Wealdstone moved to the top of the Ryman Premier table on Saturday with a performance of true grit, finally overcoming their Kent rivals in ‘The Battle of the Stones IV’.
And what a hugely entertaining see-saw battle this was, played between two fully committed sides that gave no quarter throughout. Wealdstone had the edge for most of the game played out on a very good surface, given the overnight rain, and were dominant in a rewarding second period. This pulsating clash turned on an equalising penalty that skipper Sean Cronin crashed home a mere two minutes after the restart. The winning goal came in the 81st minute with a cross-shot from Tom Pett that looped in at the far post completely foxing the Maidstone ‘keeper Lee Worgan.
The hosts opened quietly in the worsening conditions but on 20 minutes, United won the ball in midfield and the dangerous Frannie Collin worked it forward for Zac Attwood but his effort went just wide of Jonathan North’s far post.
Tom Pett then had a great chance to get into the box and do some damage but a timely challenge pushed the ball out for a corner. The industrious Elliott Godfrey floated the ball in causing a scramble after Worgan couldn’t hold onto the ball and it dropped to Pett whose strike was heading in until Rory Hill somehow hacked it off the line.
Wealdstone were now beginning to ratchet up the tempo and their passing fluidity; with 26 minutes gone a long ball opened up the United defence and Jonathan Wright displayed great determination to get a shot away but it missed the target.
A few minutes later, against the run of play, Maidstone rocked the home side and took the lead. James Hammond was caught out of position wide on the right flank where Attwood had time and space to unleash a fine drive past the stranded North from just outside the area.
Wealdstone hit back and went in search of a quick equaliser. Wright found himself in space down the right hand side but he elected to shoot early and fired the ball wide of the post before a corner from Godfrey found Cronin whose header sailed just wide. Then the busy Wright was again involved but his looping header dropped just over.
Now playing down slope, but into incessant driving rain, the home Stones were given a passage back into the game with the second half just a minute old. Luke Pigden cleverly picked his way through the area and was bundled over by Jack Parkinson but it seems the penalty was surprisingly awarded for a handball against Parkinson as he lay prone. Sean Cronin stepped up for the spot kick and smashed it into the left hand side of the net with aplomb.
Wealdstone were now rampant, piling on the pressure with the majestic Glen Little roving around the park and constantly probing for openings. It wasn’t until the 72 minute that United won their first corner of the half. And it was from this opportunity that the ball came out to Collin had an excellent chance but he snatched at it and the ball curled over the bar at pace.
After some rare pressure from the away side and with 81 minutes played, Wealdstone finally took the lead. United substitute Fabio Saraiva gave the ball away in midfield and it was rapidly worked out to Tom Pett whose high floating cross deceived everyone and floated high into the net past the flaying arms of a stranded Worgan
After this there was just one more opportunity of note and it fell to Wealdstone. Scott McGleish in on goal saw his powerful effort pushed away brilliantly by the alert Worgan.
Next up for Stones is the Boxing Day clash away at George Borg’s Enfield.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Hamblin, Cronin ©, Godfrey, Little, Pigden, McGleish, Wright, Pett. Subs used: Bawling, Siva. N/u: Moore, Dean, McCubbin.
William Hill MoM: Tom Pett
Match Report by Nick DuGard