Wealdstone had to settle for a point on Saturday as they were held at home by big spending and newly promoted Whitehawk who are expected to be amongst the frontrunners this season. In an entertaining and typically hard fought Ryman Premier encounter Stones got off to a slow start and fell behind early on, improved as the game went on, but were unable to snatch a late winner against a resilient Hawks side that ended the game with nine men.
Stones got off to the worst possible start when they fell behind with just three minutes on the clock. Paul Armstrong played a great cross field pass to the highly experienced Scott McGleish on the edge of the box, with the ex Wycombe Wanderers and Colchester United man chesting the ball into the path of Josh Jones who lashed it first time past Rikki Banks to stun the home side.
The Hawks could have doubled their advantage a mere three minutes later when Tommy Fraser was given time in the box to get a shot away, however Alan Massey was in the right place at the right time to turn away the midfielder’s effort.
The home side continued to press and Stones were afforded a huge slice of luck on ten minutes as Banks rushed from his goal to clear the ball but ended up missing his kick which would have allowed the dangerous McGleish a clear run at goal had it not been for the covering Massey to come to his sides rescue yet again.
Stones could not get going in the opening 15 minutes, and Whitehawk’s Joe Keehan missing a gilt edged chance as he somehow fired over from 10 yards when unmarked from a free kick.
There was a good shout for a penalty on 18 minutes as Chris O’Leary went down in the box under a challenge, but the referee waved play on much to the chagrin of the home crowd, but this incident provided the spark that energised Stones into greater urgency.
Stones had another nailed on penalty appeal ten minutes before the break when Lee Chappell’s cross appeared to strike the arm of a Whitehawk defender but once again the referee waved away the protests.
At the other end Banks did well to save a 20 yard free kick from Jones as he dived full stretch to his left to palm away the effort. He then excelled again 30 seconds later as he blocked a goal bound header from the ever lively McGleish.
Scott McCubbin came close to snatching an equaliser on 43 minutes when the wide man fired just wide of the post after being picked out by Tom Pett.
Stones finally grabbed the equaliser their possession deserved in the first minute of stoppage time. Lee Chappell received 20 yards from goal before twisting and turning and eventually releasing a delightful curling effort which dipped over Hawks ‘keeper Chris Winterton giving him no chance.
It was the home side who had the first chance of the second half when Winterton had to get down low to save a driven effort from the grafting Peter Dean after some good play by Pett.
After the frenetic first half, the second period was played at a much slower pace. There were a couple of half chances for both sides with Fraser hitting an effort straight at Banks for the visitors before Chappell fired straight at Winterton at the other end.
Stones came close to taking the lead on 74 minutes. The tireless Peter Dean was fouled 25 yards from goal; the striker stepped up to hit a superb curling effort from the resultant set piece which crashed off the outside of the post with Winterton beaten all ends up.
Fraser then nearly put Whitehawk in five minutes later when Banks threw the ball straight to the feet of the midfielder; luckily for Stones their ‘keeper managed to recover and tip his first time effort away for a corner.
Richard Jolly who was not provided with any real service all afternoon was then guilty of missing a great chance to score with eight minutes left. Brooks played an exquisite through ball to the front man who beat the offside trap before uncharacteristically firing high and wide as he bore down on goal.
Whitehawk continued to be pressed back, not helped by the fact they were down to ten men with ten minutes remaining when Sammy El-Abd was stretchered off, his side inexplicably having used all three substitutes very early in the match.
Things then got even worse for The Hawks in stoppage time as they found themselves down to nine men when substitute Ryan James was shown a second yellow for kicking the ball away.
There was a chance for summer signing Shabazz Baidoo to become a hero in the sixth minute of stoppage time, but his powerful effort from an acute angle flew just wide of the post.
Stones now have a break from league action as they welcome Southern League outfit Biggleswade Town to The Vale next Saturday, 8 September, in the FA Cup first qualifying round.
Wealdstone: Banks, Brewer, Chappell, Parker (c), Massey, Brooks, McCubbin, O’Leary, Dean, Jolly, Pett. Subs not used: Webb, Baidoo, Hammond, Knight, Jordan
MoM: Lee Chappell
Match Report by Stuart Warren