Wealdstone 1 – 0 Ashford Town (Middx)
1 - 0
It was not such much a case of ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly’ at the St Georges Stadium on Tuesday evening as more of an encounter against a hugely stubborn Ashford Town side that delivered up a beautiful goal in the midst of some of down right ugly play. But Stones will not care about the overall performance – what matters now is winning, as win each game they must to sustain their tight rope play-off hopes.
The hero for Wealdstone on a cold and blustery evening came in the unlikely form of midfielder Mark E’Beyer. Unlikely, because E’Beyer will probably be the first to admit that his performances of late have not been exactly sparkling. But just when it seemed that Stones could not hit the proverbial barn door up popped E’Beyer to send in a half volleyed strike from all of 35 yards that left Ashford keeper Craig Ross looking on in stunned admiration as the ball arrowed perfectly into the top corner of the net for a memorable individual goal.
That 60th minute strike was certainly the high point of a tough but irritatingly messy contest when Stones again struggled with their hold up play virtually all night although there was a marked improvement later on in the game as the Tangerines left space at the back in their attempts to get back on level terms.
The first half was instantly forgettable in the attacking sense for Stones as they struggled with their link up play and strikers Charlie Mpi and the recalled Jamie Osborne snatched at their few opportunities to threaten. Ashford to their credit played like a side that knew that defeat was not an option as they teeter on the edge of the relegation zone. They fought tooth and nail throughout and gave the home defence anxious moments all night with the pacy Jermaine McGlashan particularly effective down the left flank.
In fact Ashford took their corner tally into double figures in the first period when they dominated possession. But Stones central defence again held firm with Alan Massey and Darren Locke forming a formidable partnership and Kieron Forbes also getting his tackles in at right back filling in for the suspended Marvin McCoy who will again be missing on Thursday.
Charlie Mpi had a couple of opportunities to make the breakthrough but in the main the strong away defence had the measure of Stones stuttering attacking options. Danny Spendlove provided most of the creativity but his deep runs were frustratingly thwarted time and again.
Ashford had their chances – the best when Scott Weight header over when it looked easier to score.
But Stones were competing strongly and putting their foot in and with the combative Chris O’Leary and Adam Logie in the midfield they were never out muscled.
Kicking down the favoured slope in the second period Stones looked to play with greater composure and matters looked immediately more promising as Mpi charged into the box only to see his effort cleared.
But just as it seemed Stones had run out of ideas, Mark E’Beyer changed the script in an instant and suddenly Wealdstone seized the initiative to take the game to their stubborn visitors.
And when Callum Martin came on for Mpi Stones attacking threat increased markedly and he soon started to give the away defence some real problems with his twisting and turning on the ball.
Jimmy Gray was thrown on as a replacement striker for the tiring Jamie Osborne and his height and aggression soon started to pay dividends. And after Sean Thomas comfortably held a Brian Haule header, Gray should have doubled Stones lead and relaxed their fraying nerves.
Martin used his pace to burst clear down the left flank and expertly cut the ball back into the path of Gray who just needed to steady himself to shoot home from 5 yards. But somehow the ball got stuck under his boot and in the process turned his ankle – Gray will probably now be out for the Aveley match. At least his team mates later saw the funny side of this amazing miss.
So a win is a win and Stones edgy run-in continues to produce enough points to keep the pressure on their play-off rivals and three consecutive clean sheets is real progress to build on.
Next up is the in-form and surprise package Aveley that visit The Vale on Thursday (15 April).
Wealdstone: Thomas, Forbes, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Logie, E’Beyer, O’Leary, Mpi, Osborne, Spendlove. Subs used: Martin, Gray, Lavers. N/u: Ashe, Ngoyi.