A historic, busy first month of the campaign see's Wanderers begin National League life with a truly memorable opening one-two, register their first wins of the campaign and end the month with an early reality check...
Welcome To The National League...
With memories of that play-off final victory over Ebbsfleet United still fresh and vivid in the minds of all Wanderers fans, less than three months on, the National League fixture generator did it's upmost to provide Marc White's side with an opening one-two which would certainly keep up the buzz and the excitement levels as life at non-league's top table began with a bang.
Beneath glorious blue skies and sunshine, Wanderers welcomed one of the early promotion favourites Chesterfield to a packed out Meadowbank on the opening day of the campaign. The match served as a very quick reunion with Darren 'DJ' Oldaker, who had departed Wanderers for East Derbyshire in the close season. The midfielder started the game to make his competitive debut for The Spireites, whilst for Wanderers, Ryan Seager began up top with Alfie Rutherford to make his first league appearance in red and white after arriving from Hungerford Town. Fellow new arrival Jack Jebb, signed from Dartford, came on to replace Seager just before the hour mark to also make his debut on the opening day.
Paul Cook's Chesterfield side showed their promotion credentials with a strong all-round display through the opening forty-five, going in at half-time 0-2 up after well-worked goals from Akwasi Asante and Amando Dobra. However, The Spireites would head into the second half of the contest a man light following the dismissal of goalkeeper Lucas Covolan after he brought down Ryan Seager on the half-hour. Footage from the Bunch of Amateurs documentary team later revealed that Marc White had identified pre-match that the keeper had 'previous' for some 'erratic' decision making, and recommended his players keep this in mind. Down to ten men and with midfielder Ollie Banks having to deputise between the sticks due to no substitute goalie, Wanderers very much looked to seize upon the opportunity in the second half, and, for the first but certainly not last time in the season, mounted a memorable comeback. Midway through the half James McShane opened his account for the campaign with a composed low finish after the Chesterfield backline collectively failed to fully clear Bobby-Joe Taylor's cross, and just ten minutes later, Luke Moore diverted Niall McManus pass towards the edge of the box with a brilliant first time finish into the top right hand corner of goal, a wall of noise erupting around Meadowbank. Not quite able to find a winner late on, an unforgettable start to Wanderers inaugural National League season finished honours even with a 2-2 draw, and the first point on the board.
The following weekend, Wanderers played their first away game of the season against Oldham Athletic. For both sides, the match would be a momentous occasion and the start of a unique bond between the clubs which would only become stronger as the season progressed. Just relegated to the National League after an 116 year stay in England's top four divisions, for The Latics their home opener was about wiping the slate clean and going again, a celebration of the recent takeover of the club by local businessman Frank Rothwell after many years of difficulty on and off the pitch. Prior to kick-off there was a marching band procession on route to Boundary Park, a live rendition of the National Anthem, plus a rousing speech from Rothwell himself, including kind words recognising Wanderers unique story and progression. Selected for live broadcast on BT Sport at 17:20, the fixture would be Wanderers first ever televised game, played in front of the largest crowd in Wanderers history as well, with nearly eight and a half thousand in attendance.
Marc White acknowledged post-match that no matter how Wanderers performed in the game, the day would likely belong to Oldham given the size of the occasion. Despite giving an account of themselves appreciated by many in the aftermath of the game, with collective retention of the ball and the displays of Bobby-Joe and Josh Taylor singled out for particular praise, the home side ultimately made it count in the final third, and got themselves 3-0 up in the game by the midway point of the second half. Hallam Hope, Chris Porter and Ben Tollitt had all tucked away clinical low finishes to send John Sheridan's team well on their way to maximum points, but Wanderers rallied brilliantly in the closing stages and pulled two goals back in the space of four minutes; Josh Taylor and Alfie Rutherford both powerfully heading home crosses swung in by Bobby-Joe Taylor, but unlike the previous Saturday afternoon, a draw could not be salvaged and the game finished up 3-2 to The Latics.
The First Wins Of The Season...
Just three days on from Oldham, Marc White's men hit the road again, but this time found themselves in more familiar surroundings. The first game of the season under the midweek lights would see Wanderers take on their promotion rivals from the previous campaign, Maidstone United. The Kent side had edged Wanderers to the National League South title after a superb run of form in the second half of the campaign, securing the championship with two games remaining. Clashes throughout the previous seasons between the two club's had been hard-fought, well contested affairs, Wanderers with a decent track record visiting The Gallagher Stadium winning twice from their previous three visits. For both clubs the match would serve as a good opportunity to get an early three points on the board, and the contest again didn't disappoint.
