Forget the result of this hugely absorbing FA Cup First Round Proper clash. Sometimes in football the enormity of the occasion has a life of its own and a spectacle such that it canalmost overshadow the football on the field of play.
Wealdstone had found themselves pitted against League One professionals Colchester United who sit a mere 70 odd places above Stones in the football pyramid. The lead up to this game drew unprecedented national (and international) media attention to Wealdstone, including a live broadcast from the club on BBC’s ‘Football Focus’ and cameras festooned around the Freebets.co.uk Stadium for MOTD and BT Sport,and a small army of journalists and Radio people.
The publicity surrounding the romance of the Cup had been in full swing in the two week lead up and media talk of giant killing abounded; the impossible ever so gradually became the possible as excitement built up in prelude to the big day as the media circus reached frenzied levels.
2,469 fans turned up -a record and sell out attendance at The Vale (easily beating the FA Trophy Newport County semi-final crowd) – most hoping for a headline making outcome. It wasn’t to be as the reality of the enormity of the task Stones faced soon set in but a breathless first half gave some brief hope of a massive upset. But Colchester made sure that they were not going to be rolled over and were coolly and clinically professional in their approach to the tie with no ‘Billy Big Time’ arrogance that can make for humiliation at the hands of what the press call the ‘minnows’.
As to the actual match, the reality in the final analysis was that Stones simply did not perform to anywhere near their capability and with an already gigantean task on their hands, facing a hugely talented Us side, the outcome and perhaps a heavy defeat was almost inevitable. Stones had been on a long unbeaten run prior to this clash but were crucially without the covering defensive midfield qualities of the experienced Elliott Godfrey through suspension and new signing Matt Harriott, although Matt Lowe had been re-signed on Friday on loan from Cambridge United to provide energy and running to Stones central midfield.
Speaking to the assembled press and TV after the matchGordon Bartlett clearly expressed his disappointment: ‘I don’t think we did justice to ourselves. When you go 2-1 up, even though it was against the run of play, you expect to hold that until half-time but we didn’t. You hope that you can hold and consolidate and steady things for 10 minutes into the second half at level pegging but from nothing they go up the other end and score a third within a minute of the restart. That was a very poor goal to concede and gave us another mountain to climb. We then had to go for it but we left too many holes at the back for a lethal attack’
United looked dangerous in the opening exchanges and moved the ball around ominously well showing the blisteringpace that was too prove Stones greatest problem all afternoon. But it was the home side that almost took a surprise lead after 5 minutes when Scott Davies unleashed a superb drive that produced a great tip over save from Us Keeper Elliott Parish.The Essex side soon settled and started to launch long accurate balls out to the right flank that had young Ollie Duffyjustifiably struggling to contain his man as did Josh Urquhart up against the pace of Callum Harriott. Stones were now under the cosh, penned in and the defence had their work cut out. But with a combination of throwing bodies in the way and poor finishing they survived until the 26th minute when the highly talented U23 Zimbabwean International Macauley Bonne netted.
But this is the FA Cup and suddenly, against the run of play, Stones snatched a dramatic life line. Shaun Lucien went on a typical jinking run and ghosted past his marker on the byeline. The covering defender gave Lucien a shove and sent the winger sprawling in the area and Referee Brendan Malone had no hesitation in pointing to the spot sending the Bulla End into ecstasy. Up stepped Jefferson Lewis and he duly sent Parish the wrong way for 1-1.
More drama was soon to come and the dream was on. On 38 minutes, Stones won a corner and as United struggled to clear the ball at the far post, it was blasted against Bradley Hudson-Odoi and straight into the net. Cue mayhem.
But sadly the lead was not to last long and one minute before the break U’s main man Bonne flicked expertly past Jonathan North for a crucial leveller.
Stones hopes received a huge blow just two minutes after the restart. A long kick from Parish found Marvin Sordell who raced down the flank and crossed for Bonne who had the simplest of chances to net his hat- trick. Bonne then smashed home the advantage and with it Stones chances of any kind of a realistic recovery.
Wealdstone had to throw caution to the wind and as they pushed up they did create some late pressure and Louis almost broke through but gaping holes at the back allowed U’s top scorer George Moncur to clinically find the net.
Former Wealdstone loanee Marvin Sordell wrapped up the scoring with a cruel sixth goal right on time as Stones bowed out of the Cup. They now focus back on the bread and butter of league football and a far more significant long term job of progression up the National League South table.
Wealdstone: North, Urquhart, Duffy, Parker, Hamblin, Corcoran (McGleish 80), Lucien (Wright 61), Lowe (Ball 67), Louis, Davies, Hudson-Odoi. Subs not used: Dutton (GK), Binns, Hutchinson.
Stones MoM: Bradley Hudson-Odoi