Wealdstone 1 – 1 Margate
1 - 1
The opening day of the league season often dashes the hopes of pre-season expectation when harsh reality has a habit of crashing in to spoil the party, and this was certainly the case during a torrid first half at The Vale on Saturday.
But a spirited second half fight back by a Wealdstone side without the much needed midfield creative talents of Alex Dyer, delivered up a point – but it took a spectacular strike from league debutant Tom O’Regan to do so. O’Regan and fellow substitute Jake Parsons transformed Stones attacking endeavour in an entertaining second period.
O’Regan, the former Wycombe Wanderers Scholarship player, equalised with a 20 yard thunderbolt after 70 minutes and could have provided the platform for Stones to grab all 3 points but in the end the home side were grateful for the single point gained in a tough battle with a well organised and largely re-built Margate side.
Stones accommodated all their centre halves in an unfamiliar looking combination at the back with Lee Chappell pushed forward. Peter Dean partnered Richard Jolly up front, and, with Dyer injured, Kurtney Brooks came into the centre of midfield with provider David Hicks.
Whilst Margate looked the more settled side from the off in the driving rain, the Stones combination looked unbalanced and edgy, with the midfield critically losing the battle in that area; Jolly and Dean were struggling to win the ball with the few scraps that came their way. Danny Spendlove looked out of sorts as the match progressed, losing vital possession on the flank.
Nevertheless it was the home side that almost broke through after 5 minutes when Wes Parker headed on from a free kick and Gate Keeper Jack Smelt saved well from Jolly. But 2 minutes later Stones allowed Tom Bradbrook too much room to get his cross in and Kwesi Appiah stole in to bundle the ball in past Jonathan North for 0-1.
Stones were lumping the ball forward as tensions increased and passing to feet was at a premium, playing into the away side’s hands. Margate should have increased their lead when a mix up at the back allowed them a clear chance but the ball was just about hacked away.
Peter Dean had an excellent chance in a rare Stones break but he shot straight at Smelt who held comfortably. Then Jolly expertly kept onside with a trade mark run but Spendlove screwed well wide as the half ended.
New signing Jake Parsons came on for Spendlove and immediately made his presence felt with some surging runs and looks hungry – exactly what Stones needed. And when the diminutive O’Regan came on for Darren Locke the back line was re-shaped into a far more effective looking unit. A great cross from the lanky Parsons should have been buried by Dean but the striker couldn’t connect strongly enough with the goal at his mercy.
Wealdstone suddenly turned up the wick and the heat was proving to be a problem for Margate who were now firmly on the back foot for the first time in the game. Jolly shot straight at Smelt from a wide angle when put clear and then Parker shot over from the increasing pressure down the slope. Another superb cross from Parsons went begging from the out of luck Dean as Margate slowly came back into the fray with some swift counter attacks.
Bradbrook for the away side nodded over but on 70 minutes Stones finally struck back with a cracker of a goal. It was Parsons that initiated the move with yet another accurate cross from the right – the ball was laid back by Jolly for O’Regan to strike the ball viciously first time into the top right hand corner leaving Smelt helpless.
Stones now sensed blood and piled down the slope looking for a winner that had earlier seemed improbable to say the least. Hicks struck sweetly but his goal bound shot was deflected for a corner and then Jolly had a decent chance when Smelt fumbled under pressure. Massey headed over.
Gate still countered and looked dangerous on the break as Wealdstone pushed forward but in the end both sides were probably satisfied with a point given the changing fortunes during an entertaining opening day clash.
Stones take on big spenders Carshalton Athletic, away, on Tuesday evening (23 August).
Wealdstone: North, Parker, Massey, Locke, Cronin, Brooks, Chappell, Hicks, Dean, Jolly, Spendlove.
Subs used: Fitzgerald, Parsons, O’Regan. N/u: Knight, Hammond
By Nick DuGard