Wealdstone 3 – 1 Watford XI
3 - 1
Those intrepid fans who had kept Wealdstone Football Club alive and kicking (if only just) for the last 17 nomadic years could not have wished for a better start to this latest chapter in the club’s history. The sun was shining, the newly levelled and re-seeded pitch looked like a bowling green, the areas surrounding the pitch looked new and gleaming courtesy of the hard work put in by many over the last 3 months, and near neighbours Watford had agreed to be the most attractive of opposition for this important occasion.
Having played Boreham Wood on the previous evening Aidy Boothroyd realistically could only send to The Vale a squad comprising mostly of youngsters and reserves with just a sprinkling of first teamers. Matt Jackson, Al Bangura, Jordan Parkes and Cedric Avinel were those with first team experience. The rest of the squad was made up from young, quick and skilful lads including Lian Henderson who had spent time on loan with The Stones last season.
Gordon Bartlett had near on a full squad available to him with only on holiday Carl Martin, Ryan Ashe and Peter Dean the obvious shirkers! The Hornets started in lively fashion and delivered some dangerous looking crosses into the Stones box which Richard Bernard, signed form Carshalton Athletic, dealt with comfortably. But it was the home side who struck first. A sweet move in midfield ended with another new signing, David Hicks, smacking a sweetly struck shot past keeper Scott Loach. It did take a slight deflection but Loach looked unlikely to get to the ball irrespective of any deflection.
The half then settled down to an enjoyable spectacle of contrasting styles. Watford played a neat passing game trying to work the ball through the Stones rearguard but were finding it difficult to outgun or outsmart the competitive midfield of Hicks, Chris O’Leary, Gary Burrell and the excellent Derek Quaye. When they did mange to find a way through Billy Hawes, James Gray, Alan Massey and Lee Chappell snuffed out any real danger. Gray and Massey in particular looked impassable.
But The Stones were not simply content to defend. They broke with pace and purpose and on 25 minutes a fine move out of defence ended with Ben Alexander cutting in from the left and placing an exquisite chip over the stranded Loach only for the ball to just clear the crossbar. But Alexander was not to be denied and just 7 minutes later a long throw from Chappell was flicked on by Dean Papali to Alexander facing away from the goal. The powerful forward held off his marker before turning and curling a delightful shot past the despairing dive of the unfortunate Loach.
The Hornets roared back and 6 minutes later a beautifully driven cross from Jordan Parkes was met at the far post by Lewis Young who thundered an unstoppable header past Luke Young who had just come on for the injured Bernard. The match was now end to end and Papali deserved better when following a mazy 40 yard run that took him past several challenges, he cut in from the left, switched to his right foot, and curled a great shot toward the corner of Loach’s goal only for the keeper to pull off a spectacular save. It was not long, however, before The Stones re-established their 2 goal advantage when a half hit shot was deflected by Chris O’Leary into the top corner past the wrong footed Loach.
The second half was by and large a much quieter affair. Watford appeared to step up a gear and there was every expectation that their extra sharpness as full time pros would see them through, but to their great credit the Stones matched them toe to toe and restricted any chances to no more than a couple of free-kicks in dangerous areas that were placed wide and a thumping header from Rob Kiernan that almost snapped the post in half. Both Aidy Boothroyd and Gordon Bartlett took the opportunity to give as many players as possible a run out. In the second half Ben Clark, Stephen Hughes, Graeme Montgomery, Nick Salapatas and John Sonuga all come on to enjoy some of the action.
This was a fine evening’s entertainment which gave full value to the 837 paying customers who were present. From a Wealdstone point of view it was a huge success, most supporters came away feeling that their new home at The Vale was a neat and tidy little ground, with bags of potential, and was a place they could once again enjoy watching football being played. And whisper it quietly; the team didn’t look half bad either (or the new kit!)
Starting line up. Richard Bernard, Billy Hawes, Lee Chappell, James Gray, Alan Massey, David Hicks, Derek Quaye, Chris O’Leary, Dean Papali, Ben Alexander, Gary Burrell. Substitutes used: Luke Woods, Ben Clark, Graeme Montgomery, Nick Salapatas, John Sonuga
Wealdstone: David Hicks (7min), Ben Alexander (32m), Chris O’Leary (45m)
Watford: Lewis Young (58m)
M.O M: Derek Quaye (Wealdstone)