Cray Wanderers 1 – 3 Wealdstone
1 - 3
Spurred on by their fanatical supporters who were once again in full cry, Wealdstone summoned up fresh reserves of spirit and, critically, the unrelenting will to win on Saturday at a bitterly cold Hayes Lane ground at Bromley FC.
This was a huge result for a Stones side that had seemingly been drained of confidence not helped by the low point reached during last Tuesday’s dire defeat by Hendon at The Vale. But at half – time in this hard fought clash against an in-form Cray side who had won their previous five home games, Wealdstone still found themselves a goal down and with it all to do against confident and much improved opponents.
Second half goals from Jamie Osborne – his first for the club, Danny Spendlove and a penalty scored by Callum Martin secured a superb turnaround and left supporters, players and management mightily relieved.
In a changed formation Stones moved Marvin McCoy into the centre -half position to partner skipper Jimmy Gray with Dean Smith at right full back and suspension -free Lee Chappell restored to the left. Ryan Ashe was on the bench with youngster Louis Lavers starting in a more advanced role on the left.
McCoy had a storming game in his new position showing great pace and complimented the physical presence of Gray alongside him. But it was the home side that mainly took the game by the scruff of the neck in the early stages and they played like a side in-form, using the width of the pitch more effectively.
Lee Chappell’s energy and bite almost brought a goal for Stones when the home ‘keeper Tony Kessell was slow to get back to cover his goal area. He only just clawed a great 25 yard strike away on 16 minutes after Sean Thomas did well at the other end stopping a fierce drive that looked destined for the net. Stones came back and Chris O’Leary’s knock gave Callum Martin a glorious chance but he headed over with Kessell stranded.
The Wands enjoyed increasing amounts of possession without real threat and Stones won a couple of free kicks in decent positions but either drove wide of the mark or Kessell saved comfortably. The home side continued to press on the surprisingly firm but bobbly surface and won two corners as Stones back peddled; Jimmy Gray was first into the book when he body checked a home forward in full flow a few yards outside the area.
From the kick Stones hearts then sank when Cray took the lead from their first really threatening attacking move. A good strike smashed off the upright and Leigh Bremner was quickest to react and from the scramble poked in the rebound with appeals for off side waved away.
Stones took the initiative and started to press forward, building on a much greater share of the ball won in the midfield areas where O’Leary and Adam Logie worked hard and, with the forwards chasing down hard, matters started to perk up. Spendlove should have pulled the trigger early but his effort was deflected out harmlessly.
A key turning point in the game came as the home side broke forward and Sean Thomas saved brilliantly from a one on one with Gray also blocking a further effort on goal.
Wealdstone now sensed that they could claw something out of the game and with their exuberant supporters urging them on they appeared reinvigorated. And with substitutes Ryan Ashe and Mark E’Beyer injecting further impetus into the team, Stones now moved forward with increasing purpose.
Stones survived another Cray corner and then, finally, on 67 minutes equalised. Callum Martin raced out to claim a lost cause out on the left flank and won the ball. He crossed swiftly and perfectly for the on rushing Jamie Osborne to smash the ball in with the home defence flat footed.
Four minutes later Wealdstone remarkably took the lead with Cray suddenly looking bemused and unable to stem the tide. Danny Spendlove broke through the middle and found himself clear on goal. He stroked the ball into the far corner past the despairing dive of Kessell to rapturous celebrations.
Stones almost grabbed a third goal moments later in a goal line heading scramble but the harassed Wands defence managed to claim a free kick and the chance came and went.
The game was killed off 5 minutes from time as once again Spendlove glided into the box from a lovely Martin pass and was crudely brought down for an easy penalty decision. Callum Martin fittingly grabbed the ball and despite some gamesmanship by the home side in delaying the kick, the striker drove home the spot kick with aplomb.
This was a game that Wealdstone simply had to win to stay in play-off contention but there is, of course, nothing simple in this league about winning games. Stones will need to display character and more of this new found positive mental attitude on Tuesday when they face an even tougher challenge against Hastings United at The Vale (9th March). This also applies to Stones supporters who also stirringly played their part in this timely win.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Gray, Lavers, Logie, Smith, O’Leary, Osborne, Martin, Spendlove. Subs used: Ashe, E’Beyer, Mpi. N/u: Fitzgerald, Beagle (GK)