Wealdstone tossed away two hugely valuable points on Monday evening in a nightmarish Déjà vu version of the recent Hornchurch experience when a draw was again astonishingly snatched from the jaws of victory.
This is the kind of performance and result that keeps managers awake at night and reaching for the valium. Stones were two goals to the good and cruising in this match with a very solid first half that had the vast majority of the near 700 crowd excited, delighted and rightly hoping for more of the same in the second period. Lewes had been able to offer little going forward other than the occasional counter attack and had been well contained by Wealdstone’s solid rearguard with James Hammond outstanding on the night.
But when Stones failed to build on their lead midway through an increasingly tense second half the writing was quietly being written on the wall. Two horrible late goals were conceded leaving the Lewes management and players celebrating as though they had suddenly won the title. Their point was as unexpected as it was cruel on Wealdstone but when all is said and done they were wholly the architects of their own downfall.
Failure to hold the ball in midfield and constant loss of possession at a crucial stage of the game did the damage. With Stefan Bailey again ill, the midfield was crying out for Glen Little to steady the ship, but the big man was still not fit enough to enter the fray and he stayed on the bench.
There is no question that had Tom Pett buried the ball when presented with an open goal on 60 minutes it would have been lights out for the Sussex side who did what is expected in this uncompromising league and kept plugging away and creditably with the loss of two of their side stretchered off.
If Stones are to stop being the ‘nearly men’ of the Ryman Premier these are the games that must be won and harsh lessons rapidly learnt.
And yet it was all so different for two thirds of the game. After a hesitant start and playing down the slope Stones began to get their passing game going. There was a scare when Jonathan North had to pull off a brilliant save at full stretch on 17 minutes. But Stones soon settled and they took the lead on 26 minutes. From Jey Siva’s cross, the irrepressible Chris Moore ran into the box chesting the ball down and lashed it past former Stone’s keeper Rikki Banks for his 9th league goal.
Tom Pett was causing increasing problems for a now panic stricken Rook’s back line and he shot just wide on the half hour mark as Stones upped the ante.
But a few moments later the diminutive wide man curled a lovely strike in at the far post to double Stones lead.
The out of luck Scott McGleish was inches away from a third Stones goal from Pett’s vicious cross as Lewes briefly countered
The second half started strangely flat with the home crowd now having moved away from the boisterous Bulla Stand end and appeared much quieter.
But still Wealdstone were comfortable and looking to attack but the tempo of the first period had started to gradually wane. Even so Scott McCubbin went close after he had stolen the ball and poked it just wide of the near post.
The turning point of the game came when Pett blasted over a sitter from close range and Stones began to lose their impetus and control of the midfield.
Lewes pulled a goal back with 10 minutes to go following a long passing move across the park that was allowed to continue right into the box and Fraser Logan somehow poked home for 2-1. Even at this point there appeared to be little danger of conceding again but the danger signs and the tension was plain to see as Stones went into a high risk ‘let’s hold on’ mode.
Into stoppage time and a hopeful ball pumped into the box wasn’t cleared and defender Jay Lovett shot past North and that, gut wrenchingly, was that.
There was still time for late theatricals; Rook’s Ross Treleaven was red carded apparently for an elbow off the ball but by then few in the home crowd cared as the whistle and two points was blown
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Siva, Parker, Cronin, Godfrey, McCubbin, Brooks, McGleish, Moore, Pett. Subs used: Wright. N/u: Dean, Hill, Hutchinson, Little.
Match Report by Nick DuGard