Wealdstone 0-0 Dartford
0 - 0
It is perhaps a measure of Wealdstone’s progress this season when there is now a genuine feeling of disappointment in ‘only’ achieving a draw against a strong and well organised outfit as Dartford and in a Ryman Premier match played at the business end of the table. It is certainly reflective of Gordon Bartlett’s and his staff’s abilities to extract maximum effort and commitment from his talented young team week by week against sides that mostly wouldn’t get out of bed for the wage structure on offer at The Vale; but this Stones team has spirit in bundles and once again they showed some fine battling qualities to keep a physical Darts outfit scoreless.
With both sides needing to win on Saturday to maintain serious thoughts of a play off place, it was always going to be a tense affair with defences dominating and so it proved although we have all seen far worse 0-0 draws. In fact, the second biggest crowd of the season at The Vale, 644, were kept on their toes for long periods of this encounter with both sides presented with enough half chances to have grabbed a winner.
Both sides would have also been a trifle aggrieved with the somewhat fussy performance of referee Chris Williams – particularly the Darts who had what looked like a stone wall shout for a penalty waved away near the end.
As for the details, Stones were without their outstanding centre half Alan Massey due to his hamstring problem and in stepped Darren Locke who did well in the heart of the defence where Carl Martin looked back to his best. Sean Thomas was restored as custodian following his suspension last week. Both sides were up for a physical battle from the first whistle and it was soon obvious that the midfield was no place for wilting wallflowers – Chris O’Leary was soon in his combative element but was being regularly penalised by Mr Williams. Dartford soon began to boss play, though, and they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession as they attacked down the slope. Several corner kicks were conceded by Stones who were feeling some pressure and needed the ball held up to get some forward moves going – Davis Haule appeared to struggle somewhat with the fast and furious pace of the game.
Stones finally got a good move going when Kieron Forbes used his lighting pace to break forward on 16 minutes but his ball to Greg Ngoyi was blasted into the side netting as he momentarily looked up to check for offside.
Darts were winning numerous free kicks, some of them in good positions but Stones defence was in determined mood and aerially made few mistakes. Carl Martin went just wide with Stones first corner on the half hour mark, and then Marvin McCoy went on a penetrating run that went unrewarded. Sean Thomas blocked bravely with 6 minutes to go and then Ngoyi was upended outside the Darts area but the kick came to nothing as Martin complained of being impeded illegally.
Stones looked to redress the possession balance kicking down the slope at the turnaround but Darts Jay May threatened first with a shot that was wide of the mark and then Bradley Woods Garness went close.
Stones began to assert themselves and won a couple of consecutive corners but it was time to bring on some fresh legs as Ben Alexander and Danny Spendlove came on for Davis Haule and David Hicks. This certainly had the effect of livening up the home side’s attacking play as the game became far more open. Unfortunately Alexander found his way into Mr Williams’ notebook within a minute of him stepping over the white line.
But Darts continued with some decent attacking moves and a couple of crosses whipped in just about evaded their forwards; Stones quickly countered and Ryan Ashe was desperately unlucky with an inviting cross that seemed roll along the goal line with Spendlove or any forward not close enough to tap in.
Ben Clarke entered the fray for Greg Ngoyi but apart from a couple more free kicks awarded to the Darts, this was a game where defence dominated and a point apiece was about right – although neither side will be happy with the effect on the league table.
Nevertheless, Stones move back to a highly impressive sixth place but with Sutton and Carshalton both winning it will need something very special indeed to happen in the final run in. A hugely resurgent and vengeful Harrow Borough team beckon on Easter Monday and Stones will need to summon up fresh reserves of energy and creativity if they are to repeat the December score line. A simple win will suffice.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Martin, Locke, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Haule, Ngoyi, Hicks. Subs used: Clarke, Spendlove, Alexander. N/u: Jones, Woods