Report - Hitchin Town 2 - 3 Wealdstone
Wealdstone travelled to Top Field to play Southern League Premier Division Central side Hitchin Town, as they continued their pre-season preparations with another friendly fixture.
A brilliant brace from striker Ross Lafayette, along with a delightful long-range curling effort from last season’s Under-18s star, Eric Lopes; ensured that the Stones secured a promising victory.
Manager Dean Brennan started with a strong side to face the Canaries; this included new signings Ryan Sellers and Reece Beckles-Roberts who were returning from injury, as well as goalkeeper Theo Richardson, and midfielder Billy Clifford.
The match started brightly, with some positive early exchanges, as both sides looked to take an early advantage. Wealdstone tested the Hitchin Town goalkeeper within the second minute of play, as Clifford struck an impressive long-range half-volley, but Charlie Horlock was able to save well for the Canaries.
In the tenth minute, the Stones were duly rewarded for their early pressure. Clifford, who had already started to dominate the midfield by spraying passes and breaking up play, won a freekick for Wealdstone on the right-wing. Set piece specialist Danny Green whipped a teasing cross into the Canaries’ box, and Lafayette rose highest to powerfully head home for the visitors.
A minute later, Hitchin Town were able to equalise. A miss communication between goalkeeper Richardson and defender Nick Arnold resulted in the latter accidentally heading into his own net.
Keen to assert their authority on the game, the Stones pushed for another goal to take the lead – going agonisingly close in the 27th minute. A great passage of play from Wealdstone saw Clifford produce a fantastic lofted through ball to the energetic Dennon Lewis, whose pace and skill enabled him to beat his defender and drive a low cross into the Canaries’ box. The lively Lafayette anticipated well, smashing his effort goal bound, with only the post preventing to him adding to his tally.
In the 41st minute, Wealdstone struck the post again. Green produced another excellent free kick, finding Sellers at the back post, whereby he was able to header it back dangerously across goal for Lafayette. The dynamic striker then produced a superb spin in the box, to turn and fire goal bound, with only the near post denying the Stones from taking a lead into half-time.
The second half started in a positive fashion for Wealdstone as they began to find further fluidity in their attacking play. In the 53rd minute, patient build-up play and cohesive passing between Clifford and Green set Lafayette through on goal. His powerful first-time strike was saved well by Horlock, and then headed off of the line by defender Alex Anderson.
A minute later, the Stones were rewarded for their dominance and persistence, with the influential Green the provider once again; his whipped corner finding Lafayette, who was able to clinically head home past Horlock to seize the lead.
Hitchin Town demonstrated their resilience in the 64th minute, coming from behind again to draw the scores level. Positive play from Scott Belgrove on the right-wing enabled him to cut the ball back to Charlie Thake. He then produced a fantastic finish; striking from long-range into the top corner past Stones’ goalkeeper Richardson.
In the 70th minute, Wealdstone came close to restoring their lead as a superb surging run from substitute Sanchez Watt found Lafayette, who played in Connor Smith, but Canaries’ goalkeeper Horlock produced a fantastic save with his right leg to deny the midfielder.
The Stones were finally rewarded for their dominance, attacking pace, and creativity, as a wonderful counter attack was finished in superb style by youngster Lopes. Great hold up play from Watt, found Green, allowing him to produce his third assist of the match as he sent Lopes through on goal. Lopes cut back onto his right foot, and curled a stunning strike past Horlock into the top corner.
In the dying minutes of the game, Arnold came agonisingly close to opening his goal scoring account for Wealdstone, produced a thunderous long-range effort which rebounded off of the crossbar.
The Stones return to action at the Vale on Tuesday 16th July at 7:30pm with another pre-season fixture against Colchester United.
Wealdstone: Richardson, Arnold, Sellers (Cook, 59), Clifford (Switters, 59), Offuso, Okimo, Beckles-Richards (Watt, 59), Smith, Lafayette, Green, Lewis (Lopes, 59). Subs not used: Paterson.
Report by Nicole Cho-Yee