Sudhir Rawal who was between the ‘sticks’ for the tournament has kindly provided the following report of the proceedings……..
Wealdstone Wanderers, the Stones walking football team, won their first ever tournament at only the second time of asking, by winning the inaugural Graham Barnes Memorial Trophy organised by Uxbridge Amblers at Hillingdon Sports & Leisure Complex last Saturday (28 May).
Having learnt from the previous week’s tournament where they lost to the hosts in the Nationals, Wanderers started with a 3-3-1 formation to ensure that they were tight at the back and then built on that platform by being more expansive as the competition went on.
Stones faced Uxbridge Amblers Blue, the pre-tournament favourites, in the first match with the same referee that was very lenient on the walking rule and physical contact the previous week. However, with a number of Middlesex appointed referees being used, all of whom did a very good job keeping a very tight leash on running in particular, Stones were rock solid at the back and limited the vastly experienced Amblers to few chances as the game finished nil nil. Next up were the Bexley Boys from Kent and the game followed the same pattern as the Amblers one as Stones’ tight defensive formation held solid to force another goalless draw.
Having played the best two teams in the group, Wanderers decided to be more expansive as the group wore on and changed to 2 3 1. Next up were Feltham Walking and they were beaten thanks to a Ronnie Welch penalty, given for encouragement into the penalty D. Another penalty from Welch and a last kick off the game goal from Stefan Hope saw Stones beat WF Estria from Holland 2-0. Once the scores were all toted up, Stones found themselves level on points with Bexley and Amblers Blue on eight points. Bexley went through as group winners on goal difference leaving a sudden death penalty shot out between the hosts and Stones, who finished level on goal difference, to progress through to the semi-finals. Welch scored first, then Sudhir Rawal was unlucky with the Amblers first kick as he got a decent hand to it but couldn’t prevent the ball ending up in the net. Hope made the score 2-1 before a superb left handed top corner save from Rawal denied former Southall forward Colin Dennison to ensure Stones went through to the semi finals, no mean feat when you consider that the Amblers side contained a number of former semi-professional players.
In the semi finals Wealdstone took on Kent United who many thought were the best team on the day. Wanderers best performance of the day saw the talented Kent side restricted to few chances as Dave Holden and Peter Snell were rocks at the back. Stones weren’t without their chances, indeed probably had more than their opponents, and were denied by one particular brilliant save from the Kent ‘keeper. Penalties were again called upon to divide the teams. Welsh, Hope and Steve Dyett all scored, with Rawal making his now customary save as Stones made it to the final against Bexley United.
In the programme notes, head honcho Nick Symmons talked about us maybe doing a Leicester City and pulling off an unlikely win and that’s exactly what happened.
The final started in a pretty cagey manner but as the game wore on, Bexley started dominating possession and chances. Holden in particular was excellent at the back, but the team as a whole defended manfully to end as the final finished 0-0. Penalties again. Welch, Hope and Dyett all scored from the spot and the cup was Stones when Rawal dived to his right to save the final penalty to secure the Graham Barnes Memorial Trophy and to indeed do “a Leicester”.
Squad: Sudhir Rawal, Peter Snell, David Holden, Stefan Hope, Paul Kennerly, Nick Symmons, Ronnie Welch, Pete Moran, Steve Dyett, Barry Hartman, Michael Woods