Wealdstone 0 – 1 Aveley
0 - 1
Wealdstone’s brave play-off adventure effectively came to an end on Thursday evening as they lost out to rivals Aveley who greatly enhanced their own ambitions by taking all three precious points on offer.
Miracles in football can sometimes happen, but when Stones only effective striker came off the pitch with a hamstring after 20 minutes the writing was on the wall and writ large. Stones attack has stopped putting the ball into the net with anything like enough frequency for some weeks now and the loss of Callum Martin, himself not exactly prolific, is a huge blow. And Stones measly three shots on target during 90 minutes play said it all and was scant reward for an otherwise hard working and committed performance.
With 4 matches remaining against the likes of Horsham, Champions Dartford and Tonbridge it will indeed take something special – akin to a miraculous goal fest – for Stones to gather enough points to make the 5th and lowest play-off spot.
This is not about waving the white flag this is all about footballing realism, the quite ludicrous circumstances of having to play 4 games a week -this week and next- and the overriding lack of financial resources available to Gordon Bartlett to enable him to go out and secure one or two more experienced players earlier in the season. And top of the shopping list for next season will surely be a front player who is capable of holding the ball up and perhaps another creative midfielder.
If work rate, defensive commitment, team spirit and endeavour could win matches by itself Stones would then be surely looking down on the rest of the league but sadly these attributes alone are rarely sufficient to win games consistently. And so it was against an Aveley side that is cocking a snook at the rest of the league and deservedly so on this showing.
Wealdstone started brightly enough playing into a strong wind that would have a big influence on the match and won an early free kick. But Aveley soon hit back and had a powerful shot deflected over after only 5 minutes.
The away side had a set back early on when their centre back Adam Bailey-Dennis had to be replaced by Tony Russell.
But in was Wealdstone that looked the liveliest for the first 25 minutes and a great run from Callum Martin deserved better but Kieron Forbes screwed his cross wildly over.
But as soon as Martin hobbled off after only 20 minutes, replaced by 18 year old Jamie Osborne, there was a realisation that this was a real blow to Wealdstone’s striking potency.
Charlie Mpi shot into the side netting and the conscientious Jamie Osborne who generally chased shadows all night blazed over but still Stones were largely in control and had the majority of possession. And with the pace of the restored Marvin McCoy their defence looked solid.
Aveley were winning too many free kicks and corners as the half entered its final quarter with their hit man Martin Tuohy looking dangerous when freed up. Danny Spendlove somehow managed to clear a goal bound effort off the line just after the half hour mark and the warnings signs were there for all to see.
Tony Russell almost stole in at the far post for the away side from a corner as Stones looked increasingly vulnerable – this stemming from their frustrating inability to hold the ball up when high up the pitch.
On 39 minutes Aveley took the lead. From a well struck corner the wind assisted ball was zipped in and it eluded everyone including Sean Thomas and entered the net inside the far post; Matt Johnson the scorer.
Within seconds of the restart and the wind now at Stones backs the hard working Chris O’Leary blazed over from a well won Mpi cross.
The home side upped their already high work rate and stated to pump the ball into the box or as near as they could get to it but time and again Mpi and Osborne were unable to hold the ball sufficiently long enough for support players to join the attack.
Louis Lavers came on for Danny Spendlove and as Stones play became increasingly frantic, Aveley cynically, but unsurprisingly, started to slow play up with an eye very much now on the clock.
Aveley’s threat was now reduced to the occasional counter attack but when they did break out it was effective and economical. Stones survived a goal bound effort mid half which was headed off the line.
Wealdstone came closest to drawing level when Darren Locke who had another excellent game managed a great strike from outside the box that looked to be heading for the far corner but instead the ball bounced off the cross bar.
Substitute Matt McClure was thrown on as Stones pushed three up in an attempt to claw something out of the game but the away defence repelled everything that was thrown at them which tended to be high and hopeful balls into the box.
The match and Stones hopes fizzled out and it was Aveley that sickeningly celebrated their win that takes them into a strong but unexpected play off position.
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Logie, Forbes, O’Leary, Mpi, Martin, Spendlove. Subs used: Osborne, Lavers, McClure. N/u: Fitzgerald, Beagle (GK)