An entertaining encounter between two competitive teams was eventually won by Wingate & Finchley at Hayes & Yeading United’s Sharda Glass Stadium training pitch.
The visitors did have to come from behind twice however, and within six minutes, they went behind when Richard Whittingham’s free kick was met on the volley by Brendan Cowell right in front of goal and the ball flew into the roof of the net.
They weren’t behind for long however. A Docker free kick from 20 yards seemed to deceive Rourke Pickford in the United goal and dribbled into the bottom corner.
Pickford made amends with a good save to deny Thomas on the volley soon after. Then from another corner, this time from Harry Pearse, Adam Richards headed goalwards, only for Elenge to block and the ball was scrambled clear.
McCluskey hit a volley just wide of United’s goal before Whittingham rattled the Wingate crossbar with a long range drive. Docker crossed for Laird as play switched back down the other end but Richards managed to block his shot. As play ebbed and flowed, United took advantage to take the lead once again, Cowell beating Elenge in the air before racing onto the loose ball and finishing calmly beneath the advancing Middleton.
Wingate dominated the closing stages of the first half. Pickford did well to block Laird’s shot on a one on one and he then dived low to his left to gather in Burrell’s shot. Cowell was denied a first half hat-trick when a loose clearance by Middleton landed at Whittingham’s feet and he threaded the ball through to the tall striker, only for Middleton to atone for his error with a full length diving save.
The game turned on its head just before half time with two goals from Wingate & Finchley. First, McCluskey raced onto Wright’s long pass and picked out the onrushing Laird to finish. Then the ball was played on the right flank between McCluskey and Scarlett and the latter finished from a tight angle underneath Pickford.
The second half was just as entertaining as the first, but lacked the goals. Whittingham almost equalised soon after the restart, but his shot from Ryan Hirooka’s square pass went just wide left. Pickford then saved from Thomas before Richards again went close with a header for United, knocking over Whittingham’s corner via an Omar Beckles flick on.
Thomas was wayward with another shot after Street and Docker combined to set him up but on 77 minutes, the game was put beyond United when Pickford overstretched on a cross and the ball fell from his grasp, giving Laird a tap in.
United didn’t give in however and came close on a few more occasions before the final whistle. Cowell was again denied a hat-trick by Middleton’s diving parry after latching onto Shannon Jesson’s throughball. Then Adam Cash played in Isaac Osei-Tutu whose lay off was perfect into Whittingham’s path, only for the midfielder’s 25 yard shot to be caught smartly by Middleton.
The game nearly finished with an own goal, as Adrian Dubovecky’s cross for United was punched by Middleton straight onto Neilson’s back and everyone stood and watched as the ball bounced across goal and to safety, just wide of the post.
In the end, Wingate’s quality on the ball earned them a deserved win, but United’s admirable spirit made it an entertaining contest throughout.
Report by Nick Bell.
United Man of the Match: Richard Whittingham.