Wealdstone 3 – 2 Cray Wanderers
3 - 2
There Can be no disguising the fact that this was a disjointed performance from The Stones and to a degree the team rode its luck to secure 3 vital points in the quest to attain a promotion play-off spot. Without Alan Massey and Chris O’Leary through injury, James Gray was retained in defence alongside Rob Fitzgerald while Danny Spendlove got a start in midfield. The Wands have found the going tough to date in the Ryman Premier and they must have feared the worst when the home side took the lead in the 6th minute via Spendlove who finished off a delightful move involving Charlie Mpi and Chris Ellerbeck. To their credit the visitors did not allow this setback to unsettle them and they began to enjoy decent spells of possession without unduly troubling Sean Thomas in the home goal The Stones were playing with some threat on the break and could, and perhaps should, have increased their lead on 17 minutes when Ryan Ashe got on the end of a long Lee Chappell throw only to head into the ground and over the bar, and again 6 minutes later when a terrific cross from Chappell was headed over by Ellerbeck with the goal gaping.
It became clear that the Stones were missing O’Leary’s bite in midfield as The Wand picked up an increasing amount of possession in the Wealdstone half and forced Gray and Co to concede free kicks in dangerous positions. However, the equaliser when it arrived on the half hour mark came unexpectedly as the Stones failed to clear their lines and Leigh Bremner was scythed down by Gray in the box for a clear penalty. Colin Lucket drove the ball home from the spot. This spurred the Stones into action and they might have gone back in front twice within a minute when first Mpi and then E’Beyer got in behind the visiting defence but neither could pick out a colleague with an accurate pass and the chances went begging. On the stroke of half time Cray almost made the home side pay for its profligacy as George Porter slipped past Gray, rounded Thomas only to have his goal bound shot saved off the line brilliantly by a retreating Marvin McCoy.
Darren Locke came on for the already booked James Gray for the second half but it was Cray who started the brighter and on 49 minutes Scott Kinch was set up with just Thomas to beat but his slightly screwed shot took a deflection for a corner. And just 3 minutes later The Stones regained the lead when Mark Willy handled a dangerous cross from McCoy and Ryan Ashe duly obliged with a perfectly struck penalty. This should have relaxed the Stones to see out the game comfortably but their play remained disjointed and as Cray scented some reward the match became niggly and riddled with free kicks. It was almost a natural progression that someone would receive their marching orders and Scott Kinch and Rob Fitzgerald duly obliged with a skirmish following the winger’s barge on Sean Thomas. Still Wealdstone failed to wrap up the game as Spendlove, who led the away defence a merry dance all evening, set up chances for Mpi twice and Ellerbeck , all of which were wasted. These misses appeared to have deprived the Stones of 2 valuable points when in the 76th minute Leigh Bremner found himself unmarked in the home defence to head a Lucket cross past an exposed Thomas.
Both managers made substitutions hoping to make the final breakthrough. For The Stones, Ross Lafayette came on for Mpi and Jamie Osbourne for Ellerbeck, but it was The Wand who should have stolen the game 5 minutes from time when Bremner latched on to a long through ball but with just Thomas to beat thumped the ball high and wide. The Stones took full advantage of this let up in the final minute as Spendlove, released by Lafayette, drilled in a cross that the unfortunate Lucket got to ahead of Jamie Osbourne but succeeded only in smashing the ball past the stranded Jack smelt in the away goal.
This match was a perfect illustration of one of football’s perennial but unwritten laws. When you are winning you get the breaks; when you are losing you don’t.
Team: Sean Thomas. Marvin McCoy, Lee Chappell, James Gray, Rob Fitzgerald, Ryan Ashe, Kieron Forbes, Danny Spendlove, Charlie Mpi, Chris Ellerbeck, Mark E’Beyer. Subs Darren Locke, Jamie Osborne, Ross Lafayette, Kenny During, Sam Beagle.