Wingate & Finchley only a point from safety after Canvey Island win

First published in Sport

David Laird inspired Wingate & Finchley to defeat high-flying Canvey Island 3-2, earning the club their first ever win on the Essex island.

The visitors' recent good run of form had come largely from beating lowly opposition, but this win away at play-off-chasing Canvey is a sign of things to come as the side settle in to life in the Premier Division.

The Blues started the game like a team possessed, dominating all of the early play. They used their pace well to consistently beat Canvey Island down the channels as the two centre-backs were always left chasing.

Tony Burke was put through for the first opening on the right side of the box, but his curling effort missed the near post after a hint of a deflection.

The game-defining moment came in the tenth minute as Leon Smith was sent racing clear with three defenders in his wake. Upon reaching the box, he was tugged back as he was shooting with a penalty and red card for John Easterford resulting. The dismissal was extremely harsh on Easterford, but that is a flaw in the laws of football and there can be no question that the referee applied them perfectly. The seaside Park Lane stadium, however, picked up wind just as Laird began his run-up and the moving ball caused havoc as the striker miscued and struck the crossbar.

Just five minutes later the deserved lead arrived as Laird made amends, rifling home from just five yards following a scramble from a corner.

The opening 20 minutes had been all Wingate but Canvey finally settled into the game themselves following the goal. A long cross was impossible to defend and Steve Sheehan volleyed at full stretch at the far post but could not wrap his foot around the ball enough and skied his effort over.

Canvey's spell of pressure was brief and shortly before the break Wingate carved open more glorious chances.

Ross Parmenter, flourishing with his new centre-midfield partner John Docker, shot firmly from distance but the effort was saved. It was merely diverted out into the path of Laird but his attempt was incredibly tipped away by James Russell. From the corner, Marc Weatherstone's header was tipped onto the bar and over. Following this next corner, Weatherstone turned and shot from ten yards but another great save fro Russell saw the ball parried into Laird again with the busy keeper forced to make another incredible reflex save.

The Blues should have been three goals clear by now but were given a warning when Jay Curran's free header from a looping cross was missed beyond the far post when he should have scored.

Within a minute of the second half starting, the lead was finally doubled.

Leon Smith interchanged with Laird in a superb one-two outside the area, and he finished by curling ball accurately around the stranded keeper.

Just two minutes later though, the defecit was pulled back to one goal as Curran broke free down the right wing and cutting inside, he outpaced the defence and slotted low past Bobby Smith.

Five minutes later and incredibly the scores were level.

Another break down the right wing from Leon Gordon was all too easy and Dean Mason slotted home a near-post cross.

Canvey were flying at this point and their opponents struggled to keep possession, giving it away too easily - a far cry from the first half domination.

Weatherstone received a kick in the face inside the box and could have been awarded a penalty, but the actual chances fell to Canvey. Curran waltzed through the middle of the pitch all the way into the box but blazed wide, and this was typical of the second half as for all their pressure, Canvey failed to test Bobby Smith.

Despite being under pressure for much of the second half, a moment of magic from Laird in the 75th minute won the match for the visitors.

With a low pass received with great control, he found himself in space ten yards from goal. Being off balance and with no way of shooting with power, he instinctively scooped the ball over the stranded goalkeeper and saw it take an age to land perfectly in the top corner.

Laird came close to his hat-trick but his long-range daisy-cutter was saved by the outstretched left arm of Russell.

At the other end Canvey went on another break down the right wing but as a close-range shot seemed certain to go in, Parmenter denied the striker with an intelligently timed tackle.

The final chance came for the home side's Kevin Dobinson, who went on another mazy run but fired over the bar much to the relief of Wingate, who now only need one more point to guarantee survival this season.

Man-of-the-Match Laird said: "The team played so well today, it was just a shame to give away two sloppy goals when we were in complete dominance.

"After their goals they didn't create many chances, and I think we played well enough to get the win. It's an important win because we now only need one more point."

On the early penalty incident, he added: "I thought the penalty was harsh, from my angle it wasn't a foul, but having missed the kick I'm gutted it was given."

Wingate & Finchley: B Smith, Weatherstone, Street, Parmenter, Nielsen, Douglas (Aisien 77), Burke, Docker (Fisher 83), L Smith, Laird, Mitchell (Williams 77). Not used: Jones, Karagul.

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