Match Report by Jon Batham: Monday, 23 November 2015: National League South: Wealdstone 2 Whitehawk 2
Josh Hutchinson’s first league goal in almost three months could not have been better timed.
Stones looked poised for the tag of valiant losers in this absorbing Monday night clash after seeing Jonny Wright’s first half effort first cancelled out and then bettered by Danny Mills’ double after the break.
But almost three minutes into the five of time added on, Hutchinson, brought on as sub for the final 12 minutes arrived on cue to send the Bulla stand into something approaching delirium.
It was no more than Gordon Bartlett’s men deserved on a night where there was a lot to be positive about and four points in a little over 48 hours will lift the spirits for the battles ahead.
The Stones’ line-up showed just one change from Saturday’s win over Bath as Bradley Hudson-Odoi replaced Shaun Lucien on the left of midfield.
There was an early scare as the high flying Hawks struck the woodwork with a thunderous Gotta header from a corner with just under five minutes played, but having survived that threat Stones settled down to play some neat football.
Despite the visitors, prompted by Sam Deering, having good spells of possession, Bartlett’s men kept good shape and when they won the ball back there was a greater composure about their passing than has been seen in most games this season.
They could have been in front on 10 minutes when Matt Ball played a good one-two with Wright only to completely fluff the shot when given a clear sight of goal.
Seven minutes later it was the hosts who made the breakthrough as another excellent move saw the ball arrive with Hudson-Odoi out on the left.
He beat his man and drifted in a great cross. Wright got a bit of luck when his first touch came back into his path off a defender, but having been given that second bite of the cherry he stepped inside his marker and slotted beyond Hawks’ keeper Ross.
They might have doubled the advantage on several occasions with counter-attacks which troubled the Whitehawk rearguard.
Louis’ flick-on midway through the half gave Hudson-Odoi a glimpse of goal, but a defender got back to nick it off his toe before Elliott Godfrey’s shot was claimed by Ross.
Whitehawk gathered themselves for the end of the half and thought they levelled when a rare error from Jonathan North saw him fumble a Leacock header but the referee ruled it hadn’t crossed the line allowing Stones to preserve their lead to the break.
Four minutes after came a crucial moment as Stones skipper Tom Hamblin injured himself making a recovery tackle and despite attempting to play on after treatment he had to be replaced by Carl Martin.
North turned aside a great effort from Chris Sessegnon to preserve the lead which they should have doubled at the other end when Matt Ball surged into the box and stepped inside his defender only then to shoot weakly at Ross.
The ball was eventually smuggled behind for a corner hit beyond the far post. Josh McLeod-Urquhart retrieved it brilliantly to cross back into the danger area where Louis was unable to get it on target under pressure from a defender.
As so often happens when chances go begging 60 seconds later Whitehawk were level when Deering played the ball into the defensive area Hamblin had marshalled so well earlier and in his absence Mills steered his shot beyond North.
The momentum was now with the visitors and eight minutes later they completed the turnaround. Weak tackles on the right of the defence allowed Braham-Barrett to cross from the left and the dangerous Mills got above everyone to power home his header.
For a while it looked as if Hawks might get a third, but with 12 minutes left Bartlett threw on Hutchinson and Shaun Lucien for Godfrey and Wright as he went for broke.
It was deep into stoppage time when he got his reward as Hudson-Odoi and Dale Binns worked a short corner on the left and when the delicious cross came in Hutchinson lost his marker and applied a deft finish.
Stones: North, Duffy, Hamblin (Martin 51), McLeod-Urquhart, Binns, Wright (Hutchinson 78), Godfrey (Lucien 78), Ball, Davies, Hudson-Odoi, Louis.