Wealdstone 1 – 2 Harlow Town
1 - 2
There was definitely no romance for Wealdstone on Saturday and although the weather had abated sufficiently to allow the spectacle of a football match at The Vale, this was a flat performance from the Stones who fell away disappointingly in the second half to a Harlow side making a mockery of their lowly league position. Two full weeks without competitive action for the home side had taken it toll and the sharpness and tenacity displayed against Tooting and Hendon was lacking.
With striker Greg Ngoyi suspended following his dismissal against Hendon and with limited options in the forward department, Stones management opted to pair Davis Haule with skipper James Gray as the attacking spearhead. Lee Chappell and Darren Locke were restored to the starting line up after injury but Carl Martin is still a game or two away from full fitness and his pace and skill in defence was sorely missed against some very lively Hawks forwards.
Even so, on a boggy surface, Stones started this match brightly enough and matched a resurgent Harlow with some decent attacking play. After 8 minutes Kieron Forbes headed over from a good Danny Spendlove cross and then James Gray was brought down just outside the box after a darting move on goal. And although Harlow started to set the pattern of the half by countering with speed and penetration, Stones also threatened James Hasell’s goal.
Wealdstone took the lead after 10 minutes with a cheeky but enterprising goal. Ryan Ashe looked to shape for a free kick some 20 yards from goal but in a flash Lee Chappell caught out the Hawks defence with a curling effort that Hasell stood and watched as if stupefied as it flew in, off the upright.
But almost immediately from the restart Harlow attacked with purpose down the middle and although Sean Thomas brought off an excellent initial parry out, Shaun Gliddon was on hand to blast in an equaliser, with Stones defence in some disarray.
The play was now very much end to end stuff and a highly entertaining passage of play developed. Both sides continued to carve out chances with the Hawks seemingly adapting better to the cloying conditions as the half wore on. Gray was unlucky when he got past a prone keeper but the angle was too tight and the ball was cleared. Then probably the best move of the entire match from Stones involving a five touch flowing passage went frustratingly unrewarded with Forbes just off target on the end of it.
After Davis Haule went close, Hawks again countered quickly and Stones were rocked when Hawks were awarded a penalty spotted by an assistant referee with 5 minutes left of the half. As Mark Taylor waited to take the kick Sean Thomas looked confident as he did a ‘Grobbelaar’ style impression along the goal line and then amazingly saved his third penalty kick in succession to let his grateful colleagues off the hook.
The Hawks made their positive attacking intentions clear from the first whistle of the second period and Stones were under sustained pressure for virtually the whole of the next 45 minutes. Stones forwards were not able to hold the ball up to allow the midfield to join the attack with any real effect and possession was continually conceded – the opposite scenario to previous matches. The ball kept coming back onto Stones defence as a boomerang, as Hawks used the ball to far greater effect.
Harlow went close from a poor Thomas kick and Stones were living dangerously as Hawks’ Lalite, Ellerbeck and Okojie caused problems particularly for Locke and McCoy in wide areas. The overworked Darren Locke was the saviour however as he made a superb headed interception of a goal bound effort.
In an attempt to change the traffic pattern, Stones brought on Ian Hilaire for Davis Haule and then Ben Clarke for James Gray with 20 minutes to go, and, for a period, it looked as though the Blues had weathered the storm.
Desperate defending following a succession of corners portended the conceding of a winner for a persistent away side and so it proved with 10 minutes to go. Sam Berry curled a loose ball past a diving Thomas and that was that for Stones on a day when perhaps things evened out for them; again underlining the strength of the Ryman League Premier Division this season where league position more often than not counts for little.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Haule, Gray, Spendlove, Subs used: Clarke, Hilaire. N/u: Jones, R Hicks, Leggatt.