Wealdstone 4 Staines Town 3
In a hugely entertaining match played out in atrocious blizzard like conditions, Wealdstone blitzed high flying Staines to take a three goal lead in the first half, only to end up hanging in the second when Staines roared back and almost snatched a point.
Stones lost striker Stephen Hughes to injury and drafted in an unlikely replacement in the form of Skipper and centre half James Gray with Darren Locke coming in to the side from the reserves where he has been in impressive form. But Gray certainly didn’t look out of place and had a magnificent aerial game up front creating chances for Gavin James and was a constant threat to a Staines side that seemed unable to stem the tide of Stones attacks for virtually all of a first half where the home side was totally dominant.
The first period started as it finished with Wealdstone attacking fluently down the slope and Gavin James just failed to take full advantage of a great early chance when he got in front of a defender. Ashe then had a decent shot but was booked soon after as matters became as frosty as the conditions as he tussled with the diminutive Andre Scarlett. Both players were yellow carded. Graeme Montgomery had an impressive first half and was in the thick of the action and his attacking effoertsd were rewarded on 21 minutes when he opened the scoring. A great lay off from James gave Monty time and space to take aim with his left foot and the ball flew in off the cross bar to give Stones a deserved lead.
Wealdstone, with the strengthening wind and at that point, rain, at their backs, continued to pressurise the Swans back line. It came as no real surprise when Gavin James was able to claim a clear cut spot kick after he had been brought down by Swans keeper Louis Wells. James’ penalty was well struck and was initially blocked by Wells but the unfortunate keeper was unable to gather the ball and James followed up to tap into an unguarded net for 2-0 on 35 minutes.
Stones were rampant and piled forward at every opportunity. Wells pulled off a super save from a Ryan Ashe strike and then calamity struck for the Swans when the ball was blasted back into their penalty area by a defender and James Gray darted in to smash the ball home for 3-0 just minutes before the break.
Snow amazingly started to fall heavily at the start of the second half but Stones got off to a flyer. After only two minutes play Ryan Ashe struck a perfectly executed free kick that evaded everyone including Wells and Stones were incredibly 4-0 to the good. With Staines now facing total humiliation they finally awoke from their slumbers and started to play and take advantage of the conditions, just as Stones had done in the first period.
Darren Locke clumsily brought down a Swans forward only minutes later and Dave Sargent stepped up to blast the spot kick past Luke Woods for 4-1. With the snow driving down the slope Staines sensed a chink of hope and started to pass the ball far more crisply and effectively. And when Alan Massey made a rash challenge to repeat Locke’s earlier misdemeanour Staines tails were well and truly up. Sargent did the honours again from the spot for the Swans. Stones sensed the spectre of an ugly come back and rapidly started to lose possession and composure all over the park. On 65 minutes another rash challenge gave Swan’s Elliot Onochie a chance with a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the 18 yard line. The Staines No 10 took his chance and expertly flighted the ball over and around a helpless Woods into the far corner of the net for 4-3. Conditions continued to deteriorate as play from both sides became increasingly unpredictable and, at times, desperate as legs understandly tired.
With 20 minutes to go Stones manager threw on Ben Clarke and David Hicks and this double change gave them an outlet for balls into space so that Clarke could use his pace to run and chase and give Staines something to worry about. Hicks gave the tiring Stones attack far more bite and these changes together with Nick Salapatas also entering the fray, slowed down the impetus and possession that Staines had enjoyed for the vast majority of the second period following Ashe’s goal.
Clarke almost gave Stones a fifth goal as his pace unsettled the Swans but Stones still looked hugely under pressure as the clock ran down and with 4 minutes injury time the nerves jangled until the whistle finally blew.
Both sides deserve huge credit for a delivering a pulsating game played out in energy sapping conditions. Stones boss Gordon Bartlett was beaming after the match and with justification – a great morale booster for Saturday’s difficult Trophy tie with Tiverton Town.
Wealdstone: Woods, Martin, Chappell, Locke, Massey, Ashe, Forbes, O’Leary, James, Gray, Montgomery. Subs used: Hicks, Clarke, Salapatas. N/u: McCoy, Thomas