Met Police 1-1 Wealdstone
1 - 1
It’s back to The Vale on Monday evening (11th October) for the replay of this hard fought and absorbing Cup encounter and although most Wealdstone supporters and management would probably have settled for the draw in current form circumstances before kick-off it was once again a tale of missed opportunity for struggling Stones.
And a costly result for Wealdstone too when they lost stalwart defender Wes Parker after only 3 minutes of this bruising Cup tie due to concussion; the former Grimsby centre-half was taken to hospital. And Kieron Forbes was sent off 5 minutes from time for deliberate hand ball – he will now miss the next round should Stones overcome the Met in the second instalment.
Stones were without Scott Fitzgerald who may now be on long term injured list and Danny Spendlove, away on a business. Defender Sean Cronin again filled in up front with Greg Ngoyi; the strapping Welshman had an excellent game both in the air and on the ground and was only substituted late in the game when he was out on his feet, although blotting his copybook when his 21st minute penalty effort was saved comfortably by vocal Police keeper Mo Maan.
This was never going to be a game for shrinking violets and the Met soon made their intentions clear in the physical stakes with tackles flying in as fast as the verbals.
Worryingly Stones almost conceded after only 2 minutes play when a ball was cleared off Jonathan North’s goal line but they survived and immediately counter attacked. The away side, sporting their fittingly Argentinean kit for a robust clash, rushed up field and Chris O’Leary shaped to strike inside the box but the clear ankle tap that sent him tumbling amazingly went unpunished by referee Mr Lymer. O’Leary was far from amused and protested long and loud to no effect.
Parker then went down looking shaken from a pole axing challenge in the Met goal mouth and on came Darren Locke who seized his opportunity and performed well for the remainder of the tie.
Stones gradually began to up their tempo and got some decent forward moves going, prompted by Forbes, Lee Chappell and Louis Lavers down the flanks. The Police defence looked vulnerable and was giving away far too many free kicks for their own good – particularly down the left side and this gave heart to the Stones attack and the 250 away fans that now sensed a breakthrough.
Stones took a deserved lead on 19 minutes with a simple but highly effective move from a long throw from Chappell. The Met Police bunched their defence to repel the torpedo into the box but from Alan Massey’s flick-on Sean Cronin was in the right place to direct his header clear of a statuesque Maan.
Two minutes later and Wealdstone should have doubled their lead. Lee Chappell was cut down illegally in the box and this time the official had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Sean Cronin grabbed the bouncing ball away from Ngoyi in the race to take the kick. Maan cleverly delayed proceedings but Cronin’s strike when it came was powerfully struck but at a nice height for the agile Maan who read the direction and comfortably saved.
This served to raise the stakes and temperature in the game as the Met snarled and snapped and put themselves about, volubly disputing decisions and showing a robust determination – a style which has clearly brought reward in their campaign to date where they have lost only one match.
Now under real pressure the home appeared to be losing it completely soon after as an over due booking to their defender Nicky Humphrey was recorded. Peter Dean’s firm strike from 20 yards just whistled past Maan’s far post as Stones sought a second goal. The Police countered swiftly and only a last ditch tackle on 34 minutes prevented an equaliser against the run of play, but the warning was clear and to be heeded as Stones pushed up.
Greg Ngoyi who still appears to be regaining full fitness was slow to react at times but he was unlucky as his unmarked header was off target. A good and hard working half for the Stones came to an end with only a slim advantage to take to their team talk at the interval.
The second period started as the first with heavy challenges from The Blues – O’Leary stayed down for an extended period but eventually re joined the action. Soon after, a petulant scuffle brought a booking for the Met’s Steve Noakes. But Stones missed chances in the first period came home to roost on 52 minutes. A Ngoyi foul delivered a free kick to the Met just outside their own area and from the launched ball somehow Craig Watkins stole in and found time and space to steer the ball past North who was left completely exposed by his defence.
This provided the spark that the home side craved in the tie and they began to drive forward with long raking balls out of defence that stretched Stones as hadn’t happened in the first 45. Stones sunk into their shells for a long period allowing the Met to come onto them but North was still rarely troubled.
Stones eventually recovered composure and launched some incisive attacks instigated by Forbes and Dean, but just couldn’t find the net with shots that Mann handled comfortably.
With the final whistle not far off the Police broke clear with another long ball and raced toward goal; Kieron Forbes realised that he had to hold up play and was adjudged to have deliberately hand balled and as last man knew he would walk. In doing so he probably kept his side in the tie.
The resulting free kick was wasted, the whistle blew and Stones reflected on another frustrating afternoon but it could have been far worse but they now must know to a man that they have the ability to progress on Monday evening. They must believe it.
Wealdstone: North, Forbes, Chappell, Parker, Massey, Brooks, Dean, O’Leary, Ngoyi, Cronin, Lavers. Subs used: Locke, E’Beyer, Blennerhassett. N/u: Pattison, Dyer, Daly, Thomas