Match Report: Monday, 6 April 2015: Vanarama Conference South:
Wealdstone 0 Ebbsfleet United 1
This Easter Monday match provided a fascinating contrast between non-leagues ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and provided another indication of its shifting financial chasms and the challenges Wealdstone will increasingly face off the pitch as they establish themselves at the higher levels of the game.
But it is also a huge credit to Wealdstone that they continue to compete and live as footballing equals on the pitch. It needed an unfortunate own goal at a sun drenched Vale on Monday to separate the admittedly consistently under pressure home side and the full-time professionals of Ebbsfleet, now backed by the apparently limitless resources of KEH Sports Ltd, a group of Kuwaiti investors. Financially at least the two clubs are worlds apart.
Stones have now exceeded their initial target of 50 points and have learnt much in a challenging season; the experience will hopefully enable them to progress and develop but without significant financial backing to keep pace with progress on the pitch the challenge will be increasingly greater each campaign.
As for the match itself this was not the greatest of spectacles for Stones second highest gate of the season of 901. The Fleet largely dominated proceedings and for a period in the second half also had the luxury of having a man advantage when home talisman Jefferson Louis was dramatically and controversially sent off.
After a cagey and untidy start from both sides, with the Stones defence looking very solid the home sides good work was undone by an own goal. A free kick was flighted in from the right and Elliott Godfrey back headed over the advancing Jon North.
Fleet looked very comfortable on the ball and their tall and physically capable centre back pairing of Anthony Acheampong and Tom Bonner picked of any high balls that were all too frequently played up to them for Johnny Wright and Louis to chase.
Stones found it frustratingly tough to hold the ball up consistently and often found themselves overrun in midfield as their passing was uncharacteristically below par, whilst the away side closed down any runs very effectively.
But Stones worked as hard as ever and battled away and largely restricted Fleet to a couple of on target efforts – one striking an upright. North made one of his great trademark saves as the half closed out.
The second period again saw Ebbsfleet having most of the possession but failing to make the game safe with Tom Hamblin and Wes Parker assured down the middle and Carl Martin and Ryan Watts keeping the flanks clear of danger for the most part.
Just as Stones looked to make some progress with Louis starting to cause problems he was shown a straight red for apparently using his elbow on Matt Fish who went down like the proverbial sack of spuds under the challenge.
Substitute Scott McGleish battled bravely up front from that point but the result never really looked in doubt as the game drifted way from Stones .
Wealdstone: North, Martin, Watts, Parker, Hamblin, Godfrey, Wright, Brown, Louis, Davies, Ball. Subs used: McGleish, Lucien, Jolly. Not used: Hammond, McDonnell.
MoM: Tom Hamblin