Sometimes football has a nasty habit of biting you in the most awkward of places and often when it is least expected. Saturday at The Vale was one of those unfortunate occasions and played out in the most ironic of circumstances.
Wealdstone had just been rightly and proudly crowned Champions of the Ryman Premier only a few days previously at Margate. The scene was set for the joyous crowd of just under 900 to fully celebrate a coming home and to put the icing on the cake against, albeit, a tough looking encounter with play off hopefuls Kingstonian. And although things started off in the expected way with a fine guard of honour by the K’s players welcoming the triumphant Stones players onto the lush Vale pitch, things went badly awry with the early and shock dismissal of ‘keeper Jonathan North.
Happily, of course, in the bigger picture, this result is rendered meaningless except that, significantly, Stones excellent goal keeper Jonathan North will now be suspended and unavailable for the Middlesex Senior Cup Final on Saturday May 3
North collided with Ks Matthew Drage in the area when attempting to punch the ball away but with the big centre half collapsing like a sack of spuds the Referee Mr Howard had no hesitation in showing North a straight red and awarding the penalty much to the amusement of gloating Ks fans in the Bulla Stand end whose insulting taunts toward Glen Little as he left the stage did not go unnoticed.
Substitute Sean Cronin on in place of the sacrificed Jonny Wright, bravely donned the keepers gloves – not for the first time in his Wealdstone career – but this time there was to be no happy ending as Stones were eventually given a bit of a hiding by a Kingstonian side that were never going to let this golden opportunity pass them by to cement their play-off place. Stones shape and momentum went pretty much out of the window in a torrid first half as the away side took full advantage.
Stones rallied well in the second half and even dominated possession but the K’s picked off the home side on the break making full use of their numerical advantage. Stones biggest problem was holding the ball up long enough for a deep midfield to form attacks and young Penny struggled all afternoon against hulking defenders who out muscled him time and again.
After Ks Andre McCollin had dispatched the penalty it was pretty much one way traffic in the first half despite Wealdstone’s valiant efforts to pull the game around.
Things got worse for the home side a few minutes after the penalty drama when, ironically, Matthew Drage flicked the ball in at the near post from a corner leaving Cronin helpless and picking the ball out of the net for a second time.
But Stones galvanised themselves really well in the second half and Luke Pigden’s long range strike was saved brilliantly by Rob Tolfrey. Charlie Penny finally wriggled free and also went close but with a man down the away side were able to break very effectively and always looked likely to add to the scoreline. But despite Cronin pulling off a great save, McCollin added his second and Ks third on 66 minutes and the scoring was wrapped up by sub Sam Akinde at the death with a tap in with Stones defence under constant pressure late on.
So not what the Stones faithful expected or wanted but at least they will not have to worry about play-offs and that dreadful tension and drama this time around because, for them, it’s all done and dusted.
Even so Stones will want to end the season on a high and will be looking for wins against Billericay Town away on Easter Monday and next Saturday (26 April) at The Vale when the Championship Trophy will be lifted. Happy days indeed.
Wealdstone: North,McCubbin, Okimo, Parker ©, Hamblin, Godfrey, Little, Pigden, Wright, Penny, Pett. Subs used: Cronin (as goal keeper), Hammond, Malcolm. N/u: O’Nien, McCluskey.
Match Report by Nick DuGard