Wealdstone 1-0 Hastings United
1 - 0
Wealdstone brought the curtain down on a fine first season at The Vale on Saturday and chalked up their eleventh home win with a single goal from Greg Ngoyi whose strike rate makes impressive reading. The young forward has netted 10 times in the league from a mere 15 appearances and has rapidly adjusted to the higher level. One can only speculate on the effect on Stone’s final league placing had he been available earlier and whether there would have been an extended conclusion to this campaign.
As a result of Dartford only gaining a draw at Boreham Wood, Stones finished in a highly creditable 7TH position and fully justified manager Gordon Bartlett’s unswerving faith in his young squad despite a few wobbles during periods of a long and hard fought season.
Hastings arrived at Grosvenor Vale knowing that at least a point was needed to avoid the dreaded drop and that reliance on other results and league reorganisation was not going to be sufficient. They fought hard throughout in what turned out to be a scrappy encounter and their failure to turn possession into strike opportunities could have cost them dear but they knew by half time that Margate’s capitulation to Staines Town would save them.
The match itself was literally played out in a carnival like and relaxed atmosphere with a visiting Fair Ground in The Vale grounds as a noisy and somewhat bizarre backdrop. It has to be said that that a hard and bumpy pitch and swirling wind certainly didn’t aid close control and made play anything but predictable.
United looked determined from the off and made life difficult for Stones who had skipper James Gray restored to the centre half position for the rested Carl Martin, where he and his colleagues needed to be on the alert. Chances on goal were at a premium throughout but following a prolonged midfield tussle in the opening stages it was Hastings that went close first when Stones keeper Luke Woods made a great save as Gray lay prone allowing them a clear strike on goal.
Stones were finding it hard to hold the ball up as Davis Haule, up front with Ngoyi, found that time and space was a scarce commodity as the ball pinged back and forth.
Hastings managed to win a number of free kicks in reasonable positions but the delivery was consistently poor as Stones continually cleared their lines with relative ease, with Darren Locke and Gray doing well with high balls. Stones managed to gain a corner after 23 minutes, but a quick break from United again looked threatening but the opportunity was ballooned over. Any kind of goal looked increasingly likely to come from a set piece rather than open play, mainly because it wasn’t!
Matters finally livened as Lee Chappell clashed with United’s Antonio Gonnella who was guilty of ‘afters’ but Chappell also found his way into competent Referee Wade Norcott’s note book for retaliation.
Just as the away side seemed to be gaining too much possession advantage, Wealdstone took the lead in the 39th minute. United failed to clear a loose ball following a torpedo throw from Chappell and, quick as a flash, Greg Ngoyi had the chance he needed to smash the ball past Greg Nessling. The joyful Ngoyi donned a hat from the crowd celebrating his clinical finish.
One chance one goal – and that perhaps sums up the difference to Stones fortunes earlier in the season.
With the news that Staines were three goals to the good against Margate, any real tension in the game ebbed away as Hastings knew they were virtually safe. Stones appeared more relaxed and started the second period more cohesively and on the attack. But credit to United they soon battled back and once again gained a big chunk of possession. They forced three corners in succession but again lacked an end product but did test a brave Luke Woods ten minutes into the new half when Charlie Side was in on goal.
Stones best move of the game came from a trade mark run from Kieron Forbes down the right flank who crossed for Ngoyi who unluckily hit the side netting in a flowing move with many in the ground thinking he had struck his second.
Stones brought on all their available three substitutes in a bid to kill off the game but in truth they came no nearer to increasing their lead and an added 5 minutes stoppage time caused a few nerves to jangle. But the Blues hung on for a win to end a season of remarkable progress both on and off the pitch.
As both teams were given a great reception at the end of the match from the 444 crowd many were regretting that the season was now at an end such has been the quality of entertainment and atmosphere at The Vale this campaign. Roll on the next.
Wealdstone: Woods, McCoy, Chappell, Locke, Gray, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Haule, Ngoyi, Spendlove. Subs (all used) Hicks, Alexander, Jones.