Hastings United 2 – 0 Wealdstone
2 - 0
Wealdstone came away from the Pilot Field on Saturday with their tails firmly between their legs with an opening day reverse and can only have themselves to blame for a performance that, ultimately, got precisely what it deserved – nil poi.
In a disappointingly tense and stuttering display Stones consistently struggled to get to grips with their new formation which has been designed to add protection to the back line but in truth no system will work if the ball is not passed crisply and with penetration and this was not the case at Hastings on a near perfect playing surface. Needless to say, Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett was a not a happy man after the match and said: ‘We were flat all afternoon and looked very tense. It is all very well calling ourselves a passing team but actually you have to pass the ball, we didn’t and we made it too easy for the opposition. I am very disappointed at that performance’
Nevertheless there were plus points to be gleaned from an afternoon where Wealdstone were often forced onto the back foot and under pressure from a big and well organised U’s side eager to impress the 563 crowd. Ironically it was the back line that generally coped well – particularly in the air with Sean Cronin and Wes Parker dominating. Young ‘keeper Jonathan North also impressed after an understandably nervy start making several excellent saves – one outstanding stop in the first period was surely responsible for the clean sheet at the interval.
Stones were dealt a double blow prior to kick off with the news that both Peter Dean (ill) and Sean Thomas (ankle reaction) were not available, started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Greg Ngoyi playing behind Scott Fitzgerald up front. The away side were soon under pressure with a tentative punched clearance from North and then Fitzgerald was back helping his defence with a vital stop. The U’s main attacking threat came from Ade Olorunda who was almost unplayable on the floor at times until he tired in the second period and Stones did well to contain him getting his strikes away.
Stones tried manfully to get going but too often lost possession in the vital midfield areas; their best chance of the half came after 13 minutes when Fitzgerald expertly held the ball up and played in Ngoyi whose fierce strike was just wide of the mark past Clark Masters. Kieron Forbes was playing in an unfamiliarly deep midfield position and looked out of sorts as did Ryan Ashe and Mark E’Beyer and this hampered any attacking intent from the away side. North then brought off two outstanding saves in the space of 3 minutes – one from Olorunda brought generous applause from the crowd. The home side then went close again but Stones held out for 0-0 at the interval.
Stones switched play around in the second period with Forbes playing further forward but it was the home side that made the breakthrough on 60 minutes. Sean Cronin blotted his copybook by giving away an unnecessary free kick wide on the left. The resultant free kick was whipped in and Centre Half Sean Ray glanced a header past a helpless North. Five minutes later the game was effectively over as home substitute Kenny Pogue broke clear and the striker crashed a shot in off the cross bar for 0-2.
Wealdstone rang the changes using all available replacements with Danny Burnell and Danny Spendlove joining Chris O’Leary in the fray. Stones did perk up with some better forward moves but the damage had been done and they were left to reflect on a frustrating day at the seaside – and this was certainly not a day for Stones to be beside it.
Stones will need to roll their sleeves up for their home opener against Tooting & Mitchum United on Monday evening (23 August) at The Vale KO 7.45pm
Wealdstone: North, Lavers, Chappell, Parker, Cronin, Ashe, Brooks, E’Beyer, Ngoyi, Fitzgerald, Forbes. Subs used: O’Leary, Spendlove, Burnell. N/u: Locke