Hendon 1 – 4 Wealdstone
1 - 4
If ever Wealdstone needed a result this was the time and place to deliver.
With Stones still feeling the effects of a devastating and undeserved reverse in the FA Cup during the preceding midweek at Bedford, this emphatic but somewhat flattering Ryman Premier League win was just what the doctor ordered. The fact that Stones didn’t play particularly well at the crumbling old Claremont Road ground made the gathering of 3 very valuable points somehow all the more satisfying, but the forward line issue remains a persistent headache for Stones management and a problem that has to be resolved. Gordon Bartlett chose to move Ben Clarke to a forward position for this match in place of Ben Alexander and bought in Mark Boyce at right back and Luke Woods debuted in goal. All three did well and contributed strongly throughout.
This was almost certainly the last match that Wealdstone will play at Claremont Road and a match tradition stretching back many, many years comes to an end, as the Greens look to move to a ground share arrangement at Wembley FC’s Vale Farm. There is never any sentiment on the field of play but all connected with the Stones will wish Hendon well off it as they start an uncertain future and a ground situation that Wealdstone have tortuous experience.
As for the match itself, Stones looked disjointed for long periods and allowed Hendon to dictate the play and possession. But Stones for once had had the luxury of an early goal, brilliantly taken by defender Mark Boyce and with resolute defending, Martin, Massey and Gray outstanding, comfortably held back Greens attacks and then took full advantage in a good spell early in the second half when Hendon self destructed.
Hendon looked lively from the off and showed sharper movement all over the park as Stones struggled to get going and looked flat. Stones were reliant on their solid defence in the early stages to repel Greens forward players that were also pulling play out to the flanks at times to reasonable effect. But the away side gradually played themselves into contention and began to look a little more settled but still against the run of play Stones rocked Hendon on 14 minutes with a goal of high individual quality.
Mark Boyce suddenly broke forward with pace , cut into the middle of the park and beat a defender with ease before sending a toe poked shot over Richard Wilmot from fully 20 yards out. The home side continued to press despite this setback and still dominated the midfield areas for long passages of play. Ryan Ashe missed a very decent chance in front of Wilmot and then Hendon should have equalised with a header that flashed past the far upright. It seemed that the home side would make the breakthrough as a series of free kicks and corners were conceded. And Greens almost did 7 minutes from the break when following a scramble Luke Woods did well to gather under severe pressure on the goal line. Stones held out to take a welcome single goal advantage into the break.
A key moment in this match was surely when, a minute after the restart, Lubomir Guentchev shot over when very placed to score. Stones never looked back from that point and they doubled their advantage with a well worked goal minutes later – Stephen Hughes knocked the ball down into space for Ryan Ashe to send a half volley into the back of the net. Three minutes later the home sides misery was compounded when the unfortunate Marc Leach stuck out his foot to divert a cross shot past a surprised Wilmot to concede an own goal to make it 0-3. Gary McCann, the Hendon Manager must have realised there and then that this was certainly not the Greens day. But credit to the home side they continued to press and battle aided by substitutions that presented a greater threat. Finally, following a great save by Woods from a well struck free kick, Hendon managed to grab a goal back as sub Brain Haule netted when put free on the left.
Stones lead looked a little under pressure as Hendon sensed a chink of light and they continued to press forward as the Blues retreated, content to defend with sporadic breaks from the free running and eager Clarke and the 18 year old made up for his lack of positional sense with, energy, pace and a good first touch all match. But they need not have worried as Bartlett brought on a flurry of substitutes, including a bright spark in the form of Nick Salapatas. And in a sense of déjà vu, the young winger sped down the left wing and smashed a shot in on goal that somehow deceived Wilmot, pinged off the post and fell nicely for Stephen Hughes to tap in for the fourth, late, goal that wrapped up a performance that whilst not entirely convincing was a real tonic for the team, management and supporters.
Wealdstone: Woods, Boyce, Massey, Gray, Martin, Ashe, Forbes, Hicks, Clarke, Hughes, Chappell. Subs used: O’Leary, McCoy, Salapatas. N/u: Burrell, Quaye.