St Albans City 1 Wealdstone 1
FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round
By Nick DuGard
Wealdstone played a dramatic get out of jail card on Saturday at Clarence Park with an 87th minute equaliser from their wily old fox Scott McGleish. The hugely experienced front man headed powerfully past City ‘keeper Joe Welch only three minutes after the home side had taken the lead in this absorbing FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round tie.
Stones had missed a first half penalty and looked to be on their way out of the tie after conceding their now seeminglyubiquitous late goal.
The sides will now replay at The Vale on Tuesday evening, December 2nd for a coveted place in the First Round Proper of this prestigious competition.
Stones display reflected their continuing improvement as a competitive unit after their thrashing by Saints in a home Vanarama Conference South encounter earlier in the season. Then Stones capitulated but there was none of that in this sometimes feisty cup tie and Stones played their part to the full apart from a tired looking last 15 minutes, but still summoned up a late leveller.
Stones vociferous away support counted as 260 strong in an official gate announced as 457 surprisingly equated to a home crowd presumably as low as possibly 197. With league gates around the 400 mark clearly the St Albans public have decided not to embrace this competition in any numbers. And yet the match still enjoyed a decent cup atmosphere throughout with presumably Christmas shoppers joining in the throng from outside in York Road.
Stones started very positively with Shaun Lucien and Joe Turner looking very lively down the flanks. Lucien’s deflected strike after 5 minutes offered up a corner as the away pressed effectively with Matt Ball prominent in the midfield.
But Saints absorbed the early pressure and hit back with a swift move up field that almost produced a goal as Kyriaunou’s lobbed effort flew just past Jonathan North’s far post.
Another decent cut in by the tricky Lucien brought a good save from Joe Welch as Stones continued to work hard and close down the home midfield.
One of the best moves of the first period saw Ryan Wattspower in a great cross that eventually fell to Elliot Godfrey who shot wide.
The pivotal moment of the half came on 43 minutes when aLucien effort struck a home defenders arm and an alert Assistant Referee signalled for the penalty kick. City players protested loud and long as is so prevalent these days withCity’s James Comley irritatingly contesting the plainly obvious, much to the chagrin of the massed away support.
But the delay seemed to affect the normally reliable Sean Cronin who chose to place his strike rather than blast it down the throat of the keeper. The ball smashed against an upright and away to safety and the chance for Stones to go into the interval with an advantage was lost.
Tom Hambin replaced the injured Wes Parker at the turnaround. Saints looked as though they has received a rocket from their management team at half time and came out of the blocks by far the quickest and attacked from the off. Saints almost took the lead on 61 minutes when a fiercely struck effort was somehow cleared off the line as the home side nowseized the initiative. This position was exacerbated when Ball went off injured, replaced by Carl Martin.
Although Stones forward forays were now sporadic, they still presented a threat through the hard working Turner and Lucien down the flanks. Martin and McGleish went close with off target headers in a little spell of pressure.
Disaster appeared to strike on 84 minutes for Stones as the now constant pressure on the away goal finally told. Saints debutant player Nathan Green found space down the middle and his firm strike squirmed in past North.
To their great credit Stones kept pressing and won a free kick outside the area with three minutes remaining. Godfrey flighted a perfect ball into the box and McGleish had time to power past Welch with his head.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Watts, Parker, Cronin, Godfrey, Turner, Ball, McGleish, Brown, Lucien. Subs used: Martin, Hamblin, Wright. Other Subs: Hickey, Jolly.