Report - Wealdstone 2 - 1 Hemel Hempstead T
Wealdstone produced a sensational second half display to comeback and defeat Hemel Hempstead at The Vale on Saturday, dramatically securing a coveted place in the National League South play-offs against Bath City.
The Stones fell behind to The Tudors with a first half goal from forward Jason Williams, but two stunning second half strikes from Freddie Grant and Jake Sheppard ensured a thrilling finale to the match, enabling Wealdstone to finish in seventh position, capturing a play-off place.
Hemel Hempstead started the game brightly, creating a goal scoring opportunity within the first minute, as Williams struck a shot that flew just wide of the far post. He followed this up in the 7th minute, latching onto a through ball to break away from the Wealdstone defence and dink a shot goal-bound. However, Jonathan North was equal to the effort, producing a brilliant save to deny the visitors an early lead.
In the 12th minute, The Stones generated their first save from keeper Laurie Walker; a free kick on the edge of the box from Daniel Green, initially cleared; was followed up by a testing cross from Sheppard, but Grant’s subsequent effort was comfortably saved by Walker.
Three minutes later, Green was involved in instigating further attacking play for Wealdstone; dispossessing Kavan Cotter and switching play to Tarryn Allarakhia on the left wing, whose resultant shot was well-saved by Walker.
As the first half progressed, The Tudors continued to dominate. In the 16th minute, Williams seized on Kyle Connolly’s low cross, generating a fantastic point-blank save from North with his shot.
Wealdstone’s most prominent first half chance came in the 31st minute as the industrious and tenacious Godfrey Poku produced two successive excellent tackles to gain possession for The Stones, teeing up Shepherd, but he snatched his effort high and wide.
Hemel Hempstead were rewarded for their persistence in the 36th minute, as a through ball was played to Williams, who beat The Stones’ offside trap to produce a classy finish; chipping the ball over North from outside of the box to give the visitors the lead.
As the first half drew to a close, Wealdstone rallied for an equaliser, galvanising notable chances through Sheppard and Green, which brought fine saves from Walker.
The Stones started the second half in emphatic fashion, equalising in the 47th minute through superb play from fullback Grant. Allarakhia produced an excellent pass to thread the ball through to a surging Grant; his cross rebounded off of the post, but he followed up brilliantly, coolly blasting the ball past Walker to draw the match level.
Spurred by the goal, Wealdstone began to dominate the tempo of play and dictate proceedings, taking the lead in the 56th minute, through a sublime goal from Sheppard. Grant was involved once again, combining with the influential Green to assist Sheppard, who chipped the ball past Walker into the top corner from outside the box.
Intent on closing out the match, The Stones pushed for a third goal, with Sheppard, Poku, and Smith going agonisingly close to providing a two-goal cushion.
Resolute defending from Wealdstone; in particular, goliath performances from the central defensive pairing of Jerome Okimo and Connor Stevens, ensured that the Stones held onto the lead; securing a vital three points to finish in seventh position, earning a place in the National League South play-offs.
Wealdstone leapfrog into 7th place after 42 games in the National League South, the next game is a play-off eliminator against Bath City at Twerton Park on Wednesday 1st May at 7:45pm.
Wealdstone: North, Tyler, Grant, Stevens, Okimo, Poku, Allarakhia (Monakana, 49), Smith, Brown (Pratt, 71), Green, Sheppard. Subs not used, Azeez, Clark, Mensah.
Report by Nicole Cho-Yee
Adam Williams Match pics can be viewed HERE
Post-Match Interview with Bobby Wilkinson is available HERE