League leaders Wealdstone entertained Oxford City at The Vale on Saturday afternoon, keen continue their outstanding start to the season, while cementing their status at the top of the table.
A late second half goal from defender Michee Efete enabled the Stones to edge an enthralling contest, and extend their lead at the top of the National League South to seven points with their eighth consecutive victory.
From the outset, the match was a lively and exciting affair, with both sides demonstrating attacking intent, as they looked to take an early advantage.
Wealdstone were agonisingly close to assuming the lead within the seventh minute of play, as Jacob Mendy seized possession in the box and powerfully fired towards goal. Only a vital point-blank save from Hoops’ goalkeeper Harry Isted prevented the attacker from adding to his tally of five goals this season.
The Stones continued to dominate the early proceedings, winning three successive corners in the first ten minutes, with Billy Clifford preying on the edge of the box, and ripping driven efforts either side of the crossbar.
In the 21st minute, Oxford City were tantalisingly close to scoring, as Josh Ashby struck a fantastic free kick from just outside the edge of the box. However, Aston Oxborough produced a magnificent one-handed save to ensure the tie remained goalless.
As the first half progressed, Wealdstone began to galvanise more goal scoring opportunities than their opponents, exhibiting fluid and cohesive passages of play, crafted by the talented duo of Danny Green and Billy Clifford.
In spite of this, the visitors remained compact in their formation, defending stoically to thwart the Stones’ attacks, and ensure that they went into half time on level terms.
The Stones started the second half in a commanding manner, nearly drawing first blood in the 47th minute, as Green chested down to Mendy and his first-time volley flew just inches over the crossbar.
Stimulated by this impressive start to the second half, Wealdstone generated a flurry of goal scoring efforts in quick succession. In the 48th minute, Isted had to produce a dazzling double save from Dennon Lewis and Green to deny the home side from taking an early second half lead.
Much of the Stones’ attacking prowess was instigated by Lewis, who was in fine form throughout; utilising his blistering pace and skill to provide a constant threat down the left wing.
In the 56th minute, Michael Phillips produced a surging run through midfield, threading the ball through to Stones’ top scorer Ross Lafayette, who drilled his shot marginally wide of the far post.
Substitute Phil Roberts made a significant impact for Wealdstone; striking a spectacular effort from just inside the Hoops’ half, which flew narrowly wide, after he has spotted Isted off of his line, in the 74th minute.
Two minutes later, Roberts produced another superb long range effort, skimming the crossbar from wide on the right wing.
In the 81st, somewhat against the run of play, the Hoops nearly took the lead as Joe Oastler powerfully headed Ashby’s corner towards goal, but Lafayette produced a brilliant goal line clearance to preserve the score.
A minute later, the rampant Lewis burst down the left wing to the by-line, chipping the ball to Green at the far post. He leaped to produce a pinpoint header towards the top corner, but Isted responded with a fabulous finger tipped save.
In the 83rd minute, the Stones sealed a stunning late victory, as Efete rose highest to head Green’s corner past Isted and send the home fans into frenzy.
An inspired performance from Oxford City saw them push Wealdstone to the final whistle. Heroic and resolute defending from the central defensive partnership of Connor Stevens and Jerome Okimo, along with crucial saves from Oxborough enabled the Stones to secured a clean sheet and restore their winning record at The Vale this season.
Wealdstone have a week until their next National League South fixture as the Stones travel to Park View Road against Welling United on Saturday 14th September, kick-off is at 3pm.
Wealdstone: Oxborough, Arnold, Efete, Clifford (Smith, 84), Stevens, Okimo, Phillips, Mendy (Roberts, 61), Lafayette, Green, Lewis (Sheppard, 90).
Subs not used: North, Watt.
Report by Nicole Cho-Yee