Wealdstone 2 – 4 Waltham Abbey
2 - 4
In a second half performance that can only be adequately described as an unmitigated disaster, Wealdstone turned a comfortable 2-0 lead into a nightmare defeat against bottom club Waltham Abbey at a silenced and stunned Vale on Saturday.
Proceedings had begun in celebratory mood as Gordon Bartlett and his Assistant Manager Leo Morris duly reached their remarkable 1000th match milestone and officials and supporters alike in the 410 crowd saluted the loyalty and resilience of their management duo over a 15 year period.
But the afternoon turned into a scene more akin to the Little Big Horn as the Stones players somehow contrived to self destruct, for reasons known only to themselves, in a miserable second period that a controlled but apoplectic Bartlett described afterwards as ‘probably the worst 45 minutes in 1000 games’. Stones have now conceded 8 times in two consecutive league matches but remain in 9th position still with precious games in hand over their rivals.
Kicking down the slope on a perfectly good playing surface most of the first half went according to script against a feisty but limited Abbots side. Ryan Ashe stuck an early free kick over Harry Ricketts’ cross bar as Danny Spendlove and an uncomfortable looking Greg Ngoyi did their best to probe for openings up front. Waltham looked decidedly vulnerable and it seemed only a matter of time before their rearguard was breached under pressure.
But Stones were over eager in their approach and appeared somewhat anxious, not surprising perhaps as they have not won for 5 games including the soon to be null and void Tonbridge League Cup defeat on Thursday. But they were playing at last at The Vale, on a Saturday, and in front of a lively and expectant home crowd.
Just as the Abbots appeared to be resisting Stones attacks, the home side created a goal of flowing simplicity on 19 minutes. Danny Spendlove, one of very few players who later emerged with credit, slung over a great cross field ball to the on rushing Marvin McCoy who crossed for Mark E’Beyer to rifle home after Ngoyi had touched the ball on.
But the away side signalled a warning as moments later’ keeper Sean Thomas came to the rescue as he saved at point blank range magnificently as Alan Massey failed to clear the ball.
Greg Ngoyi had to call it a day as his hamstring problem finally caught up with him adding to Stones injury woes, and Jamie Osborne replaced the striker after the half hour mark. But Stones sensed another goal and piled on some decent pressure. The cross bar was struck from a corner, but from a penetratingly long throw from Marvin McCoy Wealdstone doubled their lead in first half injury time.
Skipper James Gray got his head to it and the ball looped over Ricketts and in off the far post to give the home side a seemingly comfortable lead at just the right time. Then Jamie Osborne should have made it 3-0 as he shot agonisingly wide of the post in another good move.
Even the most doom laden of Wealdstone Supporters, and the most super optimistic dozen or so Abbots fans in the crowd could have predicted what was now going to play out in a bizarre second 49 minutes.
Stones could not get out of their half from the first whistle and looked tired and listless. Waltham on the other hand had come out early from the dressing room and looked ready for a fight – taking this literally at times as they became decidedly more robust in their challenges. Stones midfield struggled to gain a foothold and the normally solid central defence started to look shaky and ponderous.
An awful challenge on McCoy brought a booking for Ricci Crace as the Abbots strove to get something out of the game. But Stones still managed to get the odd move going up the slope as Spendlove was unlucky with a vicious drive across the box.
The away side spurned a great 1 on 1 chance on 58 minutes as a great rebounded Thomas save was wastefully blasted over but the chances were coming the Abbots way as Stones still held on reasonably comfortably thinking that a third and killer goal would surely come. It didn’t.
Again Spendlove went close but this was to be one miss too many as the tables turned dramatically the way of the green and white clad away side. Finally, Billy Holland seized on a loose ball and buried his chance on 68 minutes for 1-2.
Harry Elmes struck over Thomas’ bar when it looked easier to score as Stones increasingly back peddled and allowed their opponents to dominate. Following a corner former Stone Andy Keepence smashed the ball in from close range after a goal mouth scramble – a jubilant Abbots now believed an upset was entirely possible.
Billy Gibson replaced a quiet Mark E’Beyer and surely this move would restore the scripted version of events? Stones tried to counter and Ryan Ashe sent a shot out for a corner as the game opened out and became increasingly frantic.
Disaster struck as a soft penalty was conceded and James Elmes duly hammered the spot kick past Thomas and Stones simply were unable to respond from this point and sadly defeat was shockingly inevitable.
Moments later a poor clearance from Thomas and a mistake again by a tangled defence allowed Waltham to score a 4th goal and the humiliation of a dreadful performance against a spirited but limited side was complete.
The Stones players have rightly gained the plaudits earlier this season for some fine displays but now they must show that they also possess real back bone, character and pride. These are the qualities that are demanded of a team that will gain promotion. They are also a requirement of wearing a shirt that bears the badge of Wealdstone Football Club.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Gray, Massey, Ashe, E’Beyer, O’Leary, King, Ngoyi, Spendlove, Subs used: Gibson, Jamie Osborne, Junior Osbourne. N/u: Locke, Beagle (GK)