Hastings United 1 – 0 Wealdstone
1 - 0
Wealdstone’s absurd consecutive match schedule, whereby games are now almost being played on a one day off, one day on basis is taking its inevitable toll with player fatigue and jadedness becoming ever more apparent.
None more so than on Saturday at Pilot Field where an average looking Hastings side only needed a single goal to severely dent Stone’s play off aspirations. Wealdstone will be thankful for some other results going their way but they slip down to 7th on goal difference, now within a chasing pack of sides, and each match now becomes increasingly pressurised. The next week or so will tell whether Gordon Bartlett’s young players have the legs and mental fortitude that would surely crumple most full-time professional teams faced with such a demanding schedule. Perhaps the play-offs are simply too big an ask in these outlandish circumstances but the players will surely answer that question and them alone.
The price of earlier cup success and incessant rain over the past few months means that this coming week, Stones play a tough Tooting & Mitchum side on Monday evening and then, ludicrously face Leatherhead in the League Cup Final on the Wednesday, with barely time to change out of their kit before travelling to Maidstone next Saturday. But get on with they must and this will fully test Stones squad to the limit. A bright point on the day though was the appearance on the bench of centre-half Alan Massey and although he didn’t play on Saturday his return to fitness cannot be far off following his ankle injury.
The match itself never really ignited and the stats are very revealing. Both sides had a combined total of five shots on target, Stones frustrated strikers only claiming two of them. And although Ryan Ashe made a very welcome return to the side following a two match suspension, creative football and opportunities on goal were at a premium all afternoon, particularly as Stones were missing the unavailable Danny Spendlove.
Stones keeper Sean Thomas had little to do in the first period until a defensive lapse allowed United’s top marksman Ade Olorunda a run and strike at goal from distance to take the lead in first half stoppage time.
However, Callum Martin twice went close to an equaliser in the early stages of the second period, but as the game wore on, Wealdstone’s energy sapping schedule finally got the better of them, and Hastings went on to dominate proceedings, only for some poor finishing to keep the margin of their victory down to one.
Twice in a minute, Hastings’ Steve Elliott contrived to miss gilt-edged chances, with Olorunda also going close, the latter denied by Sean Thomas’s challenge outside the area, which earned the stopper a yellow card.
But after five minutes of added time, and some late Wealdstone pressure, the U’s were able to celebrate a return to fourth place in the table, and gain revenge for their defeat, by the same score line, to the Stones all of eleven days and five games ago.
Speaking on the Wealdstone FC Information Line after the match, Stones Manager, Gordon Bartlett, said: ‘Today was a massive disappointment. It was a lack lustre and knackered performance and the bottom line is we just didn’t perform and the dressing room was like a morgue after. But it’s happened and we have been here before and it’s all about how we react. We have to do ourselves justice and deliver at Tooting: nothing has changed – trust is the key here – and I firmly believe in these players’
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Gray, Logie, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, McClure, Martin, E’Beyer. Subs used: Lavers, Osborne, Fitzgerald. N/u: Ngoyi, Massey.