Arlesey Town 1- 2 Wealdstone
1 - 2
Wealdstone edged through to the second qualifying round of the FA Cup at the exotically named Chateau Roux Stadium on Saturday but in controversial circumstances. Both sides had cause to be aggrieved in a match that suddenly came to life midway through a dramatic second period when Stones were already leading by a 22 minute Ryan Ashe penalty.
The home side had clawed their way back courtesy of a 64th minute equaliser when just a minute later Greg Ngoyi was allowed to run clean through with Blues players waiting for what they thought was an inevitable offside flag that was not waved. Even Ngoyi hesitated and it appeared the chance was gone but the Stones forward quickly picked the ball up and rounded the keeper, and, from a tight angle buried the ball expertly for his first competitive goal of the season. This response was vital for a Wealdstone side that struggled to find possession for long periods; this rapid fire riposte stopped a lively Arlesey side from gaining the upper hand at a crucial point in the Cup tie.
But Stones lost Charlie Mpi later in the match to a sending off that left the tall forward shaking his head in disbelief at a decision that appeared to be induced by the simulated antics of Blues defender Adam Turner who did himself and his club little credit, particularly as his team had acquitted themselves very well against their higher league opponents. Wealdstone coped well when down to 10 men and snuffed out everything that was thrown at them with albeit backs to the wall defending in the final tense minutes.
Wealdstone started with James Gray partnered up front with Greg Ngoyi and with Sean Thomas restored in goal. Kieron Forbes joined new signing from Waltham Abbey, Chris Ellerbeck, on the bench.
Stones soon realised that Arlesey would be no push over with a strong mixture of experience and youth in their side and a decidedly physical look about them, particularly the big, uncompromising back line. But Stones started very well and passed the ball sweetly for Mark E’Beyer to be positioned well but his strike lacked power.
But the Blues soon hit back with some flowing passing play of their own but lacked an incisive edge up front. Stones then did well as Danny Spendlove was hacked down after a skillful run down the left flank. A superb 35 yard strike from Lee Chappell was just tipped over by Martyn Patching after a free kick had been cleared invitingly into space. Greg Ngoyi was finding some joy as his pacey run and shot was saved well by Patching.
The break through came just as the home side were seeing more of the ball. On 22 minutes skipper James Gray allowed Ngoyi to sprint clear of his covering defender and cut smartly into the area. Derek Brown, Blues skipper, stuck a leg out and brought Ngoyi down for an emphatic penalty. Ryan Ashe blasted home the spot kick although Patching did his best to get a hand to the ball.
Although Stones were restricting Arlesey in attack they struggled to press home the advantage with increasing amounts of lost possession and a frustrating tactic of playing deep that didn’t allow Marvin McCoy and Chappell to break down the flanks and get behind a defence lacking pace.
The last action of the half saw the Blues win a corner that was headed over by Moses Olaleye but with Stones holding on to their precious lead.
Stones appeared sluggish from the outset of the second period and seemed too relaxed. The home side sensed this and pressed hard for the equaliser with some decent attacking moves with Cris Marsh looking particularly lively and difficult to defend against – Alan Massey for once had his hands full.
Marsh broke through with only Sean Thomas to beat but was ruled offside and the warning signs were there for all to see. Spendlove briefly relieved the pressure with a great dribble through the centre beating three defenders but was wide with his strike. Stones continued to live dangerously with only an occasional counter attack – one a good break out by Chris O’Leary that deserved a better end product.
Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett realised that his side needed a fresh spark and brought on Kieron Forbes and Charlie Mpi to inject some pace to trouble the home side. Off came Chris O’Leary and Rob Fitzgerald with Gray dropping back to the centre half position. Matters then livened up in dramatic fashion.
Mpi’s impact was immediate and his never say attitude and pace causing problems. Within a minute he had combined with Forbes and won a corner after chasing a lost cause.
But Stones were giving away possession too freely and from a decent Blues attack the ball fell to Cris Marsh outside the area and he had time and space to pick his spot to leave Thomas with no chance on 65 minutes.
From the restart, with Stones now facing real pressure, Greg Ngoyi found himself free and on-side with only Patching to beat and despite his initial hesitation to confirm his legality he gleefully restored Wealdstone’s lead to huge protests from the home side one of which resulted in a booking for dissent.
Arlesey were badly stung and play became more physical as both sides sought to keep their place in the most famous competition in the world. Alan Massey was booked for a rash challenge and needed to retain his composure. Then the incident involving Charlie Mpi soured the spirit of the match as he merely challenged enthusiastically for a 50/50 ball but was given a straight red card for his innocent efforts.
Spendlove appeared to be nastily fouled off the ball and was left on the ground and had to limp off as play became frantic, bordering the desperate as Stones defended in numbers with Ngoyi the only serious outlet.
With 5 minutes injury played Stones hung on to make progress into Monday’s draw but they will know that can play far better than this and will certainly need to if they are to reach the later qualifying rounds.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Fitzgerald, Massey, Ashe, E’Beyer, O’Leary, Gray, Ngoyi, Spendlove. Subs used: Mpi, Forbes, During. N/u: Lafayette, Ellerbeck, Osborne, Woods (GK)