Wealdstone 3 -1 Margate
3 - 1
With the huge distraction of next weeks Cup match on the minds of everyone, barring Wealdstone’s management; this FA Trophy encounter with Margate on Saturday was in danger of descending into a side show. But this would have shown a lack of respect to a Margate side that proved to be a very stubborn and well drilled team that took until well in to the second half to break down, and an unwanted midweek replay was avoided.
Stones were comfortable enough in the end with goals from Mark E’Beyer, Charlie Mpi on his return from a three match suspension, and substitute Ross Lafayete.
Centre half Darren Locke replaced the suspended Rob Fitzgerald.
There may be yet a heavy price to pay for this win – Stones seventh in succession – as star keeper Sean Thomas sustained a nasty looking injury to his right foot. With Luke Woods also sidelined with injury, young Sam Beagle may well be called up for the midweek league match at Hornchurch.
Stones looked sluggish in the first half and mainly struggled to get any flowing and incisive forward play going. Margate looked bright and was soon able to put some good controlled passing moves together whilst looked solid at the back, without edging into an ambitious mode.
A piece of magic from the returned Charlie Mpi almost gave Stones the lead on 7 minutes when he flicked the ball up and volleyed towards goal but his strike hit the outside the outside the post. This proved to be the home side’s best effort of the half.
But Wealdstone huffed and puffed and continually contrived to lose possession in the key areas and were pegged back by a lively Gate forward line of Joe Healy and Akwasi Edusei. High balls pumped into the Gate box were dealt with proficiently by a tough looking Ben Lewis and Liam Harwood.
A draw looked very much on the cards as the teams returned to the dressing rooms at half time.
Stones looked brighter early on in the second period but still struggled with the high ball into the box which was meat and drink to Gate’s solid back line which was beginning to look impenetrable with the use of these tactics.
Out of the blue Stones broke the deadlock. On 55 minutes Charlie Mpi was for once able to use his blistering pace to get behind the Margate defence and cross into the box. After an initial clearance Mark E’Beyer found himself with time and space to lash the ball past a helpless Jake Whincup.
This gave the game the spark it needed and Stones suddenly upped their tempo and with Margate needing to come out of their shells some space opened up for them.
Greg Ngoyi shot just wide of the post on 57 minutes as Stones now forced the pace down the slope.
10 minutes later, Wealdstone doubled their advantage with a simple but highly effective move. An intelligent short corner was played out to Ryan Ashe who crossed accurately for Charlie Mpi to rise and power a header past Whincup.
Stones took their foot of the pedal as Mpi was replaced by Ross Lafayette and paid the price when Gate substitute Dan Stubbs got clean through on the left to poke the ball past a well beaten Sean Thomas on 67 minutes for only their second real effort on target.
With the dreaded spectre of a replay suddenly on the minds of on lookers, Stones again moved up a gear and looked to hit back.
Kieron Forbes launched into a Lionel Messi type 50 yard run that deserved a goal as he powered through to the dead ball line only for his cut back to go begging at the far post with no striker available for the tap in.
Chris Ellerbeck replaced the hard working Greg Ngoyi after Thomas went down injured after bravely coming off his line to stop an attacker but carried on, although the wince on his face when kicking told a worrying story.
Ross Lafayette did his confidence wonders with a coolly taken goal with a 3 minutes to go as he challenged for the ball in the area, won it and turned to sweep past Whincup to give the score line a slightly flattering look.
Stones march on in the FA Trophy, collect £2,300 prize money, but now need to retain sharp focus and concentration for the leaguer encounter with AFC Hornchurch on Tuesday evening.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Mpi, Ngoyi, E’Beyer. Subs used: Lafayette, Ellerbeck, Gray. N/u: Spendlove, Beagle (GK)
MoM: Alan Massey