Margate 1 – 1 Wealdstone
1 - 1
Wealdstone substitute Scott Fitzgerald grabbed a typically instinctive but audacious second-half goal cancelling out the home sides lead in a rain soaked and often dour struggle in the FA Trophy at Hartsdown Park on Saturday. In the process Stones at least go into the draw for the 3rd Round qualifying at FA Headquarters on Monday, but now face a replay on Tuesday evening (8th November) at The Vale, kick –off 7.45pm.
Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett used a 4-5-1 formation for this Cup tie, hoping to exploit the flanks on the expansive Hartsdown pitch; crucial to the success of these tactics would be the form and effective forward play of the talented but enigmatic Danny Spendlove and, equally, the tricky wide play of Nikki Ahamed. In the event neither player really made the required impact, despite a good start, and both were eventually substituted with a change back to a punchier 4-4-2 in the second half.
In truth this was a stuttering performance from Wealdstone who never really looked like using their superior possession to find the net enough times to win the match. The home side were neat and tidy and bombed forward effectively but were no world beaters and were there for the taking at the first time of asking. Once again, Stones had to call upon the stopping talents of former Watford ‘keeper Jonathan North who was called upon to make some excellent saves as the away side withstood some severe late pressure.
But the 120 travelling Stones supporters had high hopes in the early stages of the tie as Stones soon began to get into their stride with some decent passing play. The away side’s fluency won several early corners and initially Spendlove and Ahamed enjoyed some freedom out on the flanks creating problems for a well organised Gate back line.
Sean Cronin shot just over from a corner, and then Richard Jolly almost stole in from an astute ball into the box. North was called into action for the first time with a good stop 6 minutes from the interval, but just two minutes later poor defending allowed Gate’s Richard Avery to pick up a loose ball and smash the ball past North to rock Stones 0-1 at the worst possible time.
As conditions worsened in the driving rain Stones attacking efforts picked up with the physical and experienced presence of substitute Scott Fitzgerald, on for Spendlove soon after the turnaround. But Stones were under increasing pressure from Margate who sensed an early second goal to kill the game off. Fitzgerald had other intentions though and against the run of play the aggressive striker turned just inside the box and sweetly lobbed the ball over Simon Overland with spectacular ease on 50 minutes.
Stones briefly gained the ascendancy and looked to get the ball forward and when Scott McCubbin came on for Ahamed this seemed to provide a more effective outlet. But the former Burton Albion man wasted several good opportunities with over hit balls into the box leaving Jolly with far too much to do.
As Stones possession waned, Margate pushed on and pegged back the weary looking visitors; in the closing stages the home side forced a series of corners – 5 in succession at one point – but all were well defended to Stones credit.
With the tie on a knife edge it was Stones that held out for 1-1 with a final great save from North.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Chappell, Massey, Cronin, Dyer, Ahamed (McCubbin 60), Hicks (O’Leary 76), Brooks, Jolly, Spendlove (Fitzgerald46).
Subs not used: Dean, Beagle.
By Nick DuGard