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Tuesday 15th February 2022 ko 19.45

Isthmian League Premier Division

WINGATE & FINCHLEY 4 (Ofori 7 Vasilou 18 45 Kearney 79)

ENFIELD TOWN 1 (Bray 51)

Faal penalty saved 68

Att 247

Entry £12

Programme (online, downloadable) £1

These days a trip to suburban London does have a new consideration, the ULEZ. The Ultra Low Emission Zone has recently been expanded to include everything inside (and not including) of the North and South Circular roads, with the exception of the M4/A4 to the Hogarth Roundabout. What it means is if you drive a petrol car that isn’t up to Euro 4 standards or Euro 6 for diesels there’s a £12.50 daily charge. And for the avoidance of doubt if you enter the ULEZ zone at 23.59 and leave 2 minutes later, that’s 2 days charge and £25.00. There’s a vehicle checking tool on the TfL website.

Fortunately for my bank balance the Maurice Rebak Stadium lies outside of the North Circular, but the infrastructure for the new zone was obvious at Robyn and I travelled round from the Hangar Lane Gyratory. We passed by the southern end of the M1 which was significant, as the old Wingate FC ground in Hall Lane was demolished to make way for the road’s southern extension in 1972.

The ground you see today on Summers Lane, was the home of Finchley FC from their formation in 1877 to their merger with Wingate FC in 1991. Their legacy is the quite wonderful Art Deco stand, built in 1930 with its double behind it used by Finchley RUFC being built a year later. That stand is the reason so many groundhoppers head here, or in my case to revisit to show my wife Robyn! A tip for the initiated, do not park in the rugby club as you are likely to  get locked in, as one hopper infamously discovered.

Wingate FC was founded in 1946 in the aftermath of the defeat of Nazism, as a Jewish club to fight anti-Semitism named after General Orde Wingate, founder of the first Israeli army during World War II. They actually did play at Summers Lane in their own name albeit briefly after the loss of Hall Lane, but in 1975 merged with Leyton FC (not Leyton Orient) to become Leyton Wingate. They decamped to Leyton’s ground in the East End at the Hare & Hounds. 

That club lasted until 1991 when the clubs demerged, Leyton returned to their own name, folding in 2005 with Wingate moving back to their hinterland to merge, some might say take over the financially troubled Finchley FC. The ground was extensively refurbished and renamed after Harry Abrahams, a supporter of Wingate FC, and was renamed again in 2016 after Wingate founder Maurice Rebak, who died that year aged 95. 

Off the top of my head I can’t think of another ground that features Palm trees, but this is a wonderful place to watch a game, with the Jewish influences there without ever being intrusive. Robyn and certainly picked a good game, with Enfield Town being near neighbours and bringing a substantial following. That allowed me an ironic smile, Enfield Town were involved in the first time I saw a game in front of a crowd that was technically nil

It took a little time to negotiate the turnstiles not helped by a group of young lads trying to claim that could get in as children, and yes I did see them all holding pint glasses at half time! The surprise was just how well Wingate & Finchley did against a side aiming for National League South football. The normally prolific Muhammadu Faal had an off-night missing a penalty, and for Wingate Antonis Vasilou celebrated his loan from Barnet being extended to the end of the season with a brace, the second a thunderbolt from 30 yards.

In fact the only fly in Wingate’s ointment was the nearside floodlights failing on the stroke of half time. At 3-0 up an abandonment would have been a tragedy for them. Fortunately for them, the fault was fixed during a slightly extended break. There was a silver lining even then, it allowed the rain to clear and the trip back avoiding the charge only delayed slightly.