Wealdstone’s amazing fifteen match unbeaten league run came to an inglorious and abrupt end in the unlikely surroundings of Imber Court on Saturday and the celebrations, already expectedly premature of course, will be put on hold for now.
A combination of a ridiculous four games played in seven days, a reshuffled line up and several key players missing all took their inevitable toll. And most of the 260 Stones fans in the ground would also have to admit that the Met played a tight, well engineered game plan that stifled the stuttering away attack albeit shorn of Tom Pett who was rested. In fact the host’s number 5 Steve Sutherland was without doubt man of the man of the match in my book and scored the winning goal for his side.
And as frustrating as it may seem to a well supported club such as Wealdstone, the lack of a home fan base supporting an organisation rather than a community doesn’t translate itself to a lack of commitment and desire on the pitch. The Met was nothing if not committed and were more than delighted to stop the Stones steam roller…and so will all the other sides they have yet to play. But we know that!
Stones shape looked disjointed almost from the first whistle with Charlie Penny playing wide and Johnny Wright and Carl McCluskey in central forward positions. Stefan Bailey returned to the midfield but was clearly lacking match sharpness following his lengthy lay off and was substituted at half time by Scott McCubbin.
But this lack of overall fluidity didn’t seem to matter early doors as Wright went close from a Penny cross and then Stones suddenly took the lead after only 11 minutes. Elliott Godfrey was bundled over in the box and Sean Cronin unerringly did the business from the resultant spot kick.
The home side were undeterred and dealt with Stones limited attacks in the first period and began they soon began to gain a solid foothold in the midfield. And with a surprisingly swirling wind for both sides to contend with play became increasingly scrappy and creative ball penetration was seemingly not able to be placed on the agenda.
And when a disputed free kick was awarded to the Met on 35 minutes it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when Sutherland stole in aggressively at the far post to level up the scores.
The second half saw McCubbin on and Tom Hamblin replaced by Wes Parker – presumably for injury. With Penny now moved into a central attacking position things looked a little more threatening and the diminutive striker was unlucky when he broke free with pace but he shot was skewed wide of the target.
Stones then had probably their best spell of the match when some pressure almost resulted in an own goal and then on 58 minutes McCubbin was unlucky when his excellent low strike was well held by Met keeper Stuart Searle. But Stones were still far from in control as the home side broke quickly and with purpose finding their men with a decent range of passing.
Enter final substitute Glen Little and the big man certainly delivered an impact but the Police defence held firm and the final killer ball just couldn’t be found.
Stones paid the price for some poor defending on the flank with 12 minutes left on the clock; Ty Smith rifled a great strike past Jonathan North. Stones huffed and puffed in the remaining minutes but it was North who was again called into action to tip a strike over the bar.
Stones will go again this Tuesday evening at The Vale when old adversaries Lowestoft Town will come calling – no doubt reprising the old snapping, snarling and surrounding the ref routine. Wealdstone have never beaten Lowestoft – now is the time, place and occasion to break this unwanted record. Bring it on..
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Hamblin, Cronin, Godfrey, Bailey, O’Nien, Wright, Penny, McCuskey, Subs used: McCubbin, Parker, Little. N/u: Pigden, Dean.
Match Report by Nick DuGard