Wealdstone 1 Dover Athletic 2
Despite taking an early lead, competing well throughout and matching a table topping Dover Athletic in the physical contest, the sending off of skipper James Gray in the second half ultimately proved too much for Wealdstone on Saturday, and their winning run was halted.
Dover may have experienced a rare defeat in midweek but the task was always going to be formidable for Stones and an away team sheet showing the likes of Andy Hessenthaler and Giullano Grazioli in the starting line up was a stark indication of the strength of their squad and financial resources.
Nevertheless Stones are a far more confident outfit these days and their exuberance showed up in the early exchanges as the home side closed down the Dover midfield and competed strongly all over the park.
Wealdstone took a deserved lead after only 11 minutes play. Following a good attacking move down the slope a foul gave Ryan Ashe the chance to drive in a free kick from a dangerous position on the left of the box. Somehow Ashe’s strike managed to ping off the unfortunate John Keister and past a surprised keeper for 1-0.
It wasn’t long though before the Whites began to get their passing game together and they started to dominate possession as Stones played too deep and their forward pairing of Sordell and Haule increasingly struggled to hold the ball up. Dover found the equaliser on 28 minutes when Stones midfield and defence allowed too much room and John Keister atoned for his earlier blunder by finishing off a smart passage of play by shooting past a startled Sean Thomas who was not as his best in this match, particularly wayward with some kicks.
Ryan Ashe was the pick of the Stones midfield as he constantly harried and probed for openings.
Stones defending was now needed in depth as home attacks became increasingly sporadic and Keiron Forbes was booked for a rash challenge but broke up a good Whites move in the process as the first period drew to a close. But opportunities still presented for Wealdstone; Davis Haule, who struggled to shake off defenders Ball and Shultz all afternoon, shot over. But the best chance fell to 17 year old Marvin Sordell who just couldn’t get a clean strike in a scramble in the goal mouth and missed a real sitter.
The away side picked up where they left off in the second period and their attacking play became more fluent as Stones retreated and became more and more reliant on Carl Martin’s pace and Alan Massey’s aerial abilities to stem the Whites forays down the slope. A tiring James Gray appeared to struggle in this match and was no doubt feeling the effects on his mid week injury; it was Gray who was penalised by an assistant referee for tugging back Grazioli, and the game was effectively over as Stones skipper was given a straight red and his marching orders. Alan Pouton despatched the resulting spot kick giving Thomas no chance.
Stones 10 men battled away bravely for the remainder of the match but Dover were in no mood to give anything away and despite a flurry of substitutions Wealdstone knew their run was over; losing out to a Dover side 6 points clear at the top of the table was certainly no disgrace.
Wealdstone: Thomas, Martin, Chappell, Gray, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Haule, Sordell, Montgomery. Subs used: Clarke, Locke, Spendlove. N/u: McCoy, Hicks.