Match Report by Nick DuGard: Saturday, 26 December 2015: National League South:
Hemel Hempstead Town 2 Wealdstone 2
Battling Wealdstone came away with a hard won point from this Boxing Day clash with a strong Hemel Hempstead side. But they were made to feel grateful for the draw after they had taken a thrilling lead 2-1 with 17 minutes to go of normal time when down to 10 men after skipper Wes Parker had been dismissed in controversial circumstances, apparently for a ‘scissor kick’ in the area.
The Tudors were effectively let off the hook when they grabbed an equaliser with three minutes left on the clock and Johnny Wrights dramatic ‘ winner’ was sadly neutralised. Any other result would have been a travesty for Wealdstone’s stubborn display played out in challenging windy conditions at Vauxhall Road.
The Referee, Mr McKay, would probably admit that he seen better games as the man in the middle as he came under constant scrutiny in a particularly difficult second period, leaving players and the segregated 250 travelling Stones fans mystified at several game changing decisions.
Stones were without centre back Tom Hamblin but were bolstered by the availability of Wes Parker but it was clear the Wealdstone Captain was bravely playing through a long term leg injury.
Young West Ham United Loanee Sam Howes looked assured and competent between the sticks and at the other end of the experience spectrum Jack Smith was this reporter’s man of the match for his defensive mopping up.
The first period started brightly for the away side but the Tudors soon hit back with off target strikes from Noor Husin and Zane Banton who was finding some joy down the right flank versus Dale Binns.
Howes’ did well to push away an awkward deflection that could easily have found the back of the net and then saw a couple of shots whistle wide of his posts.
The home side’s main tactic seemed to play high balls up to their tall target man Oliver Hawkins but Tom Cadmore and Parker coped well with the threat through the middle.
The wait for Stones first corner on 31 minutes was almost as long as the queue for the two portaloos for the massed away contingent, but from Davies delivery Bradley Hudson-Odoi blasted wide from a good position.
But 4 minutes later Wealdstone took the lead. From a long Davies throw the ball pinged in and around the box, eventually falling to Jefferson Louis and from his prod across the box Wes Parker was on hand to rifle home past Jamie Butler.
Stones withstood some late pressure in the half including a vicious corner that Parker headed away to safety
After the turnaround Stones were playing into the strong wind but again looked solid and Louis had an early claim for a penalty waved away. Play was now far more open and end to end with both sides countering effectively and with speed. With Stones defence remaining resolute the home side threw on all their substitutes in an effort to turn the game around with only the single goal separating the sides.
Stones committed one foul too many with 20 minutes remaining although Parker’s ground level tackle looked innocuous enough but Hawkins struck the spot kick past Howes for 1-1
But within 3 minutes Wealdstone had dramatically retaken the lead. Hudson-Odoi broke free down the left and dug out a great, deep cross that invited the on rushing Johnny Wright to gleefully head home at the far post but dislocating his finger in the process
With Parkers dismissal Stones 10 men defended desperately in the remaining time but eventually conceded when Hemel’s new signing Graeme Montgomery, largely anonymous to that point planted a hard strike through a line of defenders and past Howes.
Wealdstone: Howes, Smith, Binns, Parker, Cadmore, Godfrey, Wright, Harriott, Louis, Davies, Hudson-ODI Subs used: Corcoran, Hutchinson. Not used: Ball, Lucien, Duffy