Wealdstone’s epic FA Trophy adventure ended on Saturday as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Blue Square Premier side Newport County.
Having lost the first leg 3-1 in Wales last weekend it was always going to be a huge ask for Stones to overturn the deficit, and whilst they battled and fought for every ball they were unable to find a way past a well organised Newport side who will now go on to play York City in the final at Wembley Stadium in May.
Despite the result Wealdstone can be extremely proud of what they have achieved in the tournament this season, and their performance is a measure of how far the club has come over the past few years. Despite their elimination they are of course still gunning for glory on two other fronts with a place in the playoffs still very much in reach, as well as a Middlesex County Cup final to come.
Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett said after the game: ‘The dream maybe over but I am incredibly proud of what each and everyone of the team has achieved to get us to this stage of the Trophy. We never really got going today and the magnitude of the situation may have finally got to us. Even the fans were quiet this afternoon and we needed a goal to get the place rocking. We have a chance of the play-offs and we now need to get up, dust ourselves down and continue to be positive. To get as far as we have done is an absolute credit to everyone at this football club’
With a near sell out crowd of 2,090 crammed inside Grosvenor Vale, it was County who began the quicker of the two sides with Ismail Yakubu heading straight at Jonathan North in the third minute before Max Porter lashed a shot over the bar from 20 yards two minutes later.
Wealdstone then began to settle and Chris O’Leary had the first chance of the afternoon for his side on 13 minutes when his glancing header flew just wide following a Kurtney Brooks free kick.
Brooks was the provider again two minutes later, getting down the right hand side before firing over a low cross to the near post which was turned goalwards by Peter Dean. Glyn Thompson did well to block the effort before gathering the ball at the second attempt with Richard Jolly closing in.
Stones certainly were starting to build some momentum and only some superb goalkeeping from Thompson kept the scores level. Dean managed to pick out his striker partner Jolly on the edge of the box who turned before hitting a low drive towards the bottom corner with Thompson doing well to dive to his right and turn the ball round the post.
North then excelled at the other end of the pitch, diving full stretch to his left to palm away an effort from Elliot Buchanan.
The Wealdstone ‘keeper then denied Sam Foley a few minutes later, when after Connor Smith had fouled the Newport man right on the edge of the box, he stepped up to hit a powerful effort from the resultant set piece which North showed great reflexes to turn away for a corner.
Stones then had their best chance of the tie seven minutes before the break. Wes Parker released Jolly with a delightful through ball, with the Ryman League top scorer uncharacteristically hitting a tame left footed effort straight at Thompson.
Only some great defending from Gary Warren stopped Wealdstone from gaining an early second half lead when the County captain somehow managed to turn the ball behind for a corner from a Brooks cross with Jolly closing in.
Newport then had a chance to effectively kill the tie just before the hour mark when a loose ball from Jolly was seized upon by David Pipe who released Nat Jarvis. Jarvis was through on goal but he was denied by a superb block from North when a goal looked inevitable.
With the game slipping away Stones introduced experienced striker Scott Fitzgerald in a bid to bolster their frontline. The former Watford man was in the thick of the action straight away, winning a free kick on the edge of the box which Lee Chappell sent tamely into the arms of Thompson.
There were two more chances for the home side soon after with Scott McCubbin firing over from close range before Brooks’ powerful left footed drive zipped just wide of the post.
Newport defending resolutely in the remaining ten minutes as Stones tried to break them down but were unable to find a way past the well drilled side. County even had a chance to net a goal late on in injury time, but Buchanan’s powerful effort crashed off the underside of the bar with North beaten.
Wealdstone now return to league action on Monday night when they welcome Met Police to The Vale, 7.45 kick off.
Wealdstone: North, McCubbin, Massey, Parker (c), Cronin, Smith, Brooks, O’Leary (Martin 72), Dean (Fitzgerald 61), Jolly, Chappell (Hicks 64). Subs not used: Jones, Hammond
Report by Stuart Warren