Our latest away day Ryman League Premier adventure took us to North London and a visit to the well established Wingate & Finchley FC.
Our hosts were sitting one place above in the table so on paper both sides were closely matched. In reality, for yours truly, it was a bit hardcore getting up there having to leave work in Brighton at 5pm. I also had to undertake the Thameslink up to St Pancras, 35 mins on the Northern line and a 30 min walk to the ground. I made it pitch side ten minutes prior to kick off.
Wingate have a nice ground with an iconic art deco looking main stand, as well as a small cover terrace behind a goal, however the match clock read 12 minutes past six for the entire evening. You might be staggered to learn that Hillians made up at least 20% of the crowd, with there being only 102 in the ground.
As the teams emerged into a mild but drizzly London night it was clear that our manager wasn't in his normal spot. After a quick look around we discovered he was high up in the stand watching the game with our chairman. Assistant manager Stuart Tuck was in charge of proceedings from the away dugout.
Hill then started very much on the front foot and took the game to Wingate. Our skipper, Dan Pearse, led by example by bursting into the box and then getting to a keeping error to force the ball home. A great poachers goal especially from a midfielder. The early goal seemed to drive us on and perhaps we should have gone on to double the lead. It was a real shame that late in the half Wingate got a dangerous free kick. Cheick Toure was receiving attention so couldn't participate in the wall. The shot stayed low, going under a jumping wall. Our keeper should have done better. 1-1 at half time.
Wingate played well early in the second half and got their reward with the perfect chipped goal. When you are out of form this is the sort of goal you can concede. Their left winger made a small shimmy, making some space and with out stopping deftly chipped our keeper who had no chance. Unlike recent games Hill rolled up their sleeves and did everything to try and level. Even in a frantic last two mins our keeper had a header over the bar. 2-1 to Wingate it finished.
In normal circumstances it is the sort of performance when you would have come away feeling very positive for the next game. As we all know it isn't normal at the moment and it's another huge dent in confidence and knock to our survival campaign.
Everyone at the club have got to go west on Saturday to high flyers Havant & Waterlooville FC. It represents another huge chance to arrest what is becoming a very punishing run (one point in 15). The best of luck to Ian, his staff, players and of course the Burgess Hill massive on Saturday.