Wealdstone produced a professional and clinical performance with an emphatic 3-0 win at Cray Wanderers on Saturday.
Stones would have been expecting a tough afternoon at a ground where they don’t have the best of records, but Manager Gordon Bartlett will no doubt be delighted at the way his side went about their job, taking their chances when they came and then shutting out the opposition at the other end. The result leaves Stones in third place in the Ryman Premier table, just two points off leaders Hampton & Richmond Borough.
There was just the one change in personnel from the side which had performed so admirably in Monday night’s 3-2 victory over Hampton, with midfielder Kurtney Brooks being recalled to the starting XI in place of Tom Pett who was on the bench.
And Brooks was involved in the action right from the start as Wealdstone made a flying start to the game with just two minutes on the clock. Chris O’Leary played the ball inside to the former Watford man who prodded it through to Richard Jolly. Jolly had timed his run perfectly as he beat the offside trap before side footing past Cray ‘keeper Grant Hall to give his side the perfect start.
It could have been 2-0 just five minutes later; Nathan Webb laying the ball off to Wes Parker 20 yards from goal whose driven effort took a deflection before being palmed round the post by Cray’s veteran substitute Hall, first choice stopper Andy Walker having been injured in the warm up.
The Wands should have then levelled the tie on 12 minutes. Billy Burgess crossed the ball to the far post, where an unmarked Paul Vines inexplicably headed wide from close range when he should have scored.
A gaffe from Stones ‘keeper Rikki Banks then almost gave Vines a chance to make amends five minutes later, with the Wanderers striker hitting a weak header at goal which Banks almost fumbled into his net, but luckily for him it bounced just wide of the post.
Stones grabbed their second of the afternoon with 19 minutes on the clock. Peter Dean played the ball inside to Jolly who slotted it through to Alex Dyer, with the former Northampton Town man slotting clinically past Hall to continue his recent rich vein of form in front of goal.
Cray responded, and Alex Stavrinou was unlucky to see his spectacular volley from the edge of the box dip just wide of the upright.
Webb came close to adding a third on 38 minutes, but he could only lash over when well paced after an effort from Jolly had been deflected into his path following a neat passing move.
Wanderers almost pulled a goal back on the stroke of half time, when Mark Willy met a corner with a first time effort which was cleared by a combination of Banks and Chappell.
The home side began the second half on the front foot, and only a great block from Lee Chappell denied Vines as he bore down on goal after Dyer had lost possession in the middle of the park.
Despite Cray enjoying more of the ball at the start of the half, a third goal arrived for Stones on the hour mark. Sloppy play gifted Chris O’Leary possession and with a determined run he was able to pick out Jolly at the far post and the deadly marksman expertly finished into the far corner from the tightest of angles.
There was very little goalmouth action of note following the goal, with the home side enjoying more of the ball but failing to trouble Banks as Stones defended strongly.
The visitors were in fact defending so well that Cray didn’t register an effort on target in the second half until the 82nd minute, when substitute Laurent Hamici hit a 25 yard effort which was straight down the throat of Banks.
At the other end Brooks almost added a fourth on 86 minutes, curling a low effort at goal from the edge of the box which Hall did well to save at full stretch.
All in all it was a very good afternoon’s work for Wealdstone, as their clinical finishing and well organised defending saw them claim another valuable three points against a Cray side who will no doubt be challenging in the top half of the table come April.
Next up for Wealdstone is an intriguing FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round tie next Saturday, as they entertain Blue Square North side Corby Town to The Vale, 3pm kick off.
Wealdstone: Banks, McCubbin, Chappell, Parker (c), Cronin, Dyer, Webb , O’Leary, Dean (Pett 87), Jolly (Baidoo), Brooks. Subs not used: Jordan, Nicholas, Haxhia.
Attendance 222; away attendance: 90
Man of the match: Richard Jolly
Report by Stuart Warren