Wealdstone’s epic FA Trophy adventure will continue for at least another week after a truly heroic performance saw them earn a richly deserved replay at Blue Square Bet South high fliers Dartford on Tuesday evening.
Despite going twice behind, Stones displayed great heart and
determination to claw themselves level and can now look forward to next Tuesday’s exciting rematch at The Vale ( 21 February).
Stones were forced to re-shape their line-up once again as regular defender Sean Cronin was not available and in came Watford youngster Tommie Hoban for a trial by fire debut. Hoban later described the experience as ‘like being in a war’
With both sides backed by vociferous support, it was the Darts that created the first opening when on five minutes Adam Green got down the left and flashed a low ball across the face of goal which found its way to Alan Massey at the back post who channelled safely back to his ‘keeper.
Darts were then forced to make an early change, having to withdraw the injured Elliot Bradbrook with the game just six minutes old; Lee Noble coming on in his place.
Stones first chance of the evening came on 8 minutes when Chris O’Leary threaded a great ball through to Richard Jolly who was just beaten on the edge of the box by Louis Wells in the Dartford goal.
There was then a heart in mouth moment for the visitors three minutes later. Jonathan North rushed off his line to clear the ball but his kick only went as far as substitute Noble who hit an audacious 40 yard volley which bounced just wide with North in no man’s land.
Dartford were continually pumping the ball long in the hope of catching out the Stones backline, and it was a piece of route one football that gave them the lead on 27 minutes. A long kick forward from ‘keeper Wells saw Jacob Erskine chase the ball forward. Miscommunication between Wes Parker and North resulted in the latter spilling the ball into the path of the Darts forward who was able to find Danny Harris, giving him the simple task of slotting home from 10 yards.
The goal seemed to dent Wealdstone’s confidence somewhat and they found themselves pushed back by a buoyed up Darts. But despite their large amount of possession in the visitor’s half, they were still being limited to pot shots from distance.
Stones did have two chances from free kicks just before half time. Jolly was tugged back by Tom Bonner 25 yards from goal, with Lee Chappell stepping up to send the resultant kick straight into the arms of Wells. The gloveman then tried to get play moving again with a quick kick, however he was adjudged to have carried the ball outside the box resulting in a free kick to Stones right on the edge of the box. Peter Dean tried his luck this time; however his effort was well blocked by the Darts wall.
Just when it seemed Stones would go in one down at the break, they were handed a lifeline on 45 minutes. Scott McCubbin sent over a sublime cross to the far post where it was headed back across goal by Chris O’Leary to the waiting Richard Jolly who headed the ball home from close range for his 30th of the season, much to the delight of the 200 Wealdstone fans massed behind the goal.
There was one change for Stones at half time, with Wes Parker having to be withdrawn due to injury and Kurtney Brooks coming on to replace the former Grimsby Town defender.
The second half got off to the worst possible start as Dartford regained the lead. Lee Noble hit a speculative volley from 25 yards out which somehow found its way through a crowd of players, taking a deflection on its way past the despairing dive of North.
Stones responded immediately though, and Lee Chappell stung the ‘keepers hands with a powerful effort after a swift passing move down the left hand side.
Despite the lightening start to the half from the home side, Stones were enjoying far more possession than they had in the first and were playing with greater freedom but just failing to get the breaks in the final third to create clear openings.
But Stones rocked Dartford to the core with a spectacular equaliser with ten minutes left to play. James Hammond swung a great ball into the edge of the box where it was met by a magnificent towering header from Chris O’Leary which crashed in off the underside of the bar. It was an absolutely superb effort that took out a Darts defender in the process and also left the warrior like midfielder prostrate on the ground with a head injury for several minutes.
The final ten minutes were a frantic affair as both sides looked to win the contest, with Dartford having the best chance in the third minute of injury time when Jon Wallis hit a free kick inches over the bar.
Neither side could snatch a winner though in what had been an evenly fought and hugely entertaining encounter which now goes to a replay next Tuesday at The Vale, kick-off 7.45pm.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Massey, Parker (c) (Brooks 46), Hoban, Smith, McCubbin, O’Leary, Dean (Fitzgerald 90), Jolly, Chappell (Hicks 85). Subs not used: Poniskaitis
Official attendance: 770