WEALDSTONE’S dreams of Wembley were dashed at the final hurdle as a second leg comeback against Conference Newport proved beyond them.
Gordon Bartlett’s men had recorded wins over Barrow and Darford at the Vale in a magical run to the last four, but the former league side proved a step too far despite another gutsy effort.
The underdogs will look back on chances for Richard Jolly in the first half and Scott McCubbin in the second as points when the miracle might have materialised, but in truth the Welsh visitors looked more in control than they had in the first leg seven days earlier.
With the trio of Chris O’Leary, Connor Smith and Alan Massey back from suspension Bartlett reverted to the XI who pulled started the quarter-final triumph at Cambridge for this do-or-die bid for Wembley.
The underdogs, kicking up the slope, made a nervy start, but Darryl Knights’ weak shot on three minutes was comfortably held by North Stones first real sniff came on 14 minutes when O’Leary climbed highest to head Kurtney Brooks’ free-kick narrowly wide.
Seconds later Brooks escaped down the right, his cross was flicked on by O’Leary, but Glyn Thompson grabbed the ball before Richard Jolly could pounce.
A third chance in two minutes then came the hosts’ way as Peter Dean found Jolly 14 yards out and his smart shot on the turn forced Thompson to palm behind.
Stones continued to blossom on 22 minutes when Thompson’s mishit clearance fell to Lee Chappell’s but the winger’s delivery was agonizingly too far ahead of Smith. However just 60 seconds later at the other end North was forced to parry behind Elliott Buchanan’s curler at full stretch.
Hearts were back in Stones mouths on the half hour as McCubbin was penalised for a push on Jarvis and the resulting free-kick led to another set-piece right on the edge, which could easily have been a penalty. Foley’s shot look destined for the bottom corner, but North kept Stones in it by clawing the shot to safety.
The hosts had been under the cosh for 10 minutes when a big chance to take the lead came on the counter.
Wes Parker led the charge and set Jolly in on goal on the left side of the pitch, but the usually deadly strike shot weakly at Thompson.
First-half stoppage-time saw Smith escape with just a yellow for a late challenge on Gary Warren and it remained goal-less at the break.
As the hosts threw more men forward after the break David Pipe’s tackle set Newport on a three versus one counter attack, but North again sprinted from his line to keep hopes alive with a great save to deny Nat Jarvis.
Bartlett threw Fitzgerald on in place of Dean and O’Leary was close again minutes later with a flick header wide Stones desperately needed inspiration and McCubbin could have produced it 20 minutes from time when he played a long one-two with Jolly only to blast over on the volley from eight yards out.
North denied Foley and Rose as ac desperate Stones left gaps in search of a goal which never came And Buchanan struck the bar in stoppage-time as Wealdstone reluctantly kissed their Wembley dreams goodbye.