A dominant display against Gosport on Monday night should have been sufficient to see Stones home on a crisp January evening at The Vale. Instead, the 506 football-starved supporters were made to feel the pain of yet another costly late goal meaning Wealdstone have now plundered seven-points in the closing ten-minutes of league matches this term.
One of those seven ‘pinched’ points came against a side who know all about pinching last-gasp goals against Wealdstone: – Eastbourne. Three times in as many matches The Sports have netted late denying Wealdstone four points in the process. This weekend marks exactly a year since ‘ghost goal gate‘ struck at Priory Lane when Richard Pacquette’s 90th minute header appeared to stray wide of Jonathan North’s right hand post yet somehow ended up in the net – enough to earn Saturday’s hosts a share of the spoils on that occasion. The saga was well documented too with national papers likening the incident to a similar one at Vicarage Road a few years earlier.
Nonetheless there are encouraging signs that Stones go into Saturday’s game as a team on the up, something Bartlett acknowledged when he spoke to The Harrow Times in the wake of Monday’s draw earlier this week.
“We were excellent the other night but didn’t win. We’ve got to turn those performances into points. We would still like to add one or two more but we’re going in the right direction. I’m still looking up the table rather than down.”
Gordon Bartlett, 20 January 2016
Wealdstone: Six defeats, five wins, five draws from the previous sixteen competitive outings in the first month of the year.
Despite the positivity, recent history shows January to be a mixed month for Wealdstone. Weather limited the Stones to just two competitive fixtures in January 2014 and whilst Saturday’s outing will be the fourth of a month playing catch-up to December’s postponements – Wealdstone will be hoping to record only their sixth victory in 17 January matches since 2013.
In the way is Eastbourne; a side who sit three places below the Stones. And there’s one thing that links both sides – lack of goals. Wealdstone’s lack of clinical edge was evidenced on Monday and should powerhouse Jefferson Louis sustain an injury (or suspension) the Stones front-line looks threadbare. But Eastbourne too have had their own problems in front of goal – their tally of 23 strikes is the league’s lowest. Defence will be key for both outfits with goals in this fixture very much at a premium (1-1, 1-1, 0-1).
The plaudits at the Vale in recent weeks have been reserved for the ever blossoming back-line bolstered by the experience of Jack Smith and fit-again Tom Cadmore – who have both impressed, with the latter keeping club captain Wes Parker out of the side. Meanwhile, over in the red corner The Sports can boast, on paper at least, one of the league’s best defences – despite conceding at least one goal in each of their last six home league games, their tally of 26 against is one of the fewest in the division. Only five of the current top six have conceded less.
That defence have had a week to reflect on a disappointing hammering in last Saturday’s FA Trophy tie when AFC Flyde of the National League North netted four on their way to a 4-1 victory piling pressure on Tommy Widdrington’s men in the process – it’s now four defeats from six.
Do all National South sides under perform?
A quick look on the Eastbourne forum sees a regurgitation of some common non-league allergies. Inconsistency, bad discipline and poor decisions have all been attributed to the club’s recent slide. You could argue there’s a degree of truth. A costly defeat to then-bottom Basingstoke at the beginning of the month saw the home side lose more than just points. Two injury time strikes lifted The ‘Stoke off the foot of the table and to within five points of safety – ironically Eastbourne – with The Sports losing their discipline and finishing the game with just nine-men.
The hosts must make do without two names in their back-line and both are influential – captain Ian Simpemba, sent off against Basingstoke for abusive language and Marvin Hamilton dismissed in the same game for a rash challenge both face suspension for Saturday’s fixture.
Wealdstone will be without Johnny Wright – victim of a WWE-esque clothesline challenge from Gosport goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore. It’s likely Bartlett will field, aside from Wright, an unchanged side with either Lucien or Ball vying to come in from the cold.
Form last eight
Stones to come out firing. Away win, 0-2.