Wealdstone 2 – 1 Tonbridge Angels
2 - 1
Rarely in the non-league football does one witness a moment of pure genius that stands equal to anything the professional game has produced over the years in its acclaimed archive of wonder goals.
But such a moment occurred barely 10 seconds into the second half of a taught and frantic play-off encounter on Thursday evening. Young Northern Ireland international striker Matt McClure strode a few paces down the pitch straight from the kick-off and in one sweet movement struck the ball with his left foot into the top corner from fully 45 yards. Not only a fantastic and memorable strike but maybe, just maybe, the goal that gives Wealdstone the impetus to take them into a play-off position.
This is the stuff of football dreamland but the reality is, when all the cheering and emotion dies down, Stones have to do it all again on Saturday against Carshalton. And with Aveley also winning their crucial match against Horsham on Thursday, even a further win may not be enough. Not that McClure or his team mates will care; they will saviour the moment and this was a super win against a very good Angels side that fought like tigers throughout.
With Danny Spendlove surprisingly included after his injury on Tuesday, Wealdstone kicked up the slope in the first period looking ready for a prolonged battle for supremacy against an in-form Tonbridge side in the knowledge that a draw or defeat would end any thoughts of the play-offs.
Stones were quickly producing some good passing moves with Ryan Ashe looking much livelier than of late and combining well with Matt McClure who shot over from a good Ngoyi ball early on.
But Tonbridge were always looking to hit Stones on the break and were working the flanks well with Kirk Watts catching the eye down the right.
And after only 12 minutes the away side rocked Stones by taking the game by the scruff and opening the scoring in a swift and incisive counter attack. From Watts excellent cross, big Lee Minshull caught Sean Thomas in no mans land and headed over him and into the net.
As on Tuesday, Thomas came to the rescue on several occasions with some great stops, not least from a powerful Jay May strike that would have killed the game before it had really got going.
Stones soon hit back and showed their mettle and appetite to tough the game out. From a good Danny Spendlove free-kick, Angel’s keeper Lee Worgan got down to scoop the ball away. Matt McClure smashed at goal but Worgan produced an excellent save and the ball was cleared to safety.
Stones soaked up more pressure and Darren Locke and Alan Massey had their hands full containing the awkward Meshach Nugent.
The equaliser came after 24 minutes and once again it came from one of Lee Chappell’s terrific long throws. In the ensuing havoc, the ball was only cleared as far as McClure who hit powerfully across Worgan and the ball went in off the far post.
Stones then dominated until just before half time when from a corner Minshull was unlucky with a powerful header that smashed off the cross bar
McClure’s wonder strike had the ground bouncing as the 411 crowd had hardly time to realise the game had restarted.
Understandably, the away side appeared shell shocked and took time to recover from this unexpected early hammer blow. But to Tonbridge’s credit they clawed themselves back into the game with some high tempo play and largely dominated the remainder of a long, long half.
Jay May almost headed in but an alert Thomas somehow managed to block the ball. As Stones back peddled under increasing pressure they conceded far too many fouls and corners but time and again Massey and Locke repelled the aerial bombardment.
Marvin McCoy and Chappell also played their part in clearing up attacks with their pace and aggression.
Stones were now restricted to the occasional counter but Ngoyi and McClure worked hard and with effect – Ngoyi at last being able to flick some balls on to feed a hungry McClure.
Frantic stuff now as Angels desperately tried to get a goal back. Nugent almost stole in with 15 minutes left as the defence were for once caught out but somehow the ball was cleared.
Referee Alf Field added 5 minutes stoppage as nerves became increasingly frayed and Tonbridge became more frantic and overplayed the ball.
Stones held out and the home crowd celebrated a huge win and…that goal. What a buzz!
Wealdstone: Thomas, McCoy, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Ashe, Logie, O’Leary, McClure, Ngoyi, Spendlove. Subs used: Forbes, Mpi. N/u: Osborne, Fitzgerald, Lavers.
MoM: Matt McClure