Wealdstone 2-1 Hendon
2 - 1
Stones dig in for victory!
The decision to have this match played, following the news that only the previous evening that the pitch at The Vale was more likely to stage water sports than a football match, was more than fully justified as both sides served up a highly absorbing and incident packed affair and a great advert for Ryman League football.
Hero and villain of the piece for the Stones on Saturday was undoubtedly Greg Ngoyi who entered the fray as a substitute striker when centre back Darren Locke came off on 55 minutes. In an incredible passage of play for youngster Ngoyi, he contrived to miss a penalty, score a brilliant winning goal; got red carded and was then promptly awarded man of the match.
The only major starting line up change for Stones was enforced by a groin injury sustained by Carl Martin and the defender was replaced by Marvin McCoy. Garry Jones from the reserves joined the bench.
On a difficult cloying surface it was Hendon that took the game by the scruff of the neck and they immediately attacked in positive fashion down the slope. The Greens Harry Hunt and Glenn Garner looked dangerous from the off and they both remained an ever present threat until later in the match when Hunt went off injured. Davis Haule took an early snap shot at Greens keeper William Viner but the half chance was well held at the near post.
Hendon were played neat controlled football across the park in the early stages defying the sticking surface and deservedly took the lead after only 8 minutes when the Stones defence, under considerable pressure failed to clear adequately and Greens midfielder Jamie Busby netted a lose ball from close range to give Sean Thomas no chance.
Wealdstone appeared uncomfortable and struggled for long periods of the first period to hold the ball up, although Haule and James Gray persisted manfully up front. However Stones did start to get some moves going, prompted by the ever running Keiron Forbes, and, Ryan Ashe, when he managed to free himself up from his marker. After Gray had a reasonable chance from a Forbes run, it was the away side that almost doubled their tally when Garner whistled a shot just wide.
Davis Haule was unlucky when a cross shot was well tipped over by Viner but although Stones confidence on the ball was steadily growing, it was Hendon that still held the upper hand as the half time whistle blew, with Lee O’Leary pulling all the strings in their midfield.
With no changes made during the interval it was the home side that now showed far greater urgency. Ryan Ashe wasted a free kick in a good position but when Darren Locke went off injured and Greg Ngoyi entered the stage it provided a vital spark and the game turned around for the blues. But not in circumstance that could have been predicted.
Persistent pressure from Stones finally paid off when following an incisive break into the Hendon box, Danny Spendlove was unceremoniously bundled off the ball and referee Paul Forrester had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Surprisingly an eager Nyogi ceased the ball and took the kick – even though he had been on the pitch for barely 4 minutes. His kick was weakly side footed and parried by Viner and the rebound was kicked to safety.
But Stones soon shook off the penalty miss and charged down the slope with increasing fluidity. A good right wing cross by Lee Chappell was headed on by Ngoyi and the ball fell nicely into the path of the on running Ryan Ashe who blasted an accurate strike past Viner for the equaliser. This was the breakthrough Stones needed but still Hendon looked dangerous on the break and constantly kept Massey and co on alert. Gray, restored to the back line provided greater aggression and bite in repelling attacks.
The match was now far more open as a contest as both sides sought a winner. But with the Greens Harry Hunt now off the pitch injured they lost a key outlet and this tilted the game in Stones favour.
With seven minutes to go Davis Haule got free on the right and sent in a superb cross into the box. Greg Ngoyi leapt majestically ahead of his marker and sent a brilliant text book header past a helpless Viner. Then Massey thought he had got his sides third but he was called back for a foul on Viner.
But Hendon, typical of their determination on the day, fought back and were awarded a penalty when Haule was adjudged to have impeded a Greens forward in the box. Up stepped Davis’s brother Brian Haule to take the kick.
Sean Thomas who was faultless throughout seemed to play a psychological ploy in delaying the kick. Whatever the tactic he saved brilliantly for the second week running and Stones got out of jail in dramatic style.
Enter the pumped up Ngoyi who went steaming after the cleared ball in an attempt to stop it going back into the danger area. But the challenge was far too robust for the officials and he received his marching orders; the incident resulted in a 20 man scrum but order was soon restored by the very competent Mr Forrester.
Stones sensed that dropping back was no answer and broke quickly only for Lee Chappell to be the victim of an equally awful challenge that resulted in a second sending off – Jamie Burgess the miscreant for Hendon.
Wealdstone held out for the win but both sides must be given huge credit for a pulsating and highly entertaining match played out on a difficult surface.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Haule, Gray(C), Spendlove. Subs used: Ngoyi, Floweday. N/u: Stevens, Jones, Woods (GK).