Wealdstone 1 – 0 Canvey Island
1 - 0
Displaying huge grit and determination at The Vale on Saturday Wealdstone shrugged off a potentially disastrous 6th minute sending off but won the day on sheer work rate and outstanding spirit, and in the end fully deserved their hard won victory over Canvey that swaps them into second position in the Ryman Premier table.
The goal that separated this fascinating and feisty second v. third placed contest was another superb dead ball effort from the in form Lee Chappell. The homes side’s young skipper used a dangerously positioned free kick to curl a ball into the far right hand corner at a psychologically key moment in the match to flap the Gulls.
The match kicked off in difficult blustery conditions but Stones were grateful to have the powerful wind at their backs kicking up the slope. Stones made a lively start but soon realised that the Gulls would be a handful on the counter. And from a quick and incisive Canvey break down the right flank the Stones found themselves a man down after only 6 minutes play.
Jason Hallett got free from a good ball and advanced on goal and with only the keeper to beat he was brought down by Rob Fitzgerald just outside the area. Fitzgerald could really have no complaints as he was shown the red card and Stones suddenly had most of the match to play with 10 men.
Understandably with their game plan out of the window this incident rocked the home side and Canvey turned the screw to gain a quick early advantage. The Gulls piled forward and from a corner the ball was smashed against Thomas’s far post in a fortunate let off. With Greg Ngoyi now the lone forward outlet it was vital that he held the ball up and it took time for Stones to adjust their hastily re-shaped formation.
But Stones gritted their teeth and got on with the job and started to make inroads as the half wore on with the whole team upping their work rate and tenacity all over the park to stop the Gulls from bossing proceedings.
A Lee Chappell free kick on the half hour mark brought a full stretch save from Canvey’s young stand in keeper James Russell who did well in the face of a minor gale. Stones continued to battle and with Alan Massey winning everything in the air centrally the Gulls could only threaten from counter attacks down the flanks.
The away side had to resort to giving free kicks away as Wealdstone realised that they were turning the balance of advantage around. Chappell was again brought down as he sped through but the offending defender escaped a booking.
Russell made a complete hash of a ball at him from yet another free kick that he somehow managed to scoop comically skywards but then atoned by making a decent save.
Ross Lafayette flicked a great headed effort across the box that begged a strike but the chance just eluded Ngoyi on 36 minutes as Stones pegged back the Gulls.
Greg Ngoyi then spurned a great chance as his pace allowed him to squeeze past a defender but instead of shooting he elected to square the ball and the opportunity was lost.
But the Gulls gave away one free kick too many as the half came to its conclusion. In a great position on the edge of the box, Lee Chappell got his trajectory and wind speed calculations worked out and in an instant the ball was flying into the back of the net to leave Russell helpless.
Wealdstone now had the conditions against them to defend their precious lead and the Gulls were not going to let them off the hook as they took full early advantage in gaining possession. The first of many magnificent saves from man of the match Sean Thomas was strongly applauded by the vociferous 435 crowd.
Gulls pressed for a goal to change their fortunes and play became more open and it was Stones that looked to counter on the break. Chris O’Leary was a tower of strength and bulldog like tenacity in the midfield and he broke up Canvey’s moves time and again.
Thomas brought off a world class save to deny Curran who thought he must surely bury the ball from a powerful strike outside the box. And for all Stones effort and toil a goal for the urgent away side looked increasingly on the cards. But the home side had other ideas as they throw bodies in the way of everything and defended as though their lives depended on it with Kieron Forbes fantastic in a defensive role.
Thomas came to the rescue again as he pushed the ball away bravely at the foot of an upright and needed treatment.
The Gulls finally thought they had made the breakthrough with 20 minutes left on the clock but the assistant referee had spotted a deliberate handball and a booking was meted out by hard worked Referee Mr Wade Norcott who needed eyes in the back of his head as the tackles flew in amid high tension.
Stones looked to break out of defence with pace whenever the opportunity arose and when Mark E’Beyer won possession he broke forward and appeared to have given Ngoyi a second goal to kill the game but his effort was ruled out for offside.
As tensions heightened , play became stretched and frantic. Kieron Forbes was fouled off the ball as a scuffle broke out. After consulting with his assistant the offending Jay Curran was despatched to the dressing room with 6 minutes to go and this incident effectively stymied Canvey’s impetus. Only a couple of corners in the 5 minutes of added injury time gave Stones any real nervous moments.
A magnificent rearguard performance then from Stones who must take this never say die spirit into next Saturday’s crucial FA Cup encounter with Lewes at The Vale
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Fitzgerald, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Lafayette, Ngoyi, E’Beyer. Subs used: During, Ellerbeck, Gray. N/u: Spendlove, Woods (GK)