Wealdstone duly exorcised the demons of their FA Cup experience at Hornchurch last week and put in a highly competent and hard working shift to progress in the FA Trophy at the expense of a stubborn Leiston side in deepest Suffolk on Saturday. Particularly outstanding was Wealdstone’s defence who consistently got bodies in the way of numerous Leiston goal attempts, eventually allowing the away side to take full control.
In the shadow of the Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station a gargantuan facility juxtaposed with the quaintness of a quiet Suffolk village, Stones set about their business in the pouring rain with the further unpredictable factor of facing a side that had disposed of their manager a few day’s before.
Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett had changed the formation for this psychologically important tie. Jey Siva was moved into a wide midfield attacking role and his usual berth at left back was taken by Jerome Okimo. In came new signing Mark Bentley who took his place in the centre of midfield alongside Glen Little in a more advanced position, and the returning Elliott Godfrey. Scott McGleish was the lone central striker.
In the first half, in the driving rain, Stones struggled to get fully to grips with the new formation – mainly in the area of getting the ball into the danger areas and, importantly, behind a stubborn Leiston side that showed no signs of a team that were going to wilt in the sogging wet conditions.
It was Leiston that took some early advantage of Stone’s hesitancy in getting the ball forward quickly on a slow surface, and the excellent Tom Hamblin was in the right place to get his head in the way of an on target and powerful strike on the 20 minute mark. The home side continued to break effectively and their main danger man Rhys Henry showed some pace but shot wide past a relieved Jonathan North.
Stones gradually worked their way into the tie and from a corner Sean Cronin was desperately unlucky to see his powerful header crash off the far post and away after a scramble. Tom Pett’s movement was now causing problems for the Blues and he was on the receiving end of some rough treatment as the home side realised that if he wasn’t contained they would pay the price.
Glen Little was roving around all over the park but when he finally found an opportunity to strike for goal his powerful effort was charged down by a stoic home defence.
Just when it seemed Stones would have to settle for a half time stalemate they found themselves taking the lead seconds before the break. Tom Pett got away down the right and from a whipped in cross McGleish was on hand to drive home past the despairing dive of Danny Gay.
Leiston were by far the quickest out of the blocks in the second period and only a great stop by North prevented the home side from equalising. Then Cronin somehow got in the way of what looked like a certain goal with a magnificent piece of defending.
Stones broke out undeterred and immediately doubled their lead. Tom Pett appeared to be fouled but the referee allowed play to continue and Pett’s astute through ball allowed Glen Little to pick his way into the box and slip the ball past Gay on 56 minutes.
Stones now took control and McGleish was unlucky not to double his tally when his shot was cleared off the line. But Stones still had defending to do and another great intervention from Hamblin prevented the Blues from gaining a foothold in the tie.
As the home side pushed up they left holes for Stones to exploit at the back and after Mark Bentley had shot just wide, Pett stole into the area and after deftly beating a couple of defenders his fine effort just beat Gay at the far post for 3-0 on 68 minutes.
McGleish was downed after a bloody clash of heads with a home defender near the end but in true ‘Terry Butcheresque’ style both players were bandaged up and carried on regardless.
Stones now face Grays Athletic next Saturday (26 October) in an important Ryman League Premier Division clash at The Vale. Kick off 3pm.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Hamblin, Cronin, Godrey, Pett, Bentley, McGleish, Little, Siva. Subs used: Brooks, Bailey, Dean. N/u: Moore, Wright.
Attendance: 184 (Wealdstone 75)