Wealdstone succumbed to a hugely frustrating and costly defeat on Saturday made all the worse by contriving to turn a sound winning position into a nightmarish reverse, conceding two goals from errors in the final 6 minutes of the contest.
This was Stones second defeat after the long weather disruption but only the players will be able to explain how a performance that looked for the entire world like a victory somehow ended in another defeat in Essex. The Gulls may have some kind of hoodoo over Wealdstone but if you cannot defend a winning position then you are always going to drop points.
Stones remain top of the Ryman Premier by a combination of results going their way and other close rivals not playing. This may all change after Sunday’s crunch match between Kingstonian and Dulwich however.
In the final analysis they will play far worse and win games but defensively Stones must tighten up – and fast.
Two new signings made their debuts for Wealdstone: Utility man Carl McCluskey came in from Hendon and there was a surprise start for experienced striker Michael Malcolm who had been released by Conference South side Maidenhead earlier in the week.
The Gulls were without the suspended Rob Bartley, Rio Bryan-Edwards and Ashley Dumas and had to substantially reshuffle their line up. Both sides had plenty of attacking ability on display, with the prolific John Sands returning to the home side alongside Jason Hallett.
This was Jonathan North’s first match back at Canvey since he suffered a broken leg at The Prospects Stadium in March 2012 and it was a shame it was not a happier one for the Stones keeper.
Wealdstone opened very positively and thought they had opened the scoring after only five minutes when a ball from the right was turned home at the back post by Malcolm, but unfortunately the flag was raised for offside.
Completely against the run of play Canvey took the lead on 20 minutes when Hallett kept his composure to rifle past North into the bottom corner.
It was nearly 2-0 on 32 minutes when Mike Jones headed Baucutt’s free kick towards the bottom corner, but North did well to save low down by his post and force a corner.
But Stones were playing the better football with Tom Pett a constant threat and deservedly drew level. A through ball from the lively Malcolm caught the Canvey defence square and Pett was allowed to break in behind and beat Josh Vickers with a composed one on one.
Sands first shot in anger came in the 57th minute when a ball through from Moses Ademola found the striker in space, but his powerful first time shot went narrowly over the crossbar but still Stones were largely in control on a difficult surface.
Stones finally took the lead in the 63rd minute through Jonathan Wright. Glen Little crossed a superb ball in from the right wing which found Wright unmarked in the area, and he shot first time across goal and into the net.
Malcolm should have sealed the win and all the points for Wealdstone soon after but the striker wastefully blasted over from a great, totally unmarked, position and this subsequently proved to be the turning point in the contest.
The home side responded with several changes bolstering their midfield and attacking options.
It wasn’t long before unfortunate Stones sub McCluskey lost out in the midfield and a ball in from the right wing found the head of Moses Ademola; North made a tremendous save diving to his right to prevent the goal, but could only parry the ball straight to Strickland who drilled home. Suddenly Stones found themselves under pressure and hemmed in.
The sucker punch winner came in the 91st minute when Nick Humphrey rose highest to head home Sellears’ corner – Canvey’s turnaround and Wealdstone’s abject misery was complete.
After the match Wealdstone Manager Gordon Bartlett said: ‘I am naturally very disappointed because we bossed it for long periods. With 5 minutes to go, 2-1 up and in no trouble at all but we lost possession, they scored and the game changed. We must reflect on the missed opportunities but more importantly we must stop conceding goals. We’ve one of the best defensive units in the league but we’ve let in 8 goals in the last 3 games. It’s simply not good enough and we all know we must work a damn sight harder and get back to winning ways. I have no problem with our overall performance and totally confident we will bounce back’
Wealdstone: North, McCubbin, Siva, Hamblin, Cronin, Godfrey, Little, Pigden, Wright, Pett, Malcolm. Subs: Dean, Moore, Bentley, McCluskey (used), Bawling
Match Report by Nick DuGard