Two typically lighting strikes from ace marksman Richard Jolly saw Stones march on in miraculous style to the semi finals of the FA Trophy on Saturday as full-time professionals Cambridge United became the latest scalp of the Ryman Premier side.
This was another incredibly heroic performance from
Stones, almost defying belief, surviving a late Us onslaught and huge pressure throughout in a tense and absorbing encounter. When the final whistle was blown the Abbey Stadium saw scenes of wild celebration and the realisation that Wealdstone are now remarkably just a two legged semi final away from a showpiece final at Wembley Stadium.
Whatever happens next in the semi finals, this cup run will live long in the memories of everyone associated with Wealdstone as they have continually defied all the odds playing several steps below their opponents in their most successful run in the competition since 1985 when they famously lifted the Trophy, but then as a Conference level side.
With no new injury concerns Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett had the luxury of naming an unchanged side from the one that had performed so well against Dartford in midweek, lining up in a 4-4-2 formation with Peter Dean partnering Richard Jolly upfront.
It was the prolifically dangerous Jolly who stunned the home side by handing Wealdstone the lead with just four minutes on the clock. A neat interchange of passes to the right hand side of the Cambridge box between Peter Dean and Kurtney Brooks resulted in the latter swinging a delightful cross to the far post. Lee Chappell rose well to meet the ball, nodding it down into the path of Richard Jolly who was able to unerringly shoot home from close range with his 33rd goal of the season.
Cambridge looked to respond immediately, with Harrison Dunk heading just the wrong side of the post before Luke Berry saw his shot deflected behind for a corner after some good play by James Jennings.
With 19 minutes gone The U’s had their best chance of the contest so far. Adam Marriot sent over a free kick from the left hand side with Brett Johnson sending a towering header just wide of the upright.
Liam Hughes was then guilty of spurning a great opportunity four minutes later. Ryan Jackson sprinted down the right before crossing to the unmarked Hughes who hit a volley from 12 yards into the ground which Jonathan North did well to tip over the bar.
Marriot had two more chances for his side towards the end of the half, first firing wide when in a great position inside the box, before curling a free kick over the bar after Chris O’Leary was pulled up for a high foot 25 yards from goal.
Cambridge was dealt a blow right on the stroke of half time when the lively Harrison Dunk went down with a painful looking injury before eventually leaving the field on a stretcher. Jordan Patrick came on to replace the stricken wide man.
The second half began with Cambridge trying their luck with a couple of efforts from distance as they probed patiently, perhaps too patiently, for a way back into the match.
Liam Hughes hit a powerful effort from 20 yards which North did well to hold before Luke Berry’s low drive zipped just the wrong side of the post as Stones were pegged back.
Berry then missed a great opportunity on the hour mark when he found himself unmarked following a Marriot corner. With time and space the midfielder lashed his shot wide when he should have hit the target.
Having been under constant pressure since the restart, the unthinkable happened on 69 minutes when Wealdstone incredibly grabbed a second. Scott McCubbin played a great cross field pass which found the busy Brooks on the right hand side. Brooks tried to deliver but the ball was deflected back into his path, giving him a second opportunity; from the second delivery the former Watford midfielder was able to pick out Jolly at the near post who cleverly turned the ball home from the tightest of angles, sparking wild celebrations by the 376 Wealdstone fans behind the goal.
But the two goal cushion lasted just a minute though as Cambridge quickly hit back. Sean Cronin was penalised for a foul on the edge of the box, and Cambridge captain Jennings stepped up to curl the kick past North and into the back of the net to set up a grandstand finish.
The final 20 minutes saw Cambridge throw everything but the kitchen sink at Stones, with the visitors defending with absolute resolution; putting their bodies on the line as they desperately repelled everything that was being flung at them.
The U’s then had a great opportunity with one minute left on the clock when they were awarded a free kick in virtually the same position in which they had taken their goal. Jennings stepped up again, getting his effort on target, however this time it was met by a great diving save from North who turned the ball over for a corner.
With four minutes of added time signalled United won two corners as they attempted to force the tie into a replay. From the first of these Marriott wasted an opportunity by firing hopelessly over the corner of box, before another corner in the 94th minute saw them send the ball into the six yard box, with play being stopped for a foul on North as the Stones ‘keeper punched the ball away under pressure.
The final whistle was greeted by scenes of unbridled emotion and jubilation as the Wealdstone players sprinted over to the travelling support as they celebrated the greatest of victories. Stones can now look forward to the draw on Monday when they find out who their Blue Square Premier semi final opponents will be.
Attendance: 2,034 (Wealdstone contingent: 376)
Wealdstone: North, McCubbin, Massey (Hammond 62), Parker (C), Cronin, Smith, Brooks, O’Leary (Hoban 90), Dean (Hicks 81), Jolly, Chappell. Subs not used: Poniskaitis, Fitzgerald
Report by Stuart Warren