Wealdstone 1 – 0 Hastings United
1 - 0
This was quite a night at the St Georges Stadium. Wealdstone’s first home win of 2010 has been a long, long time coming and achieving a clean sheet has been even more elusive for a side that has had to endure much criticism over past weeks, sadly much of it justified. But the ‘old’ Stones returned with a vengeance on Tuesday putting in a glowing performance to ward off the coldest of late winter evenings, matched by equally warm and renewed vociferous support from the 329 crowd.
In a fine all round team effort, a re-energised Stones took a grip on the game from the first whistle and overcame a high flying Hastings United outfit by sheer work rate, pressure on the ball and effective movement off of it. The opposition weren’t allowed to play to their strengths until a final few nervous minutes of added time as the home side understandably began to tire.
A rejuvenated Ryan Ashe scored the vital penalty in the first half that secured a deserved victory to back up the three points won at Cray Wanderers the previous Saturday.
Wealdstone looked bright and up for the challenge from the word go and the centre midfield trio of Ryan Ashe, Chris O’Leary and Mark E’Beyer quickly began to dominate and get their challenges in early to unsettle a very compact looking U’s side.
A lovely move after only 6 minutes play involving Danny Spendlove and Callum Martin saw an unlucky Jamie Osborne smack his shot against an upright. And more early pressure from Stones resulted in Ashe just sending his strike over after more good movement. Then Martin blazed over from an accurate corner.
Stones had a set back on 20 minutes when right back Dean Smith had to be taken off with a hamstring injury; he was replaced by Adam Logie who filled in seamlessly.
In a remarkable display of unrelenting pressure and work ethic Wealdstone completely dominated the visitors for extended periods allowing them only the occasional foray down the slope. And with Spendlove being a willing outlet on the right flank it seemed only a matter of time before Wealdstone edged in front.
The pressure finally told on 34 minutes when a defender clearly handled in the area and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Ryan Ashe unleashed a powerful but rising spot kick that smashed into the roof of the net via the underside of the cross bar.
The home side continued where they had left off after the break with the new central defensive pairing of James Gray and Marvin McCoy repelling most of what Hastings had to offer with only Ade Oloruda looking able to threaten when he managed to wriggle free on the left flank.
A great run from Callum Martin should have put Stones further ahead but instead of passing to the lurking Jamie Osborne he went for goal himself and the chance was lost.
Spendlove then wriggled free on the right, cut in, and saw his powerful goal bound strike pushed away by keeper Steve Williams for another corner.
Gray was unlucky with a well worked set piece but he sent the ball over. Finally the away began to gain more possession as Stones began to tire and there was a concern that the single goal lead may not be enough to see the game out.
Again Stones missed a glorious opportunity to wrap the game up when Lee Chappell , who has undoubtedly made a telling difference to energy levels in the side since his return from suspension, brilliantly cut the ball back to set up the hard working Jamie Osborne but the 18 year old blazed wildly over, just when a little composure was needed.
With Hastings gaining increasing time on the ball and working it out to their dangerous wide man, nerves were stretched. At least two excellent chances went begging for the visitors in the final minutes but anything other than a win for Stones would have been a travesty and to their supporters huge relief they held out for their first home win in the league since December 28th last year.
Stones heavy schedule continues with a visit to Sittingbourne in the League Cup on Thursday (11 March) and then second in the table Kingstonian are the visitors on Saturday for another massive encounter.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Gray, Smith, Ashe, E’Beyer, O’Leary, Osborne, Martin, Spendlove. Subs used: Logie. N/u: Fitzgerald, Mpi, Lavers, Beagle (GK)