Such is the relentless pressure at the top echelons of the Ryman Premier League with the desire to gain the single automatic promotion spot that a draw against modest opposition, even after a winning run of 5 successive games, could appear to be a mini crisis. But that would be the nonsense of expectation because, in reality, Stones points haul after this deadlocked match of 16 from 6 games is promotion form – whatever way you want to look at it.
Nevertheless, Wealdstone’s victorious run came to a hugely frustrating end at The Vale on Saturday when they couldn’t recapture their recent clinical form against a struggling and depleted Met Police side.
At home Stones are now expected to dominate the opposition from start to finish and this can create frustrations if plays do not flow as planned allowing sides to counter on the break and cause problems – just as Wealdstone did to such devastating effect at Dulwich last week.
Stones made one mistake, albeit a dreadful howler, in this keenly fought match and they were punished for it despite enjoying 70% of the possession.
Stones took time to settle into the rhythm of their passing game but soon had The Blues under some pressure from the lively Tom Pett and the energy and link up play of Johnny Wright who would later be named man of the match.
And it was a great piece of combination play from Pett that set up Wright in acres of space to poke the ball past keeper Billy Granger on 16 minutes. But the Met hit back with a quick break and Ryan James shot wide from 40 yards to signal a warning. But despite Stones almost complete dominance in possession the away side rocked Stones with a massively unlikely equaliser on the half hour mark. Stones skipper Sean Cronin misjudged a back header to Jonathan North and Charlie Collins had the simple task of lobbing the ball in to an unguarded net. The Police couldn’t believe their luck as they celebrated as normal without a single away supporter to enjoy the moment.
From that point on Wealdstone tried hard to get incisive moves going and when they did they couldn’t take their chances with their forwards out of position. Their best opportunity came in the second period when Scott McGleish blasted just over with a half volley after a superb bye line run and lay back from Jerome Okimo. Prior to that Tom Pett did draw a great save from the erratic Granger but strikes on target were at a premium.
Glen Little was called into action from the bench late on but even he couldn’t conjure up a winner and play either broke down or founded on a packed Police defence.
The Met defended stoically for the remainder of the match, countered occasionally, and kept out a couple of efforts at the death after Okimo had again done well to get the ball into the box with sub Peter Dean lurking, but he was just out of position to take advantage.
After the match a disappointed Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett said: ‘It was very frustrating. We completely dominated the first half hour; they played very square but we didn’t turn them and we became increasingly unable to create clear opportunities to score. Once they equalised they had a belief and they made it difficult for us. Their goal completely changed the game and they defended well and worked hard to keep the point’
Wealdstone face a huge task on Monday evening when they travel to South London to face promotion rivals Kingstonian at the start of another challenging run of league games.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Hamblin, Cronin, Godfrey, Bentley, Pigden, McGleish, Wright, Pett. Subs used: Bailey, Little, Dean. N/u: Moore, Siva.
William Hill MoM: Johnny Wright
Match Report by Nick DuGard