James McShane opened the scoring in the 18th minute, firing into the roof of the net from just inside the box, right in front of the packed out travelling Wanderers support behind the goal. Former Wanderers striker Jack Barham managed to level the scores from close range before the break, but shortly after the restart McShane doubled his tally, sliding home a first time finish after The Stones gave away possession too casually from midfield. Just three minutes later, however, Christie Pattison restored parity with a well-placed header from the middle of the box. Several minutes from time, Wanderers again stirred themselves; Ryan Seager had come on for McShane earlier in the half and opened his Wanderers account from the penalty spot after Dan Gallagher had been brought to ground. In the aftermath of the goal, Sam Corne received a straight red card for his involvement in an altercation, reducing Hak Hayrettin's side to 10 men for the closing stages. Seizing the opportunity to put the game to bed, Seager did exactly that by netting his second of the night; brushing off his marker to latch onto an aerial ball driven into the right channel before racing through on goal and lifting a strike over Yusuf Mersin to find the far corner of goal and make it 2-4. The final whistle shortly followed, cue the celebrations - Wanderers were heading back down to Surrey with their first ever National League win on the board.
After facing the National League South champions in midweek, next up was the visit to Meadowbank of the National League North champions, Gateshead. In the build up Marc White had spoken about Gateshead's set up and style of play with real affection, and expecting nothing less than a stern test from the fellow division newcomers. A competitive, evenly matched contest from the outset as both sides looked to play football, two quick-fire goals from James McShane midway through the first half gave Wanderers the advantage at the interval. 'Macca' was sharpest to react after Heed goalkeeper Dan Langley could only parry Niall McManus cross just in front of the six yard box, and three minutes later, the Wanderers No11 scored an early contender for 'Goal of The Season', taking down Jordan Cheadle's long range pass to the edge of the box with a deft first touch, before quickly pivoting and volleying the ball spectacularly into the top right corner to register his 5th goal in 4 matches. The game remained tightly fought through the second half, the lively forward Adam Campbell halving the deficit for Gateshead with twenty minutes remaining, but Wanderers managed to hold out to make it back-to-back wins and register their first home maximum of the season.
Back To Reality On Bank Holiday Weekend...
The final weekend of August saw Wanderers opponents shift from fellow newbies of the division to established stalwarts. Play-off runners up from the previous campaign, Solihull Moors, were up first on Saturday of the annual Bank Holiday Weekend as Wanderers travelled up to the Midlands. Neal Ardley's men made a bright start and immediately demonstrated their qualities in the final third, opening the scoring just past the quarter-hour through attacking midfielder Joe Sbarra finishing off a very slick passing move. Not long after, Wanderers task was made even harder; Isaac Philpot receiving a straight red card for bringing down striker Andrew Dallas as he was played through on goal. In real time it looked harsh on Philpot as the ball had ran through to Slav Huk and therefore appeared to cancel out the possibility of a goal scoring opportunity, and sure enough on review the red card was downgraded to a yellow the next day. No help to Wanderers on the day itself of course, Moors skipper Callum Howe nodded home a subsequent corner ball to very quickly double the home side's advantage. Marc White reacting to the setback with a double substitution to shore things up, including handing Dan Quick a debut after the defender signed on loan from Crystal Palace earlier in the week. Wanderers battled well to keep any further threat down to a minimum, and wrestled back some control of play through the second half, but would go on to concede a third goal in stoppage time, sub Josh Kelly scoring from a direct free kick just outside the box to make it 3-0.
Just 48 hours later, the opening month of the campaign concluded with Boreham Wood visiting Meadowbank for Bank Holiday Monday. Alfie Rutherford had got Wanderers off to the perfect start on 8 minutes with a cool finish after good work from Niall McManus closing down. Comfortable heading into the break with the one goal advantage having been on top of play for much of the opening forty-five, the unforgiving, brutal nature of competition in the National League came to the fore in the second half as two quick-fire braces from a well-organised Wood side emphatically overturned the scoreline. Lee Ndovlu and Tyrone Marsh hammered home a goal each in the space of a minute early in the second half, and the duo repeated the trick again into stoppage time, sending Luke Garrard's side back up to Hertfordshire with a 1-4 victory.
7 points secured from the opening 6 games, it had been a positive start to the season for Wanderers, and set them up nicely for a September which included games against Wrexham, Notts County and Scunthorpe United...
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