Tuesday 18th December 2018, 1945 Kick Off
Wingate & Finchley FC vs Bishop’s Stortford FC
The Build Up
My last venture into the Alan Turvey Trophy (Velocity Trophy for sponsorship purposes) was a September trip to Leatherhead, to see them dispatched at the first hurdle by a David Ajiboye goal for Worthing. Back then, anything was possible, and a whole host of Bostik Isthmian League sides could dream ahead to taking hold of the trophy that has been the property of Billericay Town since May 2017. Now, with winter truly upon us, Wham! and Slade dominating the airwaves once more and hordes of parents desperately searching for the last Tracy Island toy (I may be showing my age here), that number has been whittled down to just nine.
The quarter finals are all but arranged, just Wingate & Finchley and Bishop’s Stortford were left to face off in a battle of “The Blues”, for the right to take on Merstham in the last eight. An almost exclusively Premier League cast, with the exception of Whitstable Town, who would be hoping to stick one in the eye of AFC Hornchurch. Bishop’s Stortford beat Tilbury 8-7 on penalties to make it to this Round Three tie, whilst hosts Wingate & Finchley also needed spot kicks to dispatch Bowers & Pitsea. Both sides have pedigree in this competition, with the hosting Blues having won back in 2011, and the visiting Blues going all the way in 1989. I’m going to need to find a different way to refer to these teams.
Founded in 1991, as a merger of Finchley and (you guessed it) Wingate, the (home) Blues are often perceived as a Jewish club, due in part to the large Jewish population of Finchley. With precursor club Wingate formed in 1952 in part to combat anti-semitism in London, the club has stayed true to these roots, still featuring a Star of David on the crest, and retaining special dispensation to move matches which fall on Yom Kippur. Managed by Glen Little, and currently sit 18th in the Bostik Isthmian League Premier Division. After finishing 9th last season, the club pulled off something of a coup by bringing in Wimbledon-born Burnley legend Little as manager. He was initially paired with Nicky Shorey, but he departed after just short of a month. Despite an iffy run of recent form which has seen two wins, a draw and three losses, Wingate & Finchley made headlines worldwide this week, thanks to an astonishing goalmouth scramble in their impressive 2-0 victory over National League South Dulwich Hamlet in the FA Trophy. With over 2.47 million views, the video has made a hero of Dulwich right back Ibrahim Kargbo, and also thrust the Blues into the national consciousness.
Visiting Bishop’s Stortford have also hit a difficult run of form, losing their last three on the bounce, but still find themselves riding high in 8th. Also in the Premier Division, the Hertfordshire side were transferred to the Isthmian administered leagues from the Evo Stik Southern League Premier over the summer. One of a large number of clubs who were re-distributed, the (away) Blues have suffered from this fate a number of times over the years. A twelve year stint in Step Two was punctuated by regular switches between the Conference North and South, until relegation in 2017 saw them back in Step Three. Two seasons in the Southern League followed, before they upped divisional sticks again this year. Formed at Chequers in 1874, there are unfounded rumours (started by me) that Bishop’s Stortford are the unofficial team of the Cabinet, but we shouldn’t hold that against them. Boasting the league’s top scorer – and probably the highest scoring 43 year old in world football – in Jamie Cureton, the visitors were always likely to present a threat.
A rather torturous hour and thirty eight minute drive through South West London and around the North Circular (there’s something about the rain which makes 90% of road users idiots) eventually brought me to Finchley, and the Maurice Rebak Stadium. Named in 2016 after one of the club’s sadly deceased co-founders, it is a 1,500 capacity ground, with seating for 500. The club averages 150 (up from last year) and a ticket to watch Wingate & Finchley here sets one back £12. However, with a healthy concessions scheme (U16 £3, U12 free) a match here is easily affordable for a parents with young kids.
With the torrential downpour of earlier easing to a mere drenching rain, I availed myself of a cheeseburger and chips, and a Diet Coke. At £6.50 all in, and £2 for the programme, this passed the time in the slightly austere – but refreshingly dry – clubhouse, until I ventured outside to set up with five minutes until kick off.
It took only three minutes for Bishop’s Stortford to establish their dominance once referee Scott Rudd got proceedings underway, and once they’d taken the front foot, they didn’t relinquish it. After a typically fractured opening exchange in the rain, a long ball forward by Marcus Crowther reached Cureton running the channels. He crossed low, and strike partner Olly Miles steered home to put the visitors ahead.
On a slick surface, Bishop’s Stortford’s attempts to play a quick passing game often came unstuck as the ball skidded around with the predictability of a Christmas drunk on the rink at Somerset House. However, when it did come off, they were troubling the home defence. On 12 minutes, a period of tidy play, working the ball from left to right and back again, resulted in a chance opening for midfielder Alex Warman to shoot. His shot slammed into Isaac Ebelebe, and the danger passed.
Wingate & Finchley attempted to exert some pressure of their own, and frequently looked to David Manu on the right wing as their out ball. The summer signing from Bedford Town linked up with with Luke Ifil behind him, but was often isolated and crowded out by the visiting defence. Once they had the ball, Bishop’s Stortford were building well from the back, with Hector Kyprianou dropping deep and acting as a traditional libero, giving the offensive side structure from deep.
With 25 played, the away team threatened again, when Alfie Mason hit a cross from deep on the right wing. His cross was clearly mishit, but gave Shane Gore all manner of problems. Whipped by the wind, the ball dropped nastily towards the goal, but with the ‘keeper back-pedalling faster than Freddie Flintoff caught in a rip-tide, Gore managed to tip over for a corner. Or rather, it should have been, but perhaps unsighted (being kind) the linesman awarded a goal kick.
