Wealdstone 1- 0 Horsham
1 - 0
Whilst there will be those dreaming of a miraculous play off spot after this tremendous result again a side also in contention, this outcome was more, far more about Wealdstone’s place in the Ryman Premier being surely assured for next season with 52 points now in the bag.
Nevertheless Stones are undoubtedly on a roll and have discovered the fine art of defending a lead at a crucial point in the season; if they can maintain this dogged momentum and produce a treble of wins on Tuesday when they entertain bogey side Ashford Town then matters will become very interesting indeed .
An unchanged starting line up saw Wealdstone attack Horsham full bloodedly from kick off and with a strong wind at their backs playing down the slope they put the away side under some major pressure. As early as two minutes Ryan Ashe almost seized upon a great chance to add to his impressive goal tally when he blasted over from a good move.
Only a minute later striker Greg Ngoyi was desperately unlucky to see his lobbed effort fly just over for a corner, and then an even better chance presented when his poked effort rebound off the upright and agonisingly away to safety. Stones should have been at least two goals to the good in the space of an incredible 5 minutes.
But the Hornets showed they were not at The Vale merely for the day out and they raided swiftly to the other end resulting in a shot from Claude Seanla that flew over Sean Thomas’s cross bar. Then a great chance was spurned by the away side when Alex Hadlow headed firmly down but the heavy rebound took the ball over Thomas and the woodwork from a corner.
Stones continued to enjoy plenty of decent possession with Ryan Ashe the main threat from his clever control and effective use of time and space on the ball. Again the diminutive midfielder was just over from a good Davis Haule cross from the right.
With all Stones attacking intentions in open play it was ironic that they should make the break through from a set piece situation – but it was well worth the wait.
On 23 minutes that man Ryan Ashe made it 5 from 4 with another beautifully executed free kick from 20 yards – a superb ‘bend it like Beckham’ effort found the net at the near post with Hornets keeper Rob Tolfrey beaten all ends up.
Stones now had the bit between their teeth and pushed hard for a second goal to weaken the Hornets resolve. From a James Gray free kick that resulted in a corner, Alan Massey got up well to head against an upright.
Play became more of a midfield battle as both sides cancelled themselves out with Stones over hurrying their moves, not retaining possession long enough to build incisive attacks, but still constantly pressing the ball to unsettle the Hornets. The combative David Hicks then appeared to be studded and was booked for retaliation but made soon amends with a good shot that was well saved by the competent Tolfrey. Both Kieron Forbes and Lee Chappell broke well on occasions but just over ran the ball before the danger areas.
An increasingly intervening Referee booked Skipper James Gray, this presumably for kicking the ball away following a quick whistle. The Yorkshire man was far from amused at this decision.
David Hicks started the second period on a positive note with a good ground shot that well collected by the keeper as the swirling wind made conditions more unpredictable and difficult. Hornets put a shot across Thomas following a hold up in play as their midfielder Lee Carney eventually limped off to be replaced.
As the half progressed Stones struggled to retain the level of possession enjoyed in the first period and struggled to keep a grip on proceedings, but although Hornets had a greater share of the ball they failed to get their shots in as Alan Massey in particular dominated and snuffed out attacks to frustrate the away side time and again.
On 58 minutes a half chance for Wealdstone came and went when Gray sliced his shot well over from a free kick as chances for both sides were now at a premium.
10 minutes later, the best goal opportunity in the stalemate arrived as Ryan Ashe used his guile to seize possession outside the box and hit a great shot that seemed destined for the top left hand corner but Tolfrey dived acrobatically across his goal mouth to save superbly.
Carl Martin came off the bench and into a midfield berth for David Hicks as Ashe chipped well over from a Ngoyi pass. The fleet footed Ben Clarke then replaced a tiring Davis Haule with 15 minutes left on the clock.
A petulant end to proceedings as virtually all outfield players were involved in a bout of handbags as Hornets frustrations began to boil over.
As on Tuesday night Stones ran the clock down and defended their narrow but precious lead as a unit in a way that was not evident earlier in the season and lessons have been learned by Gordon Bartlett’s young team who to a man scrapped and fought to the final whistle.
Wealdstone remarkably now move into 6th position in the Ryman Premier table.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Gray, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Haule, Ngoyi, Hicks. Subs used: Clarke, Carl Martin. N/u: Spendlove, Locke, Woods (GK).
MoM: Alan Massey