A dramatic overhaul of last week’s team saw Roco Rees return to cover for Carl Rushworth, who was away on International duty with England U19’s and Jesse Starkey was back after suspension. Marvin Armstrong started, as did Alex Parsons and Callum Kealy; with Dylan Jelley the biggest surprise on the team sheet. Cameron Tutt and Lloyd Dawes dropped to the bench – where they were joined by Darren Budd and U18’s top scorer, Tom Chalaye – while Fin Stevens, Mason Doughty, Shola Ayoola, Ross Edwards and Jasper Pattenden missed out altogether.
It took eleven minutes for the first chance of the afternoon to arrive and it came via Olu Akinsanya’s flick-on to goalkeeper, Shane Gore’s free kick but Charlie Ruff couldn’t keep his shot down.
That soon changed when the diminutive number seven was giftwrapped the ball by Reece Myles-Meekums, in his own half, before he located the left wing run of Akinsanya. The recent signing from Ware broke into the box and his effort deflected nicely to Ruff to open the scoring.
The two attackers then exchanged attempts on goal; with Akinsanya blasting over the bar and Ruff ending his burst from midfield by firing wide, around thirty yards out.
A rare response from the visitors saw Ben Pashley head Starkey’s corner over the target until normal service resumed when Akinsanya threatened again; only this time, Roco’s intervening boot kept him out.
Unfortunately, Red’s Rees then passed straight to the imposing striker, who didn’t need a second invitation to bend the ball around the beleaguered netminder to double the deficit, two minutes later.
Parsons’ quickly-taken free-kick led to Armstrong finding Kealy in a central position, only for the Aussie to swivel and drag his effort the wrong side of the post, as the away side desperately looked for a way back into the game.
They found it moments later, when Armstrong’s ball to the byline was well kept in by Parsons, which allowed Ricky Aguiar to tee-up Joel Colbran on the edge of the box and his sumptuous half-volley buried itself inches inside Gore’s left-hand upright.
The Sussex guests had two further go’s at going into the break on level terms, although Jelley headed Aguiar’s flag-kick over after a new ball had to be thrown on due to Meekums’ losing the previous one, when he missed the target, car park, hedge and coach the other side of it.
Thankfully, Reece was more accurate with his passing soon after the turnaround, as he picked out Ricky to fire a low, twenty-five yard shot into the bottom corner, for the equaliser.
Just seven more minutes had elapsed when Meekums was the architect again; his right-sided, driven effort into the danger zone rebounding out perfectly for Kealy to power home a third.
Wingate & Finchley’s own number nine, Akinsanya then forced Rees into a smart save before the goalie almost blotted his copybook by earning a yellow card for handling outside his area, as the ever-dangerous Ruff lurked menacingly. Luckily, the free-kick that followed came to nowt.
The Blues dominated the rest of the contest but were unable to break down a resolute Reds.
Henry Ochieng failed to test Rees from range, after drifting inside off the left flank and Ruff’s header lacked enough gusto to trouble Roco either.
Substitute, Will Dupray sprayed a delightful pass out to left-back, Charley O’Keefe and his cross hit Armstrong on the back but Dupray pulled the loose ball well wide, twenty yards out.
Second sub, Alphanso Kennedy could only watch as Akinsanya nodded his delivery onto the crossbar and the hosts’ final throw of the dice, literally, came through Tanasheh Abrahams’ launching a long one into the box that eventually dropped for Ruff to deposit past the post.
The final few minutes resembled the Alamo, as Worthing, somehow, continued to keep the home side at bay.
Blues bombarded the penalty area, with one chance finally falling to Tommy Tejan-Sie; only for his sidewinder-volley to end up keeping Meekums’ earlier effort company, somewhere in North Finchley.
Into time added on, Ruff gave Abrahams an opening that resulted in an increasingly nervous coach driver moving his vehicle the other side of town and Starkey’s bravery left him with a dartboard-sized red mark on his back, after he threw himself at Kennedy’s feet, in a blocking of his shot sense rather than a deep admiration of his footballing prowess, sense.
Four minutes into a minimum of five more, Luke Ifil’s deep centre met with the cranium of the giant Chris Forino-Joseph; who simply proved his goal threat to be less of a concern than his tackling. (His yellow card-inducing challenge ending Dawes’s day all too soon, after Lloyd had climbed off the bench at the same time as Buddy, just past the hour mark.)