It was at the striker’s previous club, Met. Police, that The Reds had begun last season but just four players who were involved that day remained at the club for yesterday’s curtain-raiser.
A largely uneventful first-half saw both teams guilty of giving the ball away cheaply at times, with opening day nerves clearly evident.
The nearest anyone came to a first goal of the afternoon resulted in comfortable glove-work from the respective ‘keepers. James Crane’s run down the inside left channel ended with his attempt to pass the ball into the bottom corner thwarted by the experienced Shane Gore in the visitor’s goal. While Alfie Young’s misplaced pass wasn’t capatilised on by Tommy Tejan-Sie, when his tame shot was easily dealt with by Lucas Covolan.
No sooner had the five-minute-mark ticked by when Aarran Racine tried to shield the ball out of play for a goal-kick but instead, only succeeded in letting Marc Charles-Smith muscle past him to set Tejan-Sie up with another chance but, our brilliant Brazilian was there to keep him out once again.
Only when the midway-point of the half had been reached, did the home team threaten their opponent’s goal. The ever-willing David Ajiboye created space to get in a shot on the edge of the box but Gore came to Wingate’s rescue.
Jesse Starkey then fizzed an effort wide after Sam Rent’s free-kick had fallen kindly for him, just past the half-hour mark.
It was another mistake though by a man in red that produced the first goal of the game. A right-wing cross saw Alex Parsons inexplicably push Rob Laney in the back and Referee, Jon Creswick, was left with no choice other than to point to the spot. Despite getting finger-tips to Sean Cronin’s powerful effort, Covolan was unable to repeat his penalty-saving heroics from the Gillingham friendly as the visitor’s captain comfortably gave his side the lead.
This appeared to wake the home team up as within minutes, David Ajiboye had made his way down the right and played inside to Kealy, who stroked home, low into the net. Before the former Brighton forward, on his second competitive debut for the hosts, had a go himself, only to see Gore tip his drive over the bar at the expense of a corner, which Kealy couldn’t quite take advantage of as he fired over the bar from the subsequent set-piece. This coming moments after Laney went for the spectacular, in the form of an overhead-kick but Covolan was equal to his audacious attempt.
The final word of the opening forty-five minutes came from Wingate & Finchley, with the ever-dangerous Reece Beckles-Richards charging down the right flank and setting up Laney for a shooting opportunity but, the scores remained level going into the break.
The second-half was a little over ten minutes old, when Kealy put his side in front for the first time, as he finished off a move that had started with Ajiboye’s run down the middle and ended, via an assist from Starkey, with the Aussie teenager slotting home past the outstretched right hand of Gore.
Both keeper’s then got their deckchairs out until they were rudely awoken in the last quarter of the game. Firstly, it was Ricky Aguiar, who tried to beat the veteran, Gore at his near post but was denied by the wily custodian. Then, the industrial work of Kealy saw him outmuscle Cronin only to drag his shot wide of goal and, finally, with less than ten to go, Beckles-Richards whipped in a free-kick from the right and Laney was only inches away from getting the decisive touch, as he slid in at the far post.
The men from North London carved out one last opportunity to go home with a point, when substitute, Lewis Putman’s cross-shot from the byline was held on to like it was the crown jewels by fan-favourite, Covolan.