Sutton United 4 – 3 Wealdstone
4 - 3
Over the years Wealdstone have experienced some sickening last minute defeats, sometimes sadly merited on the back of a spineless collapse or lack of determination. This was certainly never the case against powerful Ryman Premier League leaders Sutton United on Saturday when Stones put in a shift of hugely solid defending and incisive attacking for 89 of the 96 minutes played and, once again, Stones were undone by the curse of conceding ridiculously late goals within inexplicable time added on. Once again no board was displayed to indicate time added, required by league rules, and this does not aid sporting transparency or the blood pressure of opposition spectators and management. It leaves a strong sense of injustice.
But as the Us players arrogantly wheeled away at the end of this absorbing match gesticulating and goading unprofessionally at the large away supporter contingent, they will know how close they came to claiming absolutely nothing, but by dint of added time sensationally grabbed all three points on offer having been 2-3 down with a minute of normal time remaining.
Stones continued where they had left off in recent games with a magnificent display of disciplined countering attack and gutsy determination. Sutton, who clearly see themselves as Champions elect, were left frustrated and largely shot less for 95% of the contest – and without the luxury of the absolute gift of an unforced James Hammond own goal they would surely have gotten out of reach of even a draw let alone a win.
Wealdstone took to the field at a freezing Gander Green Lane without midfielder Chris O’Leary (unavailable) and his boots were filled admirably by Welshman Sean Cronin. Greg Ngoyi was also missing due to his hamstring problem.
The table topping home side started with greater possession and knocked the ball around the midfield reasonably comfortably but without any real threat thanks to the solidity of Stones back line of Alan Massey, Wes Parker, new signing James Hammond and Lee Chappell.
Stones gradually began to gain more of a grip in the midfield though, but were being caught offside with some mistimed runs from lone striker Peter Dean whose work rate was opening up some gaps in the U’s rearguard. U’s had been given pre match instructions to wear Stones down and this was clearly evident with their patient build-up and lack of early urgency.
Jonathan North had to be alert from a U’s corner and got down quickly to clear the danger after 13 minutes. But Stones were gaining momentum from their counter attacking formation and stung the home side with a goal of clinical simplicity on 21 minutes.
Danny Spendlove swept the ball through to Alex Dyer and in one sweet movement the midfielder smashed the ball past a helpless Kevin Scriven for 1-0.
And it got better for Stones only 6 minutes later. A long throw from Lee Chappell was headed on by Alan Massey and the loose ball was seized on by Dyer who finished with aplomb off the far upright to double his tally.
The tremendous work rate from Wealdstone continued unabated and Sutton were being restricted to the danger free midfield areas. However, North had to block magnificently after strapping striker Craig Dundas finally managed to break clear of the stranglehold within 3 minutes of the interval.
But in only their third attack of any real threat in the half the U’s showed their suppressed potency with a header from the previously anonymous Andy Forbes. The ball agonisingly looped over North to peg Stones back just at the wrong time and the whistle immediately blew for half-time.
The anticipated onslaught from the home side at the start of the second period didn’t materialise with Stones getting their foot in early and the midfield being chased down and ferociously harried by Kurtney Brooks and Sean Cronin.
Incredibly Stones extended their lead as early as 48 minutes to rock Sutton to the core. Danny Spendlove was fed brilliantly by Peter Dean and the blonde winger’s mazy run was finished off with a deadly strike from 20 yards that flew past Scriven for 3-1
Stones now oozed confidence and another run and strike from Spendlove just flashed past the far post
Stones popular old boy but nemesis in opposition Richard Jolly then entered the field as U’s management more than sensed an untimely defeat was in the offing. His trademark runs added potency to Sutton’s now obvious need for some serious attacking urgency.
Out of nothing disaster struck for Stones on 62 minutes when a farcical but hugely damaging own goal was netted by the unfortunate James Hammond who otherwise had a strong game. Under no real pressure, Hammond somehow diverted the ball goal wards and the out of position North was left helplessly watching as the ball crossed the line; Sutton and their previously muted supporters could not believe their luck and the game turned in their favour as Stones had some serious defending to do to protect their now single goal lead.
Stones understandably now looked to consolidate and defended in greater depth but were still repelling everything thrown at them – Massey and Parker outstanding in the air and Chappell tidying up down the left.
Spendlove almost chipped the U’s shaken keeper after another Dean wonder pass. The game’s pivotal moment came when a Stones goal was ruled out for offside and had it stood the home side would have been killed off. As it turned out this decision gave the U’s the crucial impetus to claw something back out of what had seemed a lost cause with time rapidly, or seemingly rapidly, running out.
Sutton began to win corners menacingly as Stones cleared their lines without any forward outlet to hold the ball up. In the final minute from a corner Simon Downer managed to get his boot to the ball after it looked as though the danger would be cleared after the initial strike had hit the cross bar. 3-3.
With Stones now expecting the whistle to blow they thought a disappointing point at least would be taken back to Ruislip but a dagger blow was struck after 5 minutes of added time when substitute Sam Page headed in from a final desperate corner for a sickening and undeserved defeat.
n the dust has settled on this end of match debacle it will be the case that Wealdstone will reflect on an excellent overall performance and the progress of their recent run has been maintained. But, no doubt, Gordon Bartlett will be seething at his side’s failure to hold onto a solid looking lead and more to the point, perhaps, the time added to allow it to disappear.
Stones next match takes place on Monday evening at The Vale, weather permitting, when Wingate and Finchley are the visitors in the League Cup.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Chappell, Parker, Massey, Dyer, Dean, Cronin, Brookes, Forbes, Spendlove. Sub used: Ben Gill. Unused: Lavers, Yorke, Carter, Leggatt