This was the proverbial games of two halves as first and second slugged it out in front of a record and excited home crowd of 1,151 at The Vale on Saturday. The scene was set in glorious sunshine for Stones to further increase their ten point lead at the top of the Ryman Premier table but matters didn’t quite go according to script as Dulwich showed considerable determination in a poor second half for the home side.
Stones didn’t have to move out of second gear in a rewarding first period with goals from the master and the apprentice – Scott McGleish, with his 21st of the campaign, and livewire Tom Pett. But when Dulwich upped their ante after the break scoring with two shock long range efforts and Stones simply weren’t able to move back up the gears to seal a win that would have surely put them in an almost unassailable position at the top. Right from kick off Dulwich’s habit of playing out of defence looked cumbersome and vulnerable to pressure, not helped by a calf injury to their big keeper Phil Wilson who was not able to take goal kicks. But for the first 25 minutes both sides probed and tussled for effective possession and goal scoring opportunities.
Stones skipper Wes Parker came closest with a super header that powered just over from Elliott Godfrey’s corner. But on 33 minutes it was Parker that was instrumental in the breakthrough. He flicked on Pettt’s corner perfectly into the path of Man of the Match McGleish who span brilliantly to smash the ball past Wilson. And just before the break Wealdstone looked to be in complete control. Luke Pigden who had a superb afternoon in the midfield released Milwall loanee Charlie Penny who intelligently rolled the ball invitingly to Pett stroking the ball home with calmness personified.
But it was all change in the second half proving, if it ever needed to be, that you have to keep your foot firmly on the gas. Dulwich gradually gained control of the midfield with Dean Lodge finally showing his pace and control on the flank. But it was an out of the blue strike that rocked Stones when substitute Tommy Kavanagh fired low past Jonathan North from 20 yards on 62 minutes. Suddenly the whole complexion of the game changed and Stones wobbled and seemed unable to respond. But when superhero Glen Little entered the stage it looked as though Stones might put the game to bed and the big man certainly livened up the midfield with several trademark surging runs. One of these produced a great chance for Pett whose superb lob was dealt with brilliantly by Wilson.
But Dulwich were not finished and with the writing very much on the wall they eventually equalised. As the home side continued to back off, full back Ahmed Deen unleashed a long ranger that gave North no chance seven minutes from time. And that was that but in the final analysis it was Dulwich that needed to win the game as the points gap at the top was maintained. Stones Manager Gordon Bartlett will reflect on more injury issues, squad rotation, and the need to keep his troops feet firmly on the pedal as they face three games in six days this coming week.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Parker ©, Cronin, Godfrey, McCubbin, Pigden, McGleish, Penny, Pett. Sub used: Little. N/u: Siva, McCluskey, Putman, O’Nien.
Match Report by Nick DuGard