cup games in September looks to have been banished.
The next game is at home to Dulwich on Tuesday night, a game that is always looked forward to and enjoyed by the Wingate faithful, and then our run of home games is concluded on Halloween when Enfield Town pay us a visit in another keenly anticipated matchup.
We’ll see you there!
Wingate & Finchley: Goode; Garrett-Douglas; Sellers; Wilkinson (Frimpong 71’); Frempah; Achuba; Ifil (Williams 71’); Carvalho (Yeboah 82’); Chukwu; Long; Biler
Unused Subs: Siggers; Francis-Adeyinka