Wealdstone secured their fourth draw of the campaign at Stonebridge Road and came away reasonably satisfied on Bank Holiday Monday. This was despite playing title favourites and full time professionals Ebbsfleet with a man advantage for 60 minutes when the host’s skipper Daryl McMahon was sent off for a rash challenge on Luke O’Nien. And in a dramatic 5 minute spell before half time Wealdstone also survived a penalty awarded against them with Jonathan North saving brilliantly from Matt Godden. Remarkably this was North’s second spot kick save of an increasingly tough Vanarama Conference South campaign for the men from The Vale.
Stones hugely experienced Manager Gordon Bartlett will know that he has to solve the all too obvious forward problem soon; for all Stones strong defensive capabilities and with a much improved midfield display, there was again little or no cutting edge in the final third.
Changes were made from Saturday’s meek defeat and the response was excellent with a determined effort and high work rate across the Stones team. In came Joe Turner for Michael Malcolm and Luke O’Nien started wearing the No 10 shirt. Wes Parker replaced the injured Tom Hamblin with the change looking seamless all afternoon. Carl Martin slotted into the left back position.
Stones looked good value early on in the conditions of persistent driving rain and contained the Fleet attack very effectively. Scott McGleish carved out a half chance from a rare attack but the dominant figure of the towering Anthony Acheampong was making life difficult without the pace and guile to get around the home back line.
Several free kicks and corners were well defended by the visitors with the host side looking slow and overly patient in their build up. Stones won their first corner on 21 minutes but it came to nought and they then survived a real scare when North’s poor clearance fell straight to a Fleet forward but the player shot wide.
Then came the drama of the sending off with McMahon receiving a straight red for a two footed challenge on O’Nien. But it looked like the home side would snatch an underserved lead after a penalty was conceded but North was more than equal to Godden’s perfectly good strike diving full length to his left on 43 minutes.
Stones, backed by their huge vociferous support, looked far livelier after the break with the man advantage but time and again struggled to either hold the ball up or beat the final man in the danger areas to create goal scoring opportunities.
With the home side dropping back Stones still found incisive forward play at a premium but the pressure and possession was building and their best chance came and went on 58 minutes. Turner used his pace to get clear and crossed low for McGleish who was sliding in at the far post but his stretched effort hit the side netting. Then with the game opening up Turner’s decent strike was well held by keeper Preston Edwards.
Stones brought on all their subs in an effort to zip up the attack but Tom Collins in particular struggled to make his mark and turn matters around. All in all a decent enough point but it’s all about finding the back of the net; options at present look limited but it is time for the current strikers to step up to the plate.
Wealdstone: North, Mills, Martin, Parker, Cronin, Godfrey, Wright, Pigden, McGleish, O’Nien, Turner. Subs used: Malcolm, Little, Collins. N/u: Hickey, Hammond
By Nick DuGard
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