Wealdstone 1 Croydon Athletic 0
Prior to the match Wealdstone Manager Gordon Bartlett had described this FA Trophy first qualifying round encounter against Ryman Division 1 opponents as ‘crucial’ coming as it did on the back of a succession of poor results with Stones last win almost a month ago.
Stones have played far better and lost this season but they dug in against a stubborn and hard tackling Croydon side that to their credit never rolled over against Premier level opponents.
Athletic’s Joel Greaves almost gave his side a shock lead after only a minute but headed wide. Stones gradually played their way into this tie but their persistent problem of a lack of a cutting edge again let them down. With pacy on loan front man Gavin James not available Stones relied on Ben Alexander and Stephen Hughes but they found that their lack of speed in space, and movement, reduced the threat to the Rams diminutive looking back line. In another change, Marvin McCoy came in for the suspended James Gray.
Somewhat against the run of play Stones finally made the break through. From a corner, right on the half time whistle, man of the match Chris O’Leary flicked a great header past a startled Michael Lidbury to give Stones the lead.
Wealdstone brought on Ben Clarke for Ben Alexander at the restart and this livened up the home side’s attacking capability with some much needed pace. Stones quickly began to look far more threatening and chances started to materialise. In their best spell of the match Stones had several excellent opportunities to increase their lead. The rejuvenated O’Leary had another header cleared off the line and then the ever busy Kieron Forbes struck a superb effort from distance that Lidbury did well to finger tip over for a corner. Substitute Nick Salapatas did well to carve out a clear opening for the on running Ryan Ashe but his effort hit the upright. Alan Massey then headed over when well placed. A bout of handbags and petulance from both sides added to the entertainment value mid half although young Salapatas needed to calm down after an unnecessary booking.
Joel Greaves continued to look the most effective forward for a physical away side but after Luke Woods saved magnificently, Croydon’s luck was out and Stones won comfortably enough in the end thanks to a much improved second half display.
Stones will collect £2,300 FA prize fund monies from this much needed win and will be looking out for a decent 2nd round qualifying draw to be made on Monday (20 October) at Soho Square.
A friendly match will be played at the Vale on Tuesday (21 October) against either AFC Hayes or Aylesbury, kick off 7.45pm.
Wealdstone: Woods, McCoy, Chappell, Martin, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, Alexander, Hughes, Montgomery. Subs used: Clarke, Salapatas. Not used: Hicks, Locke, Thomas.