Wealdstone 0 – 0 Leatherhead (AET)
3-4(P) (AET:0 - 0)
Wealdstone’s hearts were broken at the Met Police Imber Court ground on Wednesday as they lost to Leatherhead by the narrowest of penalty kick margins after 30 minutes of desperately unwanted extra time and sadly lost the opportunity to lift the League Cup.
Stones may have ultimately lost this dramatic cup final but they battled and scrapped all night despite most of their over worked players running on empty and suffering the cruellest of handicaps by having two players sent off – Kieron Forbes walked after 57 minutes with a second yellow and substitute James Gray followed in extra time with a straight red.
With nine men, Stones held out and defended magnificently with Man of the Match Sean Thomas capping a fine performance by saving a penalty kick late in extra time after James Gray was controversially adjudged to have handled in the ball in the box , preventing a goal bound strike. Their defence was in outstanding form with Marvin McCoy and Darren Locke having exemplary performances to snuff out virtually everything a stuttering Tanners attack threw at them.
But ultimately this outcome was Gordon Bartlett’s worst nightmare in attempting to revive his team’s objective of gaining a prized play-off place. Added fatigue and tired legs will result and now the loss of two key members of the squad through suspension during a crazy fixture schedule run-in. This was needed like a hole in the head but at least Stones can take heart from a never say die attitude which was mightily appreciated by their vociferous army of supporters who comprehensively out sung a large contingent from Leatherhead.
In a true cup tie atmosphere, with both sets of supporters in the 668 crowd playing their part, despite the pouring rain, the match was initially evenly balanced with some good movement from Stones. However with Danny Spendlove unavailable it soon became apparent that they lacked a creative outlet and they struggled to get shots in the put Colin Harris, Tanners keeper, under pressure.
Kieron Forbes, gradually getting back to full fitness, went close with an effort past the far post. Tanners Tommy Hutchings put a decent strike in from distance that was comfortably held by Sean Thomas.
Ryan Ashe and Chris O’Leary were tigerish in the midfield and one or two free kicks were being won. Then Thomas brilliantly tipped away a great strike for a corner.
Stones came closest to breaking the deadlock when a good Ashe free kick was almost clipped in for an own goal but it went over.
But Greg Ngoyi and Jamie Osborne were well shackled up front and struggled to find the time and space to get their shots away
With the rain increasing in the second half, Stones had their best spell with an Osborne strike being saved on 50 minutes.
Callum Martin replaced Osborne soon after but just as Stones were gaining the ascendancy in attack, Forbes was red carded and the whole complexion of the game changed
But try as they might, the Surrey team could not get past a hugely stubborn Stones rearguard with McCoy magnificent in the centre half position.
Stones were defending in depth with hardly any opportunity to break out although Martin did hold the ball up more effectively but lacked support at crucial moments.
Thomas earned his MoM award with a fantastic full length stop from a blistering free kick
Stones forward play did perk when Jimmy Gray came on for the hard working Louis Lavers and his flicks and aerial strength paid some dividend but with a man down Stones were concentrating on not conceding.
Extra time appeared inevitable and indeed play then entered the 30 minutes added time. Then Gray was dramatically sent off and Thomas excelled beyond the call of duty with a great push away from a Hutchings penalty.
The nine men battled on and then came the added drama of penalties. Incredibly Thomas saved the first kick to jubilant scenes behind the goal but Ryan Ashe’s tired shot was also saved to cancel out Thomas’s effort.
McCoy, Martin and O’Leary all netted as did Tanners, but the unfortunate Lee Chappell blasted over the stand and it was the Tanners that gut wrenchingly celebrated by lifting the cup.
There was certainly no disgrace in this defeat and Stones can be proud of their battling attitude but they will need more than that attribute to progress up the table and this dramatic and costly side adventure has simply made their quest far more difficult.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Yorke, Locke, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Osborne, Ngoyi, Lavers. Subs used: Martin, Gray, E’Beyer. N/u: Massey, Logie.