Sometimes during a match a substitution made at the right time and using the right player can turn a game and ultimately change the result. Such was the case in a hugely enthralling match at The Vale on Monday.
Wealdstone were frankly woeful in the first 35 minutes of this second derby clash of the Bank Holiday weekend; a goal down after only 6 minutes play, Stones had no urgency or spark about them, and, worse still, looking likely to concede again at any moment in baffling disarray.
37 minutes: enter one Glen Little; within 4 minutes Stones had equalised through Chris Moore and then a minute from the break a corner creates mayhem in the Town defence and Enfield’s towering centre half Chris Wild somehow powers past his own bemused ‘keeper Noel Imber.
This rapid train of events was no co-incidence though, as the hugely experienced Little immediately transformed the midfield with effective, controlled passing and astute combination play that his forward colleagues had been crying out for. There is no substitute for quality and Little certainly displayed this prized footballing asset in oodles during the rest of the match, rightly earning him the man of the match accolade that absolutely no one in the crowd of 602 was going to debate.
Stones were a transformed team in the second half and ultimately cruised to victory with further goals from Scott McGleish – his first of the new campaign and a rare headed effort from Tom Pett, 5 minutes from time.
The visitors could only look on in admiration as they became as in effectual as they were effective in the first third of this remarkable derby match.
As for the details, Town were dominant from the kick –off and played Stones off the park. On 6 minutes the rampant visitors took the lead; Mark Kirby crossed for Joe O’Brien to send a flying header past a completely exposed Jonathan North.
Stones looked sluggish and bereft of attacking ideas and momentum and it’s very difficult to explain why – certainly Gordon Bartlett could be seen pulling out what little is left of his strained locks. They were penned in their own half and couldn’t get out.
It took 24 minutes for Stones first real organised attack with a good run from Tom Pett but this took place within a sea of Town possession.
North kept his side in it with an excellent save from the lanky Chris Wild and it wasn’t long before Kirby smashed against an upright. They couldn’t know it but Town would pay dearly for those missed chances and what would become squandered possession.
Gordon Bartlett had seen enough and brought off the struggling Peter Dean and on jogged Little and his presence had an immediate impact.
The home forwards finally began to find a supply and McGleish somehow just failed to find the net in a goal mouth scramble as did Stefan Bailey from a rebound.
In a breathtaking 3 minute spell Pett was released and his cross to the far post was expertly met by Chris Moore who powered his header past Imber for the equaliser. And 3 minutes later Stones had taken what had seemed earlier a hugely unlikely lead when Wild contrived to net past his own ‘keeper from a Pett corner – and it was half time.
After the break and with Wealdstone playing down the slope they were all over Town like a rash and further goals were inevitable. After McGleish had spurned one excellent opening, the half was only 10 minutes in when the former Colchester, Northampton and Wycombe striker floated in a lovely goal after a five man Stones move with Little at the heart of it.
Stones began to overplay as their dominance became all pervading but Enfield’s threat was now sporadic at best as Sean Cronin and Jerome Akimo mopped up. Even so, substitute Jack Hutchison broke free and almost netted with a cheeky dinked effort that floated inches wide.
The scoring was completed when Little’s run and cross fell to McGleish again and his strike smashed off Imber’s upright but it fell to the lurking Pett who headed over the stranded Imber.
With Akimo’s knock rendering him immobile and with all subs used, Stones played out the last few minutes with 10 men.
A mistake by Jey Siva at the death almost gifted a goal to Adam Wallace but North was again on hand to save brilliantly.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Siva, Okimo, Cronin, Godfrey, Dean, Bailey, McGleish, Moore, Pett. Subs used: Little, Martin, Hutchinson. N/u: Hill, Haxhia (GK)
MoM: Glen Little
Match Report by Nick DuGard