Five minutes later Glen Little’s side had their first chance at goal, and it was no surprise that it was both manufactured and executed by Manu. Strong hold up play by Charlie Cole – he of the 59 goal season for Takeley – saw him feed Manu, who was marshalled by two defenders. He nicked the ball between them, and stole through the gap, bursting into the box. As a covering defender came over, he toe punted a low shot, but Calum Kitscha stood up well and saved easily.
This led to a short spell of pressure from Wingate & Finchley, as for a brief period the strikers were able to bring each other into play. Calvin Ekpiteta took down a high ball, and jinked outside the box, wrong footing a defender. He slipped the ball to Charlie Cole who drove it across the box, where Manu was just unable to stretch and tuck it away.
Five minutes later, the hosts would rue that miss further, as Bishop’s Stortford extended their lead. The goal all came about from a crisp tackle in central midfield by Warman, which was a feature of the visitors’ play. Throughout the match, Bishop’s Stortford were snapping into 50/50s with more vigour and convictions than their opposition, which meant that Wingate never really settled into a rhythm. On this occasion, Warman’s tackle ran to Cureton, who looked up and set Ryan Charles through. Calm as a coma, he slipped a left footed shot under the onrushing Gore, and the sodden home fans were subdued further.
That was the last real action of the first half, and Bishop’s Stortford were good value for the lead. Not only were they more accomplished in possession, but they were working harder off the ball as well. Kyprianou was being afforded far too much time on the ball, and the work experience loannee from Leyton Orient was orchestrating play. If Wingate & Finchley wanted to get back into the match, they would have to press higher, and get their front three playing closer together.
On 51 minutes, Kitscha’s feet were pressed into action again, this time from Charlie Cole. Signed from Billericay in the summer, Cole is a strong focal point, but really needed Manu and Calvin Ekpiteta closer to him to be fully effective. On this occasion, his snapshot forced a good reaction save from the ‘keeper.
Then, three minutes later, Wingate & Finchley had halved the deficit. When Calum Kitscha was put under pressure by an unnecessary backpass, he panicked and picked it up, incurring that rarest of beasts – an indirect free kick in the box. Now I make no excuses, I love an indirect free kick in the box, especially when they’re scored, and Calvin Ekpiteta duly obliged. Returning to Bishop’s Stortford this season after a brief sojourn with East Thurrock United, Ekpiteta received the lay off and smashed one into the bottom corner. 2-1 and game on, right? Wrong.
It took only five minutes for Bishop’s Stortford – and specifically Jamie Cureton – to put paid to that idea, and it was the sort of goal the striker has thrived on throughout his 26 year, 19 club career. A high looping cross was lost in sun (!) by Shane Gore, and as it dropped behind him, there was Cureton, bang on the money to head home from around four inches out. 3-1 to the visitors, and two assists and a goal for Cureton. I was perfectly positioned for the photo as well, but unfortunately, I’ve not managed to replace the now infamous “Beveree Lens”, and it had steamed up again, so, no photos.
From the here the match ran away from Wingate & Finchley, and on the 65th minute the hosts had less chance of a comeback than Kevin Spacey. Ola Williams – on as a half time substitute for Sean Cronin – suffered the indignity of scoring an unlucky own goal, when he stabbed Johnville Renee’s low cross past Gore. Although Williams had the final touch, all the credit must go to Renee. Another product of the Leyton Orient academy, his driving run to the touchline left Layne Eadie chasing shadows (difficult to do in the dark), and the delivery into the “corridor of uncertainty” left Williams with little choice but to attempt an intervention.
It got worse from there, as Bishop’s Stortford went 5-1 up with quarter of an hour left to play. A speculative clearance was chased down by Jamie Cureton, who managed to get goal side of Luke Ifil. When the former Wolves right back pulled Cureton down, the Bristol-born striker stepped up to take the free kick himself. He whipped in a textbook delivery, and Kyprianou got highest to head home and deservedly get his name on the scoresheet.
And that was how it finished, though there was still time for Cureton to hit the crossbar from 35 yards, and David Manu to draw the save of the match out of Calum Kitscha. An honourable mention as well to young Anderson Silva, on as a sub for Bishop’s Stortford. The debutant looked lively, and left Marcus Crowther nursing some twisted blood after tricky running on the right wing.
The Wash Up
A resounding, thumping win for Bishop’s Stortford, and one where the performance was every bit as dominant as the scoreline suggests. Simply put, Wingate & Finchley never got started in the swirling December rain, and Bishop’s Stortford played with aggression out of possession, and patience when they had the ball. David Manu was a bright spot for Wingate & Finchley, and it’s no surprise that two of their best moments came through his pacey running, but at no point did he, Cole and Ekpiteta link up as they would have wanted. Luke Ifil was willing support from right back, but the match was really won and lost in midfield, where Bishop’s Stortford stood head and shoulders above their hosts.
That was more to do with how well the visiting midfielders played, than poor play by Wingate & Finchley though. I’ve spoken about Kyprianou, and was thoroughly impressed by his performance, but his ice was matched by Warman’s fire. The (almost) mulleted midfielder was snapping into tackles and driving forward in possession, and the two balanced each other well. However, when deciding Man of the Match, there really is only one candidate. With three assists and a goal, and covering more square footage than any other player, despite being old enough to have fathered the majority of them, it’s Jamie Cureton. The player/manager was in imperious form – as he has been all season – and on this evidence may genuinely play until he’s fifty…
To see any photos in more detail, simply click on the picture.
Any photographs or text produced on this website are copyrighted and remain the property of the author. If you wish to use any of this material, please contact me as I may be willing to give permission. If you would like to obtain copies of photos for use please contact me.