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Blues up to fourth and unbeaten in 10 as Merrifield brace and Foxley free kick give them win over Wingate & Finchley

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Bishop’s Stortford are up to fourth in the Pitching In Isthmian League Premier Division after a 3-1 win at home to Wingate & Finchley on Saturday extended their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions.

After a goalless first half, Darren Foxley's free kick gave them the lead before Frankie Merrifield made a dream return from injury, scoring twice within three minutes of coming off the bench. The visitors got a 90th-minute consolation goal.

The only down side was that the Blues finished with 10 men as Archie Edwards suffered a pulled hamstring after all three substitutions had been made.

Steve Smith made two changes to the side that started the midweek 2-1 win over second-placed Enfield Town, with 96th-minute match winner Johnville Renee and Darren Foxley replacing Ryan Charles and Ben Marlow.

Ibrahim Meite led a high press for Wingate at the start of the game, forcing a mistake from goalkeeper Jack Giddens, whose kick deflected off the striker into the path of Theophilus Ofori, but he could only shoot straight at Giddens.

Mark Haines’ flicked header at the near post from Jonny Giles' corner was cleared off the goal line, and Giles himself then had a shot after a dummy by Foxley into his path, but Jardell Stirling got his body in the way to block.

Anthony Church was alive to the second ball after the corner, but the visitors' keeper Benjamin Goode made an easy save. A subsequent corner was met by the head of Ryan Henshaw, but the Blues skipper could not find the target and Wingate & Finchley – also known as the Blues – managed to clear.

Meite dragged his shot wide from a run in behind the Stortford defence from a tight angle, then Foxley could only shoot over the bar after the ball fell to him in the box when Wingate failed to clear a Giles cross.

Ofori let fly from long range with a low effort, Giddens parried it and Sam Robbins was able to clear as the first half ended goalless.

Charles was introduced at half-time, with Giles making way, and the winger was instantly involved as he crossed from the right to Renee, but his header went wide. From a free kick in a central position, Jake Cass fired under the wall but wide of the left post.

A free kick slightly to the left was the perfect angle for Foxley to put Stortford in front after 57 minutes with his second goal since returning on a month's loan from Vanarama National League South Billericay Town. His curling and dipping effort into the bottom left corner was too good for the outstretched dive of Goode, who had kept his side in the match until that point.

Wingate were almost gifted an equaliser when Henshaw’s heavy back pass was destined for the back of the net, but Giddens managed to scramble across his goal and hook the ball away for a throw-in.

Less than 60 seconds after coming off the bench in the 74th minute, Merrifield, in space on the right wing, scored with a brilliant chip over Goode, who was caught in no man’s land.

And just two minutes later he completed his brace, capitalising on Goode misjudging the flight of the ball to head into the empty net from the penalty spot for his eighth goal of the season.

Edwards pulled up injured, clutching his hamstring straight away, prompting a nervy final few minutes with only 10 players and substitute Marlow deputising as an emergency left back.

Luke Ifil netted a late consolation for Wingate with a low shot from a tight angle on the right into the bottom corner.

Stortford are back in Buildbase FA Trophy action on Saturday (Nov 27) , hosting Leiston in the second round in their sixth successive home game in league and cup, before travelling to Merstham for a league game the following Tuesday (Nov 30).

Blues: Giddens, Edwards, Church (yellow card 60), Robbins (Marlow 61), Henshaw (c), Giles (Charles 46, yellow card 81), Cass (Merrifield 74), Renee, Thomas, Foxley, Haines. Not used: Chandler, Marlow, Baker.

Wingate & Finchley: Goode (c), Ifil, Sayoud, Armoo (Hatton 66), Hobbs, Stirling (yellow card 81), Clarke, Cotter (yellow card 69), Meite (Kennedy 41), Smyth (Berchiche 73), Ofori. Not used: Achuba, Weatherstone.

Attendance: 348

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