RYMAN LEAGUE PREMIER: Wealdstone 2 Canvey Island 0
RICHARD Jolly’s goal poacher instincts clinched Wealdstone a home playoff semi-final in what was the final league game of his career on Saturday.
Jolly, who will retire at the end of the season, celebrated what was a rare start in recent weeks with the sort of brace which has seen him clock up 193 goals in two spells with the Stones.
As a result, Gordon Bartlett’s side comfortably saw off Canvey Island and will now host Concord Rangers on Wednesday night with a place in the playoff final the prize on offer for the winners.
The goal scoring legend was one of two changes from Tuesday’s draw with Lowestoft, Darren Locke the other, the duo replacing Tom Pett and skipper Wes Parker who were both nursing injuries.
Kicking uphill into the wind first half, a nervy Stones struggled for fluency, but a bicycle kick from veteran Cliff Akurang which went narrowly wide inside two minutes proved a rare threat from the visitors.
The hosts suffered an early injury blow when Scott McCubbin was caught late by Tommy Kavanagh and had to be helped from the field.
He would later attend the club’s annual presentation evening on crutches after a trip to hospital confirmed ankle ligament damage, ruling him out of the upcoming knockout games.
Despite this setback and a tendency to overplay in their own half, Stones created the better openings.
The excellent Chris Moore saw a low shot saved before slipping in Jolly who was denied by Akurang’s last-ditch tackle just as Stones’ leading marksman was about to pull the trigger.
The resulting 19th minute corner saw a push on Sean Cronin go unpunished, but Moore was soon threatening again, linking up with Alex Dyer before firing a cross shot which Elliott Godfrey could not reach to apply a finishing touch at the far post.
The former Brentford striker tested Ashlee Jones again just beyond the half hour, while another effort found the side netting.
At the other end Stones’ problems were mainly of their own making, Banks dallying on a Cronin back-pass and almost giving an opening to Bradley Woods-Garness before Lee Chappell came to the rescue to clear.
There was one more scare on 40 minutes when Kavanagh’s long range fizzer was beaten out by Banks, but it was the last seen of Canvey as an attacking force for a considerable while as wind behind them Stones dominated down the slope after the break.
Chappell as so often this season was the catalyst with a great run to the left by-line followed by a cross Godfrey’s touch was just unable to direct on target.
Undeterred, Chappell’s second surge forced the corner which proved Jolly’s cue to break the deadlock on 51 minutes.
The set-piece was played in from the left to Peter Dean who flicked on and in typical style Jolly arrived at the far post for a two-yard tap in.
Dyer was close to a second two minutes later with a rasping drive which flew just wide and 60 seconds later the ever threatening Moore saw his bicycle kick land on the roof of the net.
Jolly lashed wide as the search for the killer second goal continued, but his next contribution on 69 minutes would settle any lingering nerves.
It was a bit route one, but James Hammond’s long punt caught Richard Orlu in two minds and under pressure from Jolly the big defender’s header back was always falling short.
Jolly had gambled and run beyond the centre-half and was able to lob the ball beyond the advancing Jones and into the far corner.
Woods-Garness twice went close to a consolation late on as Canvey’s toothless attack finally stirred, but by then it was target achieved as far as Stones were concerned.
The thrills of the playoffs await Stones fans – see you Wednesday night.