Saturday’s win or bust clash at The Vale produced a wonder goal from Tom Pett ensuring Wealdstone are back in control of their own play-off destiny. As a result they move to within four points of the top five with two games in hand.
It was a superb all round performance from Gordon Bartlett’s men as they toppled second placed AFC Hornchurch, all but ending the Essex side’s title hopes in the process. Stones now face a tense trip to already relegated Tooting & Mitcham United on Tuesday evening where a victory will see them move into 6th place.
Experienced striker Scott Fitzgerald had been restored to the starting line up for this daunting encounter, and he looked eager to impress, chasing down Hornchurch ‘keeper Joe Wooley inside the first three minutes and getting an outstretched leg to his clearance only for the ball to dip over the bar much to the relief of the visitors.
A great double save from Wooley then denied Richard Jolly with eight minutes on the clock as he did well to block the striker’s effort with an outstretched foot as he bore down on goal following a neat through ball from Lee Chappell. Stones top scorer was then first to the loose ball but Woolley did well to get back to his feet and block the second effort.
Tom Pett showed great skill on 27 minutes to cut inside his marker on the edge of the box before lofting in a cross to Fitzgerald whose glancing header flew wide.
Fitzgerald and Pett were in the thick of the action again a minute later as the young midfielder released Fitzgerald who was denied by a great last ditch challenge from Reiss Noel who slid in and hooked the ball behind as he looked set to pull the trigger.
It proved to be just a temporary respite for The Urchins though as Wealdstone took the lead from the resultant corner. Pett lofted the ball in with Fitzgerald’s flicked header from close range finding the back of the net.
The visitors hit back instantly and Tambeson Eyong was chopped down 20 yards from goal by Parker after a strong run, with Jonathan Hunt sending the resulting free kick just wide.
The lead was soon doubled though with a moment of pure brilliance from Pett on 42 minutes. Woolley made a hash of a clearance with the loose ball falling to the former Potters Bar man in the centre circle and with time and space available he embarked on a mazy run. Beating three players, who could only watch in admiration, Pett calmly stroked the ball home for his first goal in a Wealdstone shirt.
Hornchurch nearly pulled a goal back on half time when Lewis Smith got down the left before finding Eyong whose volleyed effort flew just wide of the far post.
Stones started the second half on the front foot when the surprisingly fit Alex Dyer miskicked when in a good position following a neat layoff from the ever lively Pett.
Only a great block from Woolley then denied Wealdstone a third ten minutes after the restart. Jolly headed back across goal from Scott McCubbin’s cross, with the ball dropping to Pett whose powerful volley was well blocked at the near post by the Urchins stopper.
Hornchurch then found a route back into the match on 59 minutes with their first real attack of the half. Eyong hit a vicious effort from 20 yards which was half blocked by Alan Massey with the loose ball falling to Lewis Smith in the box who made no mistake from close range.
Stones came close to re-establishing the two goal margin on 67 minutes with Woolley again finding himself in the right place at the right time to block a close range effort from Chris O’Leary.
The visitors then began to enjoy more possession, and substitute Leon McKenzie headed over from close range from Lewis Smith’s right wing cross.
Despite all their strong ball retention Hornchurch were still struggling to create clear cut chances and were becoming increasingly frustrated as they failed to find a way past a well organised Stones defence with the centre back pairing of Wes Parker and Sean Cronin leading by example.
There was a heart stopping moment in the final minute when a corner was played to Jonathan Hunt whose powerful effort hit underside of the bar from the edge of the box.
The Urchins did manage to force a number of late corners as the referee opted to play six minutes of added time, but Stones stood firm to claim a huge three points.
Wealdstone: Jones, McCubbin, Massey, Parker (c), Cronin, Dyer, Pett, O’Leary, Fitzgerald, Jolly, Chappell. Subs not used: Dean, Mulley, Brooks, Hoban, Smith
Man of the match: Sean Cronin
Report by Stuart Warren