Ashford Town (Middlesex) 3 – 3 Wealdstone
3 - 3
Masquerading ludicrously as a Boxing Day ‘derby’ match in geographical terms this was nonetheless a highly entertaining, incident packed, bruising and feisty affair in which a strangely muted away crowd hugely outnumbered the home contingent. But Wealdstone were ultimately left frustrated and more than a little perplexed by their topsy turvey performance ahead of the real derby encounter on Monday which may produce greater passionate expression off the pitch as well as on it.
Frustrated, because Stones had found themselves enjoying an unlikely two goal lead at the half hour mark in the first period when they had been under considerable pressure. They later fought back brilliantly to take the lead immediately after the home side had equalised but then amazingly succumbed to a second late equaliser that could also have turned into a defeat as the Tangerines rallied with commendable spirit.
Wealdstone Manager Gordon Bartlett will not have been pleased with his team’s defensive display against ten men for a long period of the match and the later sending off of midfielder Chris O’Leary as matters became unnecessarily desperate late on. Tempers became frayed as the home side made their overly physical intent clear but cleverly, perhaps cynically, took advantage of Stones loss of concentration at key moments in a match that often reached boiling point with myriad bookings.
Nevertheless Stones worked very hard throughout against a strong and well drilled Ashford side that will upset a few fancied teams in the New Year. There were some good individual performances – notably Colchester United loanee Sam Corcoran who was far more involved and Marvin McCoy was also very influential. Danny Spendlove was a thorn in Ashford’s side all afternoon.
Stones started the match with a seasonably innovative ‘Christmas Tree’ formation – Greg Ngoyi lone up front closely supported by Danny Spendlove and an advanced Ryan Ashe.
The match was largely dominated by the Tangerines early on, although Marvin McCoy’s run deserved better on 8 minutes. For the home side, Scott Weight saw a firm strike go wide of Luke Woods post as Stones found Ashford in sharp form. Byron Harrison somehow wasted a gilt edged chance to take his side into the lead but he delayed his shot as it was too easy for the Tangerines to make progress on Woods’ goal.
Sam Corcoran found himself in space and his good strike from fully 40 yards was just held by keeper Craig Ross. But on 16 minutes Danny Spendlove broke free down the flank from a good ball from Chris O’Leary. He raced into the box, was clumsily clipped by a covering defender and Referee Jaye unhesitatingly pointed to the spot and Ryan Ashe did the business for 1-0.
5 minutes later Stones had doubled their lead when Sam Corcoran struck beautifully from 35 yards and Ross failed to hold the ball and it flew off his hands into the net.
But Ashford were unperturbed and hit back with gusto – only a great tackle from the dependable Darren Locke denied them a clear strike at goal. Ashford were clearly rattled, upped the anti and started to mete out the strong arm stuff.
Tensions visibly rose as a tussle between several players broke out including an off the ball incident on McCoy that went completely unnoticed by the officials. As a result three players were booked – McCoy and Corcoran for Stones and Harrison for Ashford. This played into the home side’s hands as they took advantage of Stones loss of concentration and a contrived to score a messy goal from Scott Harris.
Stones hit back with a great flowing move of high quality with Corcoran the instigator that resulted in Ashe hitting an air shot with his left peg. Woods then saved bravely at the feet of Harrison to prevent the equaliser as Stones needed to dig in as Ashford’s tails were now very much up.
Stones held on at the break for a fragile looking 2-1 lead.
Ashford continued to press and mount penetrating forwards runs after the turnaround with Stones countering on the break with Greg Ngoyi ploughing his lone furrow and chasing everything up front.
As tempers and tantrums resumed, the inevitable sending off occurred as former Stone Davis Haule walked off for an early shower after a heavy challenge produced a second yellow card.
Stones sensed that they could now finally take full control and went for a third and hopefully killer finish and they almost achieved it when the lively Spendlove broke free and crossed well for Ashe who slid in, but the effort was deflected wide for a corner. Spendlove then shot for goal with a poked effort that was just wide as the game ebbed and flowed in front of an abysmally low 265 attendance.
O’Leary was booked before the toiling Greg Ngoyi made way for speed merchant Charlie Mpi who quickly made an impact.
But Stones were rocked with 25 minutes left on the clock when the unfortunate Luke Woods made a hash of a high ball that he loudly claimed with Brian Haule on hand to ram home the equaliser.
In an exciting passage of play, Stones hit back with an immediatly, Charlie Mpi made his lighting pace tell and got clear, ‘keeper Ross was caught in no mans land and Mpi stuck his long leg out to send the ball into the net for the lead to be restored.
Another incident incensed the away side when Mpi was put clear; as he raced toward goal he was clattered by Ross. Instead of sprawling and rolling over like a Premiership star, the honest Mpi tried to continue for a few yards and then merely stumbled over having slightly changed direction. Ross was merely booked when all in the stadium, except Mr Jaye, knew he was guilty of a sending off offence.
Ashford delivered a double substitution as Chris Ellerbeck came on for Spendlove. This correspondent noted on his pad at this point in the proceedings: ‘is there a sting in the tail yet?’ And indeed there was. In a frantic final 5 minutes Ashford scrambled an equaliser from the previously profligate Byron Harrison and it was a point a piece.
Wealdstone will need to tighten up their defence, and, more to the point, their concentration when Borough come calling at The Vale on Monday (28th December). Harrow will be smarting from a 0-3 Boxing Day reverse against Hendon but they will undoubtedly play their full part in the real festive derby encounter. Be on your guard Stones.
Wealdstone: Woods, McCoy, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Ashe, Corcoran, O’Leary, Spendlove, Ngoyi, E’Beyer. Subs used: Mpi, Ellerbeck. N/u: During , Beagle (GK)