A magnificent rear guard performance from nine man Wealdstone defied all the odds at The Vale on Tuesday evening as they proudly reached the quarter finals of the FA Trophy at the expense of Blue Square South high fliers Dartford.
In a night packed with drama and incident that
will live long in the memories of Stones fans, they displayed great battling qualities and heart to seal a single goal victory with Lee Chappell’s superbly taken first half strike setting up a hugely exciting encounter at Blue Square Premier side Cambridge United this Saturday, 25 February.
Club captain Wes Parker again led by example, and he was understandably bursting with pride after the game saying “it’s massive for a club like Wealdstone with great history in this competition and we want to replicate that. Tonight was a great moment for everyone at the club and we hope we did them proud.”
Roared on by one of the biggest crowds of the season, Stones had their first effort of the evening on four minutes when Peter Dean did well to dispossess Adam Green on the right hand side before sending over a cross which the onrushing Richard Jolly hooked just over the bar.
Jolly then came even closer five minutes later when a quick long throw from Lee Chappell saw the striker nip in front of Dartford ‘keeper Louis Wells before hitting shot from the most of acute angles which rolled across goal and agonisingly wide of the far post.
After the quick start from Wealdstone, Dartford began to get more of a foothold on proceedings, forcing a number of free kicks around the edge of the box.
It was from one of these set pieces that they had their first chance of note, with Tom Bonner rising well to meet Adam Green’s delivery at the far post, however his header flew just wide of the post.
Wealdstone took the lead with a wonderfully worked goal on 27 minutes. Kurtney Brooks found Richard Jolly who played a great pass to the onrushing Lee Chappell who took the ball into the box before driving the ball left footed across the face of goal and into the bottom corner.
After the goal Dartford began to peg Wealdstone back, although they had a great chance from a quick counter attack ten minutes before the break. Connor Smith launched a great all forward to Jolly who surged down the left side before cutting in towards goal. Paul Goodacre had managed to get back to cover but Jolly opted to lay the ball off to the edge of the box to Peter Dean who just delayed on the ball too long allowing the defender to make a desperate clearance.
The Darts Jon Wallis then came within inches of levelling the game two minutes before half time, hitting a low drive from the edge of the box after Lee Burns clever lay off which skimmed just wide of the post.
The visitors then had one more chance to go in at the break on level terms when Lee Noble sprinted down the right before flashing the ball across the box which just evaded the outstretched foot of Jacob Erskine.
Darts had their first chance of the half five minutes after the restart, with Adam Green firing a 25 yard free kick just wide after Wes Parker was adjudged to have hauled down Erskine.
Stones then found then found themselves down to ten men on 62 minutes. James Rogers put in an illegal challenge on Chris O‘Leary and the Wealdstone midfielder reacted. Both sets of players rushed in to confront each other, and once the melee had cleared the Referee opted to show O’Leary a straight red for his reaction to the challenge, and Rogers only a yellow for the original tackle.
Dartford held the one man advantage for less than a minute though as they also found themselves down to ten men with Rogers being shown a straight red for a horrible challenge on Peter Dean.
With both sides dramatically down to ten men the game really began to open up. Man of the match Scott McCubbin bravely charged down a Green free kick, with the loose ball falling to Jolly who ran the length of the pitch before squaring to Dean whose effort was well saved at the near post by Wells.
Chappell then tried his luck with an effort from outside the box which was just deflected wide before Jolly’s acrobatic effort missed the target by inches.
In a further dramatic turn of events the third red card of the night was shown on 70 minutes, Stones being reduced to 9 men. Connor Smith went in late on Lee Noble and Referee Robert Whitton had no hesitation in opting to show the loanee Watford midfielder a straight red.
Dartford then began to throw everything they had at the nine men of Wealdstone in the last 15 minutes, and only a fantastic Gordon Banks like save from North on 77 minutes saw the scores stay level. Tom Bonner met a corner with a great downward header which North did incredibly well to tip over with an outstretched hand.
Lee Burns was then guilty of missing a great chance to pull matters level with five minutes to go. He found himself through on goal after a neat ball from Danny Harris, however he inexplicably dragged his shot wide with the goal gaping.
Dartford were constantly pumping the ball into the Wealdstone box in the remaining minutes, but the Stones backline stood firm, constantly repelling and blocking everything the desperate Darts could throw at the beleaguered defensive wall in front of them.
Due to the stoppages for the red cards there was an agonising five minutes of added time signalled, with the visitors having one last chance late on with Burns heading straight at North from a corner from a great position.
The referee’s final whistle was met by scenes of jubilation and high emotion from fans and players alike, who can now look forward to a heady trip to professionals Cambridge United this Saturday.
Wealdstone: North, McCubbin, Massey, Parker (c), Cronin, Smith, Brooks, O’Leary, Dean (Hammond 74), Jolly (Fitzgerald 84), Chappell (Hicks 90). Subs not used: Poniskaitis, Hoban.
Official Attendance: 670
Report by Stuart Warren