Town Secure Date With Destiny

Enfield Town 1 Wingate and Finchley 0

Report by Andrew Warshaw

This time there was no last-gasp setback like two years ago, no sense of gut-wrenching disappointment.

Instead, it was high-fives and euphoria all round in front of a record crowd of 2,225 as Enfield Town reached the playoff final on an unforgettable night of tension and excitement.

Of course the job’s not done yet, with a visit to divisional runners-up Chatham – with whom we recently drew 2-2 in our final league game of the season — on Bank Holiday Monday for the right to reach the Promised Land of Step 2 football.

The Chats squeezed through on penalties against Horsham in the other semifinal, perhaps the only frustration for Town as it meant we gave up the chance of a possible home final with the Hornets and instead have to travel to Kent.

But that should not detract from a hard-fought win over Wingate and Finchley who pushed us all the way, especially in the first half when the weight of expectation seemed to rest heavily on our shoulders before we threw off the shackles and went for it after the break.

With the huge attendance taking up all corners of the ground, we had the first big chance of the game just two minutes in as Jake Cass saw his shot pushed away by Ben Goode. Wingate went straight up the other end and we were indebted to Mickey Parcell for a timely block.

Thereafter the visitors made most of the first-half running but without producing too many clearcut openings. Anointed Chukwu flashed a low cross into the six-yard box but fortunately for Town, no teammate was on hand to convert.

The sight of Jake limping off didn’t help our cause, Joe Payne coming off the bench and Ollie Knight pushed into an inside left position.

It was a change that ultimately paid off but not for the remainder of the first half. Just before the break, Elliot Long brought an acrobatic save from Rhys Forster while Town went in without having produced much of a goal threat since the opening foray.

H-T 0-0

Our visitors might have enjoyed large swathes of possession but invariably score the majority of their goals in the first half.

It  was the perfect platform therefore to respond — and respond we did. Suddenly it was a different game as our front-foot football, helped by Payne’s long throws, changed the momentum.

Right on the hour, Marcus Wyllie’s cross found Scott Thomas who, instead of shooting himself, passed inside to Dylan Adjei-Hersey. With the goal at his mercy, Dylan somehow missed the target from three yards, albeit on one knee as he was getting up off the floor.

Playoff games can be won and lost in such moments but seven minutes later, a match of few clearcut chances was settled in our favour.

Another Payne long throw was launched into the area and met by  Taylor McKenzie, whose header looped beyond Goode, sending the  Dave Bryant Stadium into raptures (pictured).

Marcus missed a golden chance for 2-0 as Goode saved with his feet in a one-on-one before momentum switched back to the Blues who had another decent spell late on as they fought to restore parity but failed to capitalise on their strong running, invariably over-hitting their final pass.

Seven minutes of added time for a couple of lengthy stoppages seemed like an eternity but all that mattered was getting the line, prompting wild celebrations at the finish in contrast to the Wingate players who lay flat on their backs in desperate dejection.

“We knew that Wingate tend to fly out the blocks and when they normally score their goals so we worked on a system to be able to counter that,” said Gavin Macpherson. “Yet I wasn’t that happy because we should have got ourselves further up the pitch whenever we had the ball.”

“But I said to the players at halftime, ‘this is exactly when you go at it’ and that’s what they did. I have huge respect for how Wingate move the ball around but we trust in our process. We weren’t at our best with the football, let’s be honest, but for the boys to keep coming with me is a testament to them all.”

 Gavin explained why he wasn’t his usual self on the touchline where he is normally pacing up and down gesticulating to the players.

 “The playoffs are not an easy experience. I had to remain very focussed on certain aspects. I’ve learned a few lessons from playoff games before.  We’ve beaten a very good team and I certainly spare a thought for them. I know how it feels.”

Now to on to Chatham with memories still very raw about ‘that’ phantom whistle in the crowd last Saturday which played such a huge part in the Chats’ equaliser and suddenly takes on renewed significance.

“It matters because of course I’d rather be at home in the final,” sad Gavin. “But you don’t win the playoffs easily and we’re going to have to beat two very good sides to get promoted. We’ll prepare the boys in the best possible way and see what happens.”

Footnote: There will be a supporters coach to Chatham, to be advised


Forster: Parcell, McKenzie, Tanner; Adjei-Hersey, Thomas, Youngs, Harvest, Knight; Cass (Payne, 43), Wyllie