Lowestoft Town proved to be too strong for Wealdstone on Saturday as the Suffolk side ran out 2-1 winners, bringing an abrupt end to their FA Cup hopes and, with it, huge disappointment.
Having been knocked out in the first qualifying round of the competition last season, Stones were looking to make an impact on this year’s tournament but they failed to ever really get going against an already very experienced but improved Lowestoft outfit who will amongst the main front runners for this season’s Ryman Premier League title on this showing.
The two sides of course also had ‘previous’ going into this eagerly anticipated encounter, with Lowestoft having triumphed over Stones in last season’s controversial playoff semi-final at Crown Meadow.
With this in mind it was perhaps no surprise that the tackles went flying in early on, with Jack Defty writing himself into the book within the first five minutes for the visitors.
A misplaced pass from Scott McCubbin – a team problem all afternoon for Wealdstone – gifted the visitors their first chance of the afternoon on nine minutes as Joe Francis intercepted the ball and advance on goal, with Rikki Banks doing superbly well to beat away the winger’s goal bound effort.
There was a let off for Stones on the 20 minute mark as a simple ball over the top saw the dangerous Michael Frew presented with a great chance, but luckily for the home side he could only fire waywardly into the side netting.
It was the visitors who were creating all the chances at this point , and Banks came to Wealdstone’s rescue again as he saved well from Chris Henderson’s driven effort.
The Stones glove man also excelled three minutes later, diving full stretch to his right to palm away a vicious free kick from the lively Francis.
But there was nothing Banks could do on 36 minutes though, as Lowestoft took the lead. Chris Gaughran lofted the ball over the top to Henderson who brought the ball down before firing past the exposed home keeper.
Stones did have what looked like a decent shout for a penalty turned down on the stroke of half time as Peter Dean’s effort appeared to strike the hand of a defender; however the referee waved play on.
The home side were offered an unexpected lifeline on 52 minutes when Kurtney Brooks was chopped down by Stuart Ainsley, giving the referee no option but to point at the spot. Sean Cronin stepped up to slam home the resultant kick and bring the sides level.
But, disastrously, the sides were level for just four minutes though as the Trawler Boys quickly regained the lead, taking the stuffing out of Stones in the process. Ainsley, who should have been closed down, whipped a cross into the front post where Frew was able to get in front of his marker and finish past Banks first time.
Stones finally began to push forward in greater numbers, however in doing this they were leaving gaps at the back and one of these was nearly exploited by Francis on 66 minutes as he found himself unmarked in the box, but he could only shoot tamely at Banks.
Only some heroic defending from Lee Chappell stopped the visitors extending their lead six minutes later. Francis once again found himself one on one, this time shooting past Banks but Chappell somehow managed to get back and brilliantly head his effort off the line.
Stones threw everything at their opponents in the remaining minutes, with goalkeeper Banks also joining the attack late on, but they were unable to find their way past a resolute Lowestoft backline.
Whilst this Cup exit was perhaps not entirely unexpected it was nonetheless hugely disappointing; but Stones will know that they had been unlucky to have been drawn so early on in the Cup to a very good side that that continue to use gamesmanship on and off the park to full and productive effect. Whether this is a football lesson worth learning to achieve success only time will tell.
Wealdstone: Banks, McCubbin, Massey (Pett 65), Parker (c) Cronin, Brooks, O’Leary (Webb 76), Dean (Baidoo 76), Jolly, Chappell. Subs not used: Brewer, Hammond, Knight, Jordan.
Man of the match: Rikki Banks
Report by Stuart Warren