Wealdstone 0 – 1 Newport County (AET 0-0 @ 90 mins)
0 - 1 (AET)
Wealdstone’s FA Trophy run came to a heartbreaking end on Monday night, as they conceded the only goal of the game deep into extra time. Despite the disappointment of Newport’s late strike, Stones can walk away with their heads held high, as they once again stood toe to toe with the Blue Square Premier high fliers, defending immensely and shutting out the opposition for 209 minutes over the two games.
Despite being 4th in their league, some 54 places above Wealdstone, County will no doubt be glad to see the back of a gutsy Wealdstone side, who had a great chance to win it themselves through substitute Ben Long just moments before Dave Challinor’s 119th minute strike. The defeat now leaves Stones with just the league to concentrate on, however if their performances over the two games are anything to go by, then there is no reason why they can’t climb up the table before the end of the season.
Having earned a hard fought 0-0 draw at The Newport Stadium on Saturday, Stones started the brighter of the two sides, with Chris O’Leary seeing his header from an early corner blocked, and then Peter Dean just being beaten to the ball by Gary Warren as he was bearing down on goal following a quick free kick. The visitors then began to get a foothold on the game, with Alan Massey putting in a superb challenge on Daryl Knights, and then from the resultant corner Sam Foley firing just wide. Having been in superb form to shut out Newport on Saturday, Jonathan North was finally beaten on 19 minutes by a superb 20 yard volley from Craig Reid, however the strikers effort crashed off the underside of the crossbar and was then hooked away to safety, much to the relief of the vocal home support. Danny Spendlove was making his 100th appearance for Wealdstone, and he had a great chance to open the scoring on 31 minutes, receiving the ball from a well worked corner and firing a cross cum shot straight across the face of goal, however no Stones player could quite get a touch on the ball to turn it home. North then had to be on his toes two minutes later, saving well from a low drive from Jamie Collins. Newport had one last chance to snatch a lead on the stroke of half time, as Alan Goodall saw his 25 yard effort fly just wide of the upright. It was to be the last action of the half as the sides went in level at the break.
Having looked lively when coming on as a substitute on Saturday, Newport’s Sam Foley was again looking bright, firing a powerful effort straight at North soon after the restart. He then had an even better chance to break the deadlock on 58 minutes when he found himself through on goal and lifted the ball over Jonathan North, however Alan Massey was in the right place at the right time to clear the ball to safety as it bounced goalwards. There were then two goal line clearances from Wealdstone within a minute as the away side pushed forward in numbers. First of all skipper Lee Chappell did well to clear another Sam Foley effort off the line with North beaten, and then from the corner which resulted, Alex Dyer blocked a Chris Todd header on the line. Manager Gordon Bartlett opted for an attacking change on 71 minutes, with the tenacious Kurtney Brooks being replaced by Greg Ngoyi in a change which meant Stones reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. Despite currently being second top goalscorer in the Blue Square Premier, County’s Craig Reid was enduring a torrid night in front of goal, and his bad luck continued on 77 minutes when he rounded North and then slammed the ball into the outside of the post with the goal gaping. Alan Massey was once again having a towering game at the heart of the Stones defence, and he made a great challenge on County substitute Ben Wright as he was about to pull the trigger inside the box. Wright had another chance with five minutes remaining, however North produced a fine block from his close range effort. County threw everything at Stones in the final few minutes as they looked to avoid extra time, but they couldn’t find a way past the resilient backline, meaning the sides would have to play out another 30 minutes.
With neither side being able to create any clear cut chances in the first period of extra time, the second period was more open as both sides looked to push on and win it. Wealdstone’s first chance of extra time came on 111 minutes when a neat interchange between Spendlove and Ngoyi saw the Spendlove fire an inviting ball across the box, which just evaded Peter Dean. Wealdstone substitute Ben Long then had the best chance of the match for the home side on 118 minutes. Spendlove played a superb through ball to Long, who found himself with time and space on the corner of the 18 yard box. The midfielder took a touch before firing a low shot just inches wide of the far post. The miss proved to be costly as one minute later Newport grabbed the goal they had been looking for. Sam Deering got down the right hand side and pulled the ball back to Jon Challinor who slotted past North from close range.
It was a heartbreaking end to what has been a dramatic trophy run, however the club can be proud of their performance over the two games and must now look to carry this form over into the league, starting with a trip to Folkestone Invicta on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Jonathan North
Wealdstone: North, Hammond (Long 85), Chappell, Gill, Massey, Dyer, Dean, O’Leary, Brooks (Ngoyi 71), Forbes, Spendlove. Subs not used: Lavers, Carter, Sekora.
By Stuart Warren