WIFC went down to their first defeat in four games at Met Police this Saturday, as close neighbours Barnet shaded yet another close encounter between the two sides. Having fallen to WIFC in the group stages of the London Cup, the visitors were keen to make amends and started brightly, but it was the hosts who opened the scoring when Andy Lewers, in his first start for the club, collected a good pass from Alex Prentice and his low cross was converted by Andy Myall at the second attempt for his 5th goal of the season.
Barnet were soon level and in controversial fashion when Jake Manzi clearly controlled the ball with his arm before slotting home. The referee had his vision blocked, but Barnet players were quick to admit the offence after the game had already re-started, giving no chance to overturn the decision. The incident left a sour taste, and some niggling incidents punctuated the game from then on, highly unusual for an IFA game and more suited to Sunday League.
That aside, both sides continued to play good football and create goalscoring chances, and it was WIFC who edged ahead before the break. A foul from the visiting keeper David Kirby resulted in a penalty kick, which was converted by Dave Soloway with his 50th goal for the club, and 7th of the season.
After the break, WIFC joint managers Dave Messenger & Chris Davis shuffled the pack, with several players playing for a coveted cup final squad berth. Though a number of the team did their chances no harm, Barnet were in the ascendancy and after some dogged defending from the home side, the visitors finally leveled when Luke Watling drilled home the goal of the game from 25 yards.
Though there were further chances for the home side on the break, notably from Soloway and Frank Smith, Barnet looked more likely. It took a moment of misfortune to break the deadlock, as a miscued defensive header fell into the path of Joe Cullum who took the ball round Tom Beck and was felled by the otherwise excellent home keeper. Watling duly dispatched the penalty to earn the visitors their win.
Joint manager Dave Messenger refused to be downhearted. “Having rested a few of the likely starters for next week, this game was always about seeing how some of those in contention for the Cup Final squad would perform, knowing places are up for grabs. Chris and I were pleased with what we saw and have a number of tough decisions to mull over” said Messenger. “We’d have preferred to notch the win, but games with Barnet are always close and this was no exception. We were dissapointed with the handball, which denied us a decent draw, but confidence is still high for next week and all eyes are now firmly on the final”.
WIFC: Tom Beck; Matt Wells, Aidy Spender, Stuart Nicholls, Lozza Wells; Andy Lewers, Daz Sear, Frank Smith, Richard Murphy, Andy Myall; Alex Prentice. Subs Panos Fellas, Dave Soloway, Ed Sterry, Phil McBride, Dan Willis, Stuart Holdham, Joel Moody, Mat Ball.