Wealdstone 0 -3 AFC Hornchurch
0 - 3
Wealdstone made their traditionally poor start to the New Year on Saturday with a disappointing home defeat to play-off contenders AFC Hornchurch who once again appear to be able to finance a team capable of moving forward rapidly despite their re-formation only a few short seasons ago.
But credit where credit is due. Stones were undoubtedly outplayed for the big majority of this clash by a physically stronger and sharper looking team on the day and can really have very few complaints and the home fans in the 506 holiday crowd were unable to be lifted and ignite their team on a gloomy and dank New Year’s day in Ruislip.
Stones had almost a full squad to pick from following December’s injuries and suspensions but notably were without the unavailable Danny Spendlove who, had he been on the park, may well have provided the trickery and pace on the flack to unlock and get behind a very solid Urchins back line that looked almost impenetrable most of the afternoon.
Nevertheless Wealdstone started more brightly than their Essex opponents and moved the ball around sweetly at times and with some purpose but it was evident that it was going to need something above the ordinary to worry AFC’s keeper Darren Behcet.
Scott Fitzgerald was given an opportunity by Stones Boss Gordon Bartlett to demonstrate his experience and forward prowess following his long suspension but sadly his contribution was limited as he once again found scant opportunity in a league where total fitness is a must and time on the ball can be measured in milliseconds. The booked Fitzgerald was eventually substituted at half-time due to a nasty looking injury, rather than form, and was replaced by Greg Ngoyi.
Stones were enjoying a decent spell early doors and Peter Dean’s shot viciously into the side netting and was unlucky not to find the target after a great Lee Chappell through ball on 17 minutes.
But the Urchins began to seriously threaten after Stone’s 20 minutes in the ascendancy, and it took a fantastic recovery save from Jonathan North to prevent them from taking the lead after Tanbeson Eyong thought he must score with the net gaping prior to the half-hour mark.
The Urchins No 10 and best player, Lewis Smith, was an increasing menace in and around the Stones box; for the home side, Fitzgerald’s best effort of the half came when he headed just over from James Hammonds excellent cross from the right.
Hornchurch made the breakthrough on 32 minutes when Smith side footed home past the despairing dive of North after good work from Martin Tuohy – but Alan Massey will know he should for once have done better with his defending.
Within 5 minutes the away side doubled their lead when Billy Coyne stooped to nod in from a searching cross and suddenly Stones were in real trouble.
Wealdstone responded with a Peter Dean strike after a good build up move but the half ended with the away side in dominant mood.
The second half never really got going for the home side and such was the Urchin’s strangle hold on the game that it was almost a containment exercise, with the away team constantly playing up the slope looking to kill the game off and not in the mood to present any slip-ups or half chances to Ngoyi or Dean who hadn’t got any change out of Elliot Styles and Rickey Hayles all afternoon.
Finally after 64 minutes play, Stones did receive a chance when Hammond whipped in a great cross from the right flank but the ball was powered in at such pace that Ngoyi was just unable to stretch out at the near post to steer the ball past Behcet. Wes Parker almost netted an og past a red faced North moments later but the former Grimsby man made a great recovery tackle to prevent a certain goal at the cost of a mere corner.
Stones best chance to pull a goal back came with 5 minutes of normal time remaining when Chappell agonisingly missed the ball at the far post with Behcet exposed. But the home side’s miserable start to the New Year was confirmed deep into added time when substitute Michael Ramkin bundled the ball past North after fellow sub Joe Benjamin had gone close on two occasions with Stones stretched to the limit in their attempts to get the ball forward.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Chappell, Parker, Massey, Dyer, Dean, O’Leary, Cronin, Fitzgerald, Brooks. Subs used: Ngoyi, Gill, Long. N/u: Lavers, Leggett (GK)
Wealdstone MoM: Jonathan North