Wealdstone 0 – 0 Boreham Wood
0 - 0
There was a strong sense of occasion at a sun drenched St Georges Stadium on Saturday as over 300 Aston Villa fans had stopped off at the adjacent Ruislip Social Club en route to Wembley and their FA Cup clash with Chelsea. Wealdstone too had something to prove with another massive play-off encounter – this time with 5th placed and an in-form Boreham Wood.
In the event Stones had very few chances to stamp their authority on a tight and tense affair and had to thank fit again keeper Sean Thomas for several great saves – one magnificent effort in the second half was a clear contender for save-of-the season.
Remarkably Wealdstone are still in with a shout of the play-offs on the basis of games in hand over their closest rivals but the time for defeats or draws is now over and winning games is now the only option.
Kieron Forbes also returned to the starting line-up and replaced the suspended Marvin McCoy at right back; McCoy will be out for a further two matches.
After the early exchanges it was the away side that began to emerge as the more dominant force, gaining several corners to test the Stones defence. The home side were taking time to settle and struggling to exert sufficient pressure in the midfield; but their defence, led by the central pairing of Alan Massey and Darren Locke, looked very solid.
But after 13 minutes, Wealdstone had a golden opportunity to take the game by the scruff of the neck. After Danny Spendlove had attacked down the flank only to put over a wayward cross, he had the chance to make amends as Stones raced back up the slope. The skilful winger appeared to have lost the ball in the box but he determinedly regained possession only to see his shot smash against the upright.
Wood hit back immediately with some venom and Mario Noto struck just wide with a good effort. But the Hertfordshire side’s best chance of the half came just after the half hour mark when their striker Claude Seanla found himself clear in the box but some sharp defending forced him to screw his effort wide of the mark.
Stones were infuriated just prior to the break when a clear penalty claim was inexplicably turned down by the officials. Kieron Forbes broke free and charged in to the Wood box and was unceremoniously bundled over but play was waved on as Forbes lay prone on the ground.
Wealdstone started the second period with greater attacking nous and put some sustained pressure on the well drilled Wood back line. But despite several corners and some decent possession they couldn’t make the breakthrough with Callum Martin and Charlie Mpi struggling to get their shots away.
Following a Wood raid up the slope they should have taken the lead after 53 minutes. Ex Harrow Borough striker Dewayne Clarke seemingly had the goal at his mercy but somehow Sean Thomas blocked his point blank strike for a fantastic and probably match saving save.
Stones found themselves under pressure for long period with Boreham Wood using their trademark flank play to good effect but credit must be afforded to the home defence who closed down well and made some timely interceptions at key moments.
Thomas saved again, this time from Seanla and Wealdstone looked likely to concede as they were continually not able to find any sort of effective forward momentum to take the heat off.
But when Chris O’Leary came on for a tired looking Ryan Ashe their play finally perked up and O’Leary’s aerial strength and aggression started to pay some dividend.
A flick from the former Uxbridge player almost brought a goal for Martin after a dangerous projectile throw from Lee Chappell but Tony Tucker held the headed effort.
In a highly tense finish both sides piled on the pressure with Stones having the edge by winning a number of free kicks in good positions but the calm Wood defence held out. Darren Locke, who had a faultless game, almost hooked in from a free kick and then O’Leary almost flashed a glancing header into the net but the ball went agonisingly wide of the far post.
Stones survived a Wood corner in the final seconds of added time and both sides had to settle for a single point in their battle for the play off prize.
After the match both managers admitted that both teams focus was on not losing the game and play reflected that tension. Gordon Bartlett said: ‘We are still in the hunt. Here we are in the second week in April and the main thing is that we are still in with a chance of the play-offs’
Wealdstone entertain newly relegation threatened Ashford Town (Middx) this Tuesday evening at The Vale (13 April) and then step up to the plate at home again on Thursday (15 April) against top of the form table and surprise promotion package side Aveley.
Wealdstone: Thomas, Forbes, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Ashe, E’Beyer, Logie, Mpi, Martin, Spendlove. Subs used: O’Leary, Ngoyi. N/u: Gray, Lavers, Beagle (GK)