It was a case of ‘winning ugly’ for Wealdstone on Saturday as they battled past struggling Hendon to snatch a 2-1 victory.
Goals from Lee Chappell and Nathan Webb were enough for Stones as they claimed another valuable three points in their promotion quest; however they were made to work hard for the victory against a spirited Hendon side that on the basis of this performance should be much higher up the table – something Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett had warned about in the build up.
With captain Wes Parker suspended there was a league debut for Watford loanee Aaron Tumwa in the centre of defence. There was also a welcome return to the starting XI for last season’s top scorer Richard Jolly who had been sidelined for two weeks with a hamstring injury.
The home side were in the faces of their opponents in the first few minutes with Tumwa, who had a very solid match throughout, heading straight at Berkeley Laurencin inside two minutes before Peter Dean tried his luck with a 20 yard driven effort which the Hendon ‘keeper did well to palm away.
After the bright start from Stones, their rhythm soon slowed and Hendon were seeing much more of the ball, with former Wealdstone loanee Jerome Federico seeing a shot on the turn dip just over Rikki Banks’ cross bar on 20 minutes.
Federico tried his luck again five minutes later, this time running at the heart of the Wealdstone defence before unleashing a powerful effort which Banks palmed away for a corner.
Only a great block from Lee Chappell then stopped the visitors from taking the lead as Greg Ngoyi robbed Sean Cronin by the corner flag before pulling the ball back to Jack Mazzone whose goal bound effort was stopped by the outstretched leg of Chappell.
Wealdstone were really struggling to get their foot on the ball during a turgid first half, although a neat passing move five minutes before the break ended with Jolly laying off Dean who dragged a shot just wide of the far post.
The first chance of the second half came within 30 seconds of the restart, with Dean lofting the ball over the top to Jolly who uncharacteristically missed his kick when well positioned.
A goal arrived two minutes later though, Lee Chappell played the ball inside to Tom Pett, with Pett returning the ball to the full back who advanced into the box before drilling the ball underneath Laurencin.
Hendon thought they had equalised three minutes later when Federico’s shot took a big deflection off Belal Aite-Ouakrim and found its way into the back of the net, however Aite Ouakrim was adjudged to have been in an offside position.
O’Leary then came close to adding a spectacular second for the hosts just before the hour mark as he hit a superb 30 yard volley which crashed off the cross bar with Laurencin caught flat footed.
It was an improved performance from Stones in the second half, and Jolly headed just wide of the post from Dean’s cross as they looked to kill the game.
The Dons were still posing a threat at the other end and Aite-Ouakrim fired just over from the edge of the box with ten minutes left on the clock.
A second goal came for Wealdstone in the 88th minute and it was a superb effort. Substitute Nathan Webbdispossessed Kevin Maclaren before carrying the ball forward and letting fly with an effort from the edge of the box which beat Laurencin all ends up, landing in the far corner.
Hendon to their fighting credit pulled one back almost immediately to set up a grandstand finish when Aite-Ouakrim found the net from close range after Stones had failed to clear their lines properly.
It proved to be too little too late for the visitors though as Stones were able to see out the game comfortably for yet another home win.
Stones remain third in the Ryman Premier table, one point off the top spot but with two games in hand over the leaders.
Wealdstone: Banks, McCubbin, Chappell (c), Tumwu, Cronin, Dyer, Brooks (James 79), O’Leary, Dean, Jolly (Baidoo 86), Pett (Webb 67). Subs not used: Hammond, Nicholas.
Man of the match: Chris O’Leary