Make no mistake this was a massive and pivotal win for Wealdstone. Yes, the three points were vitally important; increasing the gap at the top by a formidable 13 points but it was the manner of this victory that was so impressive.
Stones dug in hard against a big, typically bruising Billericay side moulded into an archetypically uncompromising unit by their equally tough Manager Craig Edwards. And it was clear to see why the Blues had won ten on the road. They defended robustly and broke quickly with purpose and made life very difficult for a Wealdstone side that looked increasingly battle scarred. The loss of leading goal scorer and talisman Scott McGleish to a calf injury only heaped the pressure on Gordon Bartlett’s men but they came through this battle royal with flying colours.
Young Millwall loanee Charlie Penny justifiably won the man of the match accolade and played an effective and mature game up front, fending off hulking defenders, particularly so after McGleish had to be substituted. Johnny Wright made a surprise return after his back injury and was also in the thick of things and survived a further crashing injury to get up and score a superb second and decisive goal to kill off the away side’s challenge.
Stones started very brightly and their movement and touch immediately looked far improved over Saturday’s inhibited performance. McGleish combined well with Tom Pett who looked mobile and threatening and his cross early doors almost brought a goal.
But the Blues hit back through man mountain Ricky Sappleton and almost nicked a goal themselves but Jonathan North got down quickly and saved brilliantly. Stones found the away side’s hoofing tactics a constant challenge and play was constantly broken up by a combination of uncompromising defending and good hold up play. Robust challenges by the visitors on occasions became over physical as Pett became a target of some agricultural ‘tackles’.
It was nil all at half time and Stones had their work cut out.
Soon after the turnaround with Wealdstone playing up the slope North had to be alert again when he held a shot that deflected awkwardly off Wes Parker. But with space in the midfield finally opening up and the excellent Luke Pigden exploiting it Stones almost grabbed the lead through the persistent and pacy Penny.
Wright came on, survived an injury scare and started to link up well with Pett and Penny. Finally, Stones made the breakthrough on 70 minutes; Penny burst into the box and even the rather eccentric referee Mr Saliy couldn’t fail to award a penalty after Jeffrey Imudia clumsily clipped the young forward. Sean Cronin smashed the spot kick high into the net past keeper Bill Lumley who would no longer slow play down.
Stones were now playing with freedom and renewed vigour overcoming the pain and cramp. Jerome Okimo broke free on the left and went on a surging run, crossed and in one beautiful movement Wright swept the ball past Lumley and it was game over.
Watford’s Luke O’Nien came for the final few minutes and impressed with some clever movement.
Sappleton did smash a free kick off the cross bar with a minute remaining but Stones spirit was exemplified with weary bodies being thrown at everything to prevent even a consolation.
Great stuff, but another game awaits… on Thursday at East Thurrock United.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Parker ©, Cronin, Godfrey, McCubbin, Pigden, McGleish, Penny, Pett. Subs used: Wright, McCluskey, O’Nien. N/u: Putman, Hamblin.
William Hill MoM: Charlie Penny