Banbury United 0 – 0 Wealdstone
0 - 0
Wealdstone and Banbury will have to meet again on Tuesday night at The Vale after the sides were unable to be separated during a tense and often scrappy FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round at The Spencer Stadium on Saturday.
On the balance of play a draw was probably the right result, although Watford loanee Britt Assombalonga came within inches of netting a dramatic late winner on his Wealdstone debut, however his powerfully struck effort crashed off the crossbar, denying him what surely would have been the goal to send Stones through to the next round.
With a strong wind swirling round the stadium, it was the hosts who adapted to the tricky conditions early on with Stones struggling to get their foot on the ball and the front pairing of Richard Jolly and Scott Fitzgerald being virtual spectators during the opening ten minutes.
It was during this tough opening period that the Stones rearguard had to be at their most alert, repelling no fewer than five Banbury corners in quick succession as the home side pressed forward.
Captain Wes Parker once again led by example all afternoon, and the former Grimsby defender made a great block tackle to deny Will Green as the dangerous striker honed in on goal following a great ball from Simeon Williams.
But Wealdstone soon began to get a foothold on proceedings, and only a brave block from Tommy Kinch denied Jolly when the striker cut inside and hit a goal bound effort after some good link up play with striker partner Fitzgerald.
The lively Will Green was still causing problems at the other end, and Jonathan North did well to save at the striker’s feet on 32 minutes, with a combination of James Hammond and Wes Parker clearing the loose ball as the former Northampton man tried desperately to retrieve it.
With the game heading towards half time, Kurtney Brooks had Wealdstone’s best effort thus far, stinging the hands of Banbury ‘keeper Andy Kemp with a low drive from 20 yards with Liam Dolman then clearing with Jolly in close attention.
Stones began the second half the brighter of the two sides and will feel they should have taken the lead three minutes after the restart. Fitzgerald played a superb raking cross field pass to Jolly who found himself one on one. The striker managed got his shot away; however uncharacteristically for him it flew the wrong side of the post.
As the half wore on, both sides were finding it increasingly difficult to create any clear chances, both being limited to shots from distance.
Wealdstone made a double substitution just after the hour mark, with the returning Chris O’Leary coming on in place of David Hicks, and Britt Assombalonga being introduced for his debut in place of Scott Fitzgerald.
The introduction of Assombalonga introduced more pace to the Wealdstone front line, as the youngster looked lively and worked hard, obviously wanting to make a rapid impression
Despite this, it was now Banbury who were looking more likely to score, with substitute Danny Edmond firing a shot straight at North, before Josh Cole saw his goal bound header well cleared by Brooks.
It was during the last ten minutes that both sides had their best chances of the afternoon. On 82 minutes Green burst into the box and flashed a great ball across to Glenn Walker. Walker had the goal gaping in front of him with North in no man’s land, however with Stones defender Sean Cronin in close attention, he could only head over.
With only three minutes left to play Stones then had best their chance to win the contest. Scott McCubbin threaded a neat ball through to Assombalonga, who hit a powerful effort on the bounce. The shot had Kemp beaten all ends up however unfortunately for the away side the ball smashed off the crossbar and away to safety.
With neither side being able to snatch the winner, the tie now goes to an intriguing replay on Tuesday night (29 November) at The Vale, 7.45 kick off. By then both sides will know who they may face in the First Round Proper as the draw will be made at FA HQ on Monday
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Massey, Parker, Cronin, Dyer, Hicks (O’Leary 61), Brooks, Fitzgerald (Assombalonga 61), Jolly, McCubbin. Subs not used: Ahamed, Dean, Adjei
By Stuart Warren