Wealdstone crashed to a shock defeat against Bury Town on Tuesday evening as their hopes of finishing in second position in the league took a severe blow.
In a seesaw encounter, a mainly lacklustre first half performance saw Stones go in one down at the break, but two goals in quick succession from Chris Moore and Scott McGleish saw them race spectacularly into a 2-1 lead. But they were immediately pegged back by a freak goal from Sam Reed before a John Sands strike secured all three points for the relentless visitors.
Stones appeared to struggle disproportionately in the midfield on the night and were ultimately out manoeuvred by a Bury side that gave absolutely no quarter, the win rewarding them with an unlikely play-off life line as other results also went their way.
Wealdstone made three changes from the side which had been held to a goalless draw at Bury three days previously, with Esmond James perhaps surprisingly starting with Stefan Bailey in the midfield and Chris Moore partnering Scott McGleish up front. Left out were subs Chris O’Leary and Richard Jolly, whilst Alex Dyer was rested.
Stones almost got off to a dream start with only one minute on the clock when Scott McGleish swung over a cross from the right which was met by Moore whose goal bound header was deflected behind for a corner.
The two combined to good effect again one minute later, this time Moore sending a dipping volley just over the bar following a neat flick on by McGleish.
Stones were certainly causing Town problems in the opening few minutes, with ‘keeper Marcus Garnham getting down well to save McGleish’s low shot on the turn after he’d been picked out by James.
After a very lively opening period from Stones, Bury managed to settle and get more of a foothold on the game, having their first chance of the evening on 15 minutes when John Sands ran clear of the defence after a long ball from the back before drilling the ball just wide of the post.
The dangerous Sands had another chance five minutes later, this time hitting a spectacular first time volley from the corner of the box which North palmed round the post.
From the resultant corner Adam Tann rose well to head goal wards but his effort being cleared off the line by Kurtney Brooks.
It looked like a goal was coming for the well drilled visitors, and it duly arrived on 33 minutes. Jordan Patrick picked out Sam Reed on the left hand side who cut inside carried the ball goal wards before unleashing a low drive which flew into the bottom corner giving Jon North little chance to save.
Following the goal Bury were still enjoying more possession as Stones struggled to get hold of the ball in midfield with Stefan Bailey looking off the pace, although they did have a chance to equalise five minutes before the break when the excellent Moore got on the end of a great flick from McGleish before hooking a shot just wide of the far post.
Moore came close again right on the stroke of half time, hitting an effort from the edge of the box from Tom Pett’s layoff which rebounded off the chest of Garnham before the Bury defence could eventually clear their lines.
Wealdstone came out for the second half playing down the slope and looking fired up and they levelled just three minutes after the restart. James fired over a wicked low cross from the right which was flicked beautifully in the top corner from close range by Moore.
With Stones now on fire it was nearly 2-1 a minute later; Pett hit a dipping 20 yard volley just wide after Bury had only half cleared a Bailey cross.
Stones dramatically took the lead on 55 minutes. Moore fed Lee Chappell down the left hand side who burst forward before drilling in a superb low cross which McGleish was able to turn in with great aplomb at the near post.
Shockingly, though, the lead lasted just two minutes as Bury clawed themselves level. Sam Reed fired a free kick into the box which somehow evaded everyone, including North, and ended up in the back of the net.
After such a rip roaring start to the half Stones seemed suddenly bereft of any creative impetus and failed to raise their game to match their opponent’s midfield nous, and Town took a deserved lead again on 76 minutes. A cross from the left was flicked on by Reed to Sands who drilled the ball into the far corner from the edge of the box.
The lively Patrick was then unlucky two minutes later, hitting a dipping 25 yard effort which flew just over the crossbar.
At the other end Stones were now desperately attempting to save the game and James did well to beat two players before letting fly from 20 yards with a shot which went behind off of a defender.
Moore then came within centimetres of equalising, getting on the end of Peter Dean’s flick, before hitting a shot which Garnham palmed brilliantly on to the cross bar.
Wealdstone were throwing everything at their opponents in the remaining time, and with two minutes left on the clock Moore headed a Chappell corner goalwards which agonisingly got caught up in a scramble on the goal line and was eventually cleared.
It was to be the last chance of a bitterly disappointing night and a rare defeat for Wealdstone, who must now pick themselves up ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Cray Wanderers, 3pm kick off.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Chappell, Parker, Cronin, Brooks (Webb 79), James (Jolly 81), Bailey, McGleish, Moore, Pett (Dean 70). Subs not used: O’Leary, Banks