Wealdstone 0 – 0 Tonbridge Angels
0 - 0
This was the day all Wealdstone supporters had been dreaming of for 17 years – a home of their own at long last. No matter that it was not the space age super stadium promised for the Prince Edward Playing Fields. Instead it was a small ground that sadly had been allowed to run down over many years and on which hard working fans had spent time and money in a very short time bringing it up to scratch. Whatever the result or performance, this was a momentous day.
For the first match of this new epoch manager Gordon Bartlett had as promised opted for four at the back, four in midfield and two forwards. Alan Massey was asked to play at left back in order to keep a close eye on the dangerous John Westcott and the young defender did a terrific job in keeping the winger quiet for the entire match. Young Derek Quaye was preferred to Keiron Forbes on the right and Gary Burrell got the nod over Graeme Montgomery on the left.
The Stones started brightly and Dean Papali should have scored after just 2 minutes when he latched on to a half clearance from Lee Worgan but delayed his shot and the keeper was able to get back and scramble the side footed shot wide for a corner. Burrell chipped over a perfect corner and Chris O’Leary was just inches over with his header. 10 minutes later Worgan made an excellent double save from the busy Derek Quaye and Ryan Ashe who had followed in and latched on to the rebound.
Drama arrived on 15 minutes when Ben Alexander chased down a long clearance. Keeper Worgan caught the ball on the edge of the penalty area but his momentum carried him clear of the box. On such occasions a red card always seems harsh but in sending off the unfortunate custodian referee Mr Field applied the letter of the law. The heroic Fraser Logan took over between the sticks and acquitted himself with distinction.
As is so often the case, when one team is reduced to ten men it is the team retaining its full complement, in this case The Stones, who appear to lose their way. Instead of playing measured football through midfield a greater and greater reliance was placed on the long ball to Ben Alexander and Dean Papali which the Angel’s defence, superbly marshalled by their skipper Leon Legge, gobbled up. Indeed The Stones only created two more chances of note in the first half, an Alexander shot saved well at the near post and a good header over the bar by young Derek Quaye from an excellent cross by Alan Massey.
3 minutes into the second half The Stones almost took the lead when Ryan Ashe latched on to a clearance from stand in keeper Logan. Despite being in the centre circle Ashe sent in an exquisite chip that beat Logan but just cleared the bar. Wealdstone should have taken the lead in the 57th minute. A wonderful deep cross from Marvin McCoy was met just beyond the far post by Gary Burrell but unfortunately the left winger headed wide.
From the hour mark Tonbridge began to assert themselves more in attack. Ade Olorunda was starting to find some space and on 69 minutes he slipped James Gray on the left and sent in a crisp shot that Thomas saved smartly. A minute later the same player wriggled free on the left side of the Stones’ penalty area and drilled in a dangerous cross that was begging to put away. Fortunately for the home side no player was advanced enough to apply the final touch.
The Stones were enjoying heaps of possession but the final ball was too often lacking. The introduction of youngsters Nick Salapatas and Graeme Montgomery on 74 minutes for Papali and Burrell breathed some new energy into the home side’s efforts, and in the closing stages the game could have been settled by Montgomery whose thumping shot from 20 yards skimmed the bar and Alexander, who slipped his defender superbly before shooting straight at Logan. Tonbridge had the last word when the ever dangerous Olorunda sent over a clever little cross that the prolific Carl Rook headed just over Sean Thomas’ bar.
387 people paid to see this important moment in the club’s history. Given the fact that many people remain on holiday, the Premiership started today and The Olympics was in full swing, that is not bad. We could have hoped for easier opposition than Tonbridge who are a tip for promotion by many in the know and, in all honesty, the performance was stuttering to say the least. But we’re in, we’re playing and Gordon has assembled a side brimming with potential. The future is blue!
Stones’ Man of The Match: Marvin McCoy