Dartford 2 Wealdstone 2
A pulsating finish to this Vanarama National League opener at Dartford on Saturday saw Wealdstone grab a hugely deserved point.
Defender Eddie Oshodi was the Stones hero with a dramatic 94th minute equaliser and an incredible defensive interception to save what looked like a certain winner from the home side at the death after 7 minutes injury time had been added.
A defeat would have been cruel for a Stones side that have, understandably, yet to fully gel with only three players from the previous campaign featured in the starting line up at a sun drenched Princes Park. But there were certainly plenty of signs that this reconstructed side can do some damage once a more settled pattern of play can develop. More pleasingly was the battling spirit on display and clear leadership from senior players when under the cosh.
Stones started well and soon had the Darts under some pressure; the home side played their familiar direct game, finding their strong forwards with long, high balls.
After a decent home effort from a free kick was well held by Jonathan North, it was Wealdstone that could have taken the lead. New signing Matty Whichelow instinctively latched onto a loose ball outside the area and his powerful strike was expertly pushed away by Darts keeper Deren Ibrahim.
Again Stones pressed forward with Danny Green and lone front man Elliot Benyon, a clear contender for away man of the match, going close.
The home side thought they had gone ahead against the run of play on 28 minutes but the effort was immediately ruled offside.
This action lifted Darts and the home side finally cranked up their offensive play, and, with greater possession, started to threaten for the first time. Good work by Ryan Hayes almost paid off but the official’s flag gain came to Stones rescue.
Dartford rocked Stones a minute before the break with a goal of some fortune as their star striker Elliot Bradbrook was in the right place to smash home a ball that spun out nicely for him, giving North no chance.
Ironically after a slow start to the second period, Wealdstone roared back into the contest with an equaliser of high quality. A superb, slick, passing move involving on loan midfielder Dylan Williams and Ricky Wellard resulted in the ball being rolled in front of the sticks for Benyon to tap home gleefully on 53 minutes with the home defence sliced open.
A buoyed up away side again seized the initiative and had the majority of possession but the supply from wide areas remained in short supply and real goal chances were at a premium.
Even so Wellard went close with a vicious long range strike that was not far over Ibrahim’s cross bar.
The game turned again with the introduction for the Darts of their new signing, Duane Ofori-Acheampomg and the towering striker soon began to pose problems for Wes Parker and his back line troops.
Stones had a let off when Parker was caught out but Acheampong blazed wildly over from a good position.
Subs were made by both sides; notably Sahr Kabba replacing Whichelow with 17 minutes to go on the clock. Benyon had a great chance to take his side into the lead when he again cleverly broke free of his marker but although the ball sat up nicely for him, the diminutive striker hit the ball agonisingly wide.
Elliott Bradbrook was stretchered off with the game held up for several minutes.
The unfortunate Kabba had not had the best of first touches and his calamitous challenge in the area on 81 minutes handed a penalty to the Darts which Ryan Hayes tucked away although North guessed right.
Stones were now facing an unlikely and unwanted defeat but still had the extended additional time to find a way back. And when North made a fantastic save to deny the marauding Acheampong things didn’t look promising.
But Oshodi changed all that; with 94 minutes gone he rose majestically from a corner to head high into the corner of the net. His final minute challenge at the other end of the pitch ensured an encouraging start and a welcome point for his team and a rousing send off from the near 200 away following.
Stones are at The Vale on Monday evening when they face St Albans City KO 7.45pm
Wealdstone: North, Oshodi, Urquhart, Parker, Hamblin, Hunt, Whichelow, Green, Benyon, Wellard, Williams. Subs used: Kabba, Hutchinson. N/u: Cadmore, Godfrey, Brown