Wealdstone 1 – 1 Cray Wanderers
1 - 1
Following the euphoria of last weekend’s FA Trophy win, Wealdstone returned to league action on Saturday at The Vale with a hard fought point against a very strong and resilient Cray Wanderers side that showed why they have won their last three away matches.
Conditions were difficult with a swirling wind causing problems all afternoon around The Vale, but it was the home side who adapted better in the very early stages; Scott Fitzgerald hooked a shot just over the bar in the fifth minute and a minute later Sean Cronin saw his header crash back off the crossbar from a trademark Lee Chappell throw.
Some loose defending from Stones on 12 minutes then allowed Danny Phillips time and space on the edge of the box, with the striker hitting his shot well over when he should have hit the target.
The Wands were now beginning to get a foothold on proceedings, and Wes Parker found himself in the right place at the right time to block a powerful effort from Leigh Bremner.
As the half progressed Wealdstone were struggling to get a grip on the game and were being pegged back against a very well organised Cray side that seemed able to pass the ball and retain possession with far more effectively than their hosts.
Five minutes before half time Tommy Whitnall was given space on the edge of the box to get a shot away, however luckily for Wealdstone he could only shoot straight at ‘keeper Jonathan North.
Cray then had two great chances to open the scoring five minutes into the second half. First of all Tommy Whitnall dragged a shot across the face of goal before a defensive slip gifted possession to Jack Clark whose effort was well saved by North.
After the re-start the pattern of the first half worryingly continued for Stones as they were continually being forced back and any meaningful forward play was at a premium.
The Wands deservedly took the lead on 58 minutes. Jack Clark hit a venomous effort from the edge of the box which North did well to get a hand to, however he could only palm the ball onto the underside of the crossbar, with Tommy Whitnall on hand to bundle the loose ball home.
But in a moment of drama the Stones hit back immediately with a real captain’s goal from man of the match Wes Parker. David Hicks sent over a great corner kick that was met with a bullet header from the central defender which gave Cray stopper Andy Walker no chance.
The goal gave Wealdstone a massive lift, and substitute Chris O’Leary headed just wide from another corner as Stones looked to seize on the new found momentum and take the lead.
O’Leary, a revelation for Stones in the midfield, had another great chance on 67 minutes, latching onto a through ball from Britt Assombalonga before drilling a shot just wide.
It had been a much improved performance from Stones since the goal; however they still struggled to create clear cut chances against a confident and well organised Cray backline.
The final ten minutes saw both sides attacking in search of a winner, with Cray’s Danny Phillips having the best chance in the last minute of stoppage time, flashing a header just over bar.
Neither side could find the elusive winner and they had to settle for a point a piece in what had been a battling display from Stones as they look to keep in touch with the top five.
After the match Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett said: ‘We looked flat today but we showed character as the game went on and didn’t buckle. We were exposed in the midfield by a very good Cray side whose movement and shape was excellent. We were grateful for the point but we could have nicked it at the end and the substitutions worked well. The lads are very disappointed but we will pick ourselves up and go again on Tuesday at Hendon’
Next up for Wealdstone is a tough looking trip to near neighbours Hendon on Tuesday night, 7:45 kick off.
Wealdstone: North, McCubbin, Chappell, Parker, Cronin, Brooks (
Man of the Match: Wes Parker