There is little point in beating around the proverbial bush in this report; the simple facts are that Wealdstone by their own admission were woeful and lost to the better side in a hugely frustrating encounter at The Beaveree on Thursday evening.
It was a case of the wrong performance at the wrong time with the right result because Stones deserved no more than an ignominious defeat over the full 90 minutes, leaving the 160 Stones fans shaking their heads in astonished disbelief.
Stones most deadly of rivals in the race for second place in the play-off stakes, Lowestoft, had no such slip up on the night at Thurrock and by winning now over take Wealdstone – albeit by a single point – but now with a superior goal difference to boot.
And yet it could and should have all been so different as Stones had the most perfect of starts and raced into the lead after only 5 minutes play. Lee Chappell sent over a corner – won by Nathan Webb’s persistence on the right flank – and Scott McGleish got ahead of his marker to stab the ball high into the net. In fact Stones could have taken a lead even earlier had Tom Pett not shot wide when well placed from an astute McGleish pass.
Stones comprehensively dominated for 10 minutes but then Hampton equalised completely against the run of play …and the wheels inexplicably began to fall off.
The Stones defence were turned inside out down the left flank and a ball into the box left Rikki Banks hopelessly exposed for Beavers Skipper Darren Powell to head home for 1-1 on 14 minutes.
Stones suddenly looked tense, disarmingly nervous in defence and stuttering in the midfield from where the key problems appear to stem. With Alex Dyer still serving his remaining period of suspension his absence also meant an absence of guile and incisiveness where it matters – balls to the feet of the forwards.
Wealdstone survived a distinctly dodgy spell as the first period ended and the feeling amongst the Stones faithful was that changes were a requirement, combined with Korean style rockets up respectivederrières in the dressing room.
Neither the changes or the improvement in performance materialised and apart from a brief attacking flurry from the re-start Stones progressively fell back as the Beavers possession, movement and pace caused increasing problems for the harassed away back line.
As this correspondent predicted almost to the second, Hampton took the lead. Billy Jefferies finally netting after numerous previous attempts had flown wide or well over Banks’ goal. It had been coming.
Stones huffed and puffed and finally brought on Richard Jolly, Peter Dean and Esmond James. Jolly was very unlucky with a late goal bound strike that was charged down but the desperation in going forward wrought further disaster as Hampton broke once too often and a great strike by Joe Turner a few minutes from time completed a thoroughly miserable night for Wealdstone.
Absurdly Stones now have a fight on their hands to ensure even a play-off place and need to show some serious back bone to gain a win on Saturday over a resurgent Carshalton side that will be far, far from the push-over their League position may suggest. They are completely in-form and will certainly be in no mood to be sympathetic to Stones cause.
Wealdstone: Banks, McCubbin, Chappell, Parker, Cronin, Webb, Brooks, O’Leary, McGleish, Moore, Pett. Subs used: Jolly, Dean, James. Not used: Hammond, Locke
Attendance: 327 (160 Wealdstone)
Match Report by Nick DuGard