Wealdstone 2 – 2 Maidstone United
2 - 2
Football was again put starkly into perspective before Saturday’s match with a minutes silence for young Stones player Jamal Campbell who tragically lost his life in a car accident on Friday morning.
Stones came into this match needing a win to kick start a stuttering start to the new campaign and with Maidstone missing a couple of influential players and a decent second period on Tuesday against Tooting, despite that defeat, there was a strong feeling that a first victory could be secured.
In the event a highly entertaining second period to this competitive match was a roller coaster ride reminiscent perhaps of darker days with Wealdstone almost snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. A point gained will certainly not bring huge satisfaction to management or players but there were some real positives and signs that rapid progress can be made provided the elements of confidence and composure in front of goal can be introduced into Stones play. Marvin McCoy seems to improve each match and Kieron Forbes was a real thorn in the side of the ‘other Stones’. Gordon Bartlett may well have unearthed another gem in the unorthodox form of Charle Mpi who scored a cracking goal and made the penalty for Ryan Ashe with his blistering pace.
Chris O’Leary broke down in the warm up and was replaced by former Stevenage and Hitchin midfielder Mark E’beyer. Rob Fitzgerald slotted in at centre half replacing James Gray who has been handed a massive suspension by the County and could be out until the New Year. Wealdstone are appealing this punishment for the sending off at the Hitchin friendly match.
Fitzgerald had a good match overall and looks capable of dealing with the physical stuff.
Stones started brightly with Calum Botham shooting over when reasonably well placed. Charlie Mpi then fed a good ball through to Greg Ngoyi but he dwelt too long on the ball and was closed down. Kieron Forbes looked lively and full of running throughout and was causing problems for the United defence and a couple of corners were won but came to nought as, aerially, United stood firm.
The game settled into a pattern of decent Stones approach play but with no end product or real penetration in the dangers areas. But at least Charlie Mpi was far more of a threat and influence than during the week with some quick play but there was no real interchange or understanding with Ngoyi who has still to rekindle his aggression and sharpness where it matters.
The away side had their first real goal opportunity as Ashley Dann’s shot was well saved by Sean Thomas on 20 minutes as United began to make progress down the flanks.
Marvin McCoy had a couple of surging runs as he cut into the middle and then Botham inexplicably crossed when he should have pulled the trigger as Stones finally began to find some space up the slope. Ngoyi was unlucky when put through but an alert Jamie Turner got down well. Ryan Ashe put over a poor free kick and looked a little sluggish at times.
Stones were comfortable as the half ended although James Pinnock’s shot from distance was a worry for Thomas. The last action of the half almost delivered an opener for the Stones as a corner was headed onto the bar by Alan Massey who was as strong as ever at the heart of the home defence.
The second period brought more of the same with Stones certainly having more of the possession as E’ Beyer shot wide early on. A frustrated Mpi had a couple of chances to break into decent positions but needed the ball played into space; time and again he was closed down or tackled.
Stones were rocked on 58 minutes as Maidstone took the lead out of nothing. A free header from Jay Saunders eluded the stretching arm of Thomas and suddenly matters took a far more serious turn.
But Stones pulled themselves together and soon regained some initiative and possession with Mpi and Forbes working hard to create openings.
United countered quickly and Pinnock’s strike was just over the bar – a further goal now would kill the game and Stones knew it. Proceedings appeared to be drifting away from Stones as Manager Gordon Bartlett readied two forward substitutes.
But Charlie Mpi had other ideas and finally he found – and took – an opportunity that came his way from a good through ball. The tall front man burst past two defenders and showed excellent composure to smash the ball past Turner for the equaliser and Stones first goal of the new campaign.
This was the tonic Stones needed and they piled on the pressure sensing that all three points were now a real possibility with 20 minutes to go. A great shot from Forbes brought off an equally good save from Turner as he tipped over. Ngoyi was then subbed by Jamie Osborne in a move to add to the attacking threat.
The pressure paid off in dramatic style as Mpi burst into the box pushing the ball past a defender but was brought down by a defender in a vain attempt to stop the unstoppable. Ryan Ashe crashed in the penalty although Turner got his hand to it as
Stones joyfully took the lead. Ten minutes to go and a big question- could Stones defend their lead?
The answer was an emphatic no – within two short minutes the away side, to their credit, seized back the initiative taking advantage of poor defensive concentration and Jay Saunders poked the ball past an exposed Thomas for a slap in the face equaliser.
Maidstone ended this absorbing match on the ascendancy when only minutes before they had looked a well beaten side. They were able to exert huge pressure on a deflated Stones as the game finally ended in the unwanted relief that defeat had been avoided.
Wealdstone travel to Borehamwood on Tuesday evening (25 August) who
have also yet to win this season.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Fitzgerald, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, E’Beyer, Mpi, Ngoyi, Botham. Sub used: Osborne. N/u: Gray, O’Leary, Alexander, Beagle (GK)