Harlow Town 2-0 Wealdstone
2 - 0
Wealdstone slipped to eighteenth position in the Ryman League Premier Division following another defeat, this time by Harlow Town at their new Barrows Farm ground on Saturday. Stones were reduced to 10 men in the second half when James Gray was adjudged to have deliberately hand-balled a goal bound shot and the resultant penalty sealed a 2-0 victory for the home side.
On a cold and wind swept afternoon, Stones current misery continued when they again realised that hard graft and occasional pretty football is no substitute for sticking the ball in the net. And, once again, that turned out to be the main difference between an opposition that took their chances and a little luck to take all three points on offer. Stones simply have to find a striker, or maybe two, that can turn chances into goals and lift them out of their current forward line malaise. But of course finding the right players within a restricted budget is not a simple task and the management team’s search continues unabated.
Nevertheless Stones were competitive throughout and worked hard in difficult, almost gale-force conditions on a very firm pitch. Stones starting line-up was changed in only one position – Marvin McCoy coming in for Mark Boyce at right wingback, Luke Woods continued in goal; Sean Thomas enters hospital this week to have his troublesome shoulder sorted out. The opening exchanges were even with the Hawks having the advantage in the first half with the wind at their backs. A great save from Woods after skipper James Gray appeared to be barged off the ball was one of only three first half chances that the home side created. However one of those chances brought the Hawks a goal that was down to a great strike rather that poor defending – Jordan Fowler hit a great shot on the edge of the area to give Woods little or no chance of saving and the nauseating Harlow siren sounded for the first time. Stones had a great opportunity to score themselves only minutes earlier when, for once, Stephen Hughes was able to find Ben Clarke in space with a good headed flick on. Clarke raced clear but ran a little too wide and his decent strike was blocked by James Hassell and the resulting corner came to nothing.
But the goal visibly lifted Harlow, fresh from their excellent midweek win over St Albans in the FA Cup, and they began to dominate the midfield areas and comfortably repelled any aerial threat at the back. Whilst Stones defence again performed very solidly, the midfield stuttered again with David Hicks looking particularly out of sorts and was eventually substituted. Ryan Ashe had a snatched half chance in front of goal after 30 minutes but was pressured into shooting wide and Stones play became increasingly disjointed even though Harlow presented little real threat – a threat kept at bay by Carl Martin, Alan Massey and James Gray who showed the way.
The second half started far livelier for Wealdstone with the increasing wind behind them they showed more aggression, putting the Hawks under some sustained pressure. But with no real sign of a goal, Manager Gordon Bartlett threw on all three substitutes on 58 minutes: Ben Alexander, Nick Salapatas and the transfer listed Chris O’Leary on for Hicks, Clarke and Hughes. In an interesting tactical switch Carl Martin was moved to a centre forward position, with Alexander the other main forward outlet. But any hopes of a turnaround were cruelly shattered with James Gray’s handball incident and the penalty award, against the run of play, effectively killed off Stones chances of salvaging even a point, when Jamie Richards scored for the Hawks for 0-2. Even a late flurry of Stones attacks were denied by good goalkeeping and bad luck when Alexander and Massey’s efforts undeservedly came to nothing. O’Leary it has to be said did well and looked hungry.
So Stones have to lift themselves for another crucial away match at Hornchurch on Tuesday evening. Gordon Bartlett will be back on the phone in the lead up.
Wealdstone: Woods, McCoy, Massey, Gray, Martin, Ashe, Forbes, Hicks, Clarke, Hughes, Chappell. Subs used: O’Leary, Salapatas, Alexander. N/u: Thomas,Boyce.