A depleted Wealdstone side crashed out of the Ryman League Cup on Tuesday night as they went down 1-0 at Ryman Division One South side Dulwich Hamlet.
Stones were unable to name a full bench and fielded a makeshift defensive line –up.
In a clash that brought back memories of the 2008-09 play-off final, Stones struggled with the pace and movement of an impressive young side who secured their place in the next round through a strike from full-back Ryan James.
In truth though the home side could have been out of sight by then, with only the woodwork and some wasteful finishing ensuring the sides went in at half time, before James struck in the 49th minute which proved enough despite a late rally from the visitors.
There were a number of changes for Stones from the side which had beaten Bognor Regis Town at the weekend, most notably in defence where midfielder Chris O’Leary was forced to fill in at centre back. There was also a first start in a Wealdstone shirt for Bulgarian defender Asen Valchev who started at left back.
It was Dulwich who started much the quicker of the two sides with Daniel Carr hitting a 20 yard free kick just wide of the upright in the opening five minutes, before James fired into the side netting following a neat lay off from Nyren Clunis.
Wealdstone were struggling to deal with the pace at which Hamlet were attacking, and Rikki Banks had to be alert on twenty minutes to save an effort from Erhun Oztomer after Daniel Carr had flicked the ball into his path.
Two minutes later James tried his luck from distance, drilling a shot wide from 25 yards which had Banks scrambling.
Stones were constantly finding themselves pushed back in what was becoming a one sided first half, and Ellis Green had the best chance of the game so far just before the half hour mark when he cut inside from the left hand side before hitting a right foot shot from 20 yards which crashed off the inside of the post with Banks well beaten.
Banks was called into action ten minutes before the break, saving well low down from Xavier Vidal following some neat approach play from the lively Green.
Clunis then spurned a golden opportunity for his side on 40 minutes. Valchev failed to deal with a long ball forward, allowing the winger to race clear. He was one on one with Banks and in a great position, but for some reason decided to try and square the ball to the onrushing Daniel Carr, which allowed Banks to gather the ball when surely a shot would have been a better option.
Four minutes after the restart Dulwich got the goal their play had deserved. Oztomer swung over a corner which was headed goalwards by Josh Turner. Banks did well to get down to save his effort, but he was powerless to stop Ryan James slamming home the loose ball.
Stones started to see a bit more of the ball following the goal and Peter Dean picked out Richard Jolly in the box on 58 minutes, with last season’s top scorer heading just over the bar from 12 yards out.
Despite the visitors now having greater possession, they still had to be alert to the quick counter attacks of the home side, and Green embarked on a mazy run from inside his own half on 69 minutes before firing straight at Banks.
Manager Gordon Bartlett brought on Tom Pett in place of Esmond James on 71 minutes, with Pett being involved in the thick of the action straight away, firing straight at Dulwich ‘keeper Phil Wilson following Dean’s pass.
Stones began to press Dulwich back in the final ten minutes as they desperately tried to save the tie, but they were unable to make the breakthrough against a determined Dulwich side who defended well.
There was a glimmer of hope for Stones when the referee added on an additional five minutes, but the home side were able to see them out comfortably.
Wealdstone: Banks, Hammond, Valchev, Brooks (Moore 87), Cronin (c), Dyer, James (Pett 71), O’Leary, Dean, Jolly, Webb. Sub not used: Haxhia.