Stones know a thing or two about conceding late goals and it was another costly one in the rain on Saturday that denied them the chance of moving into the play-off places.
Wealdstone 2-2 Poole Town
Poole Town’s Luke Burbridge was on hand to thunder home a 90th minute equaliser after North’s flap from a corner dropped invitingly onto the midfielder’s right-peg.
With a fervent drive to promote #NonLeagueDay2016 and football for a fiver, Wealdstone were rewarded with an attendance figure of 1,003 – that’s their highest league gate at home in two-and-a-half-years since Dulwich Hamlet in the Ryman Premier; a game that also finished 2-2.
But on a day of celebration Wealdstone will wonder whether it was two points dropped against one of the early season pacesetters, Poole Town.
And perhaps it was cruel for Stones who suffered at the hands of some contentious refereeing decisions. The first coming as early as the ninth minute when a Stones corner was dropped by Hutchings in the Poole Town goal. Benyon bundled home the loose ball only for the ref to disallow it – answers on a postcard.
The visitor’s first real chance of note came courtesy of a defensive error by the usually-reliable Eddie Oshodi. The defender’s wild swing fell at the feet of Burbridge who’s clever first-time pass fed Wort in space but his shot was wasteful and Oshodi was relieved to see it whistle harmlessly wide of North’s far post.
With both sides happy to keep the ball without creating any clear cut chances the game needed something to spark it to life. And that came in the 21st minute when a Josh Urquhart cross-field ball fed Omar Koroma who danced enough space to fizz in a cross from the left which Wright met powerfully but was unable to direct it below the crossbar.
Stones were upping the tempo and two minutes later they were ahead. A Green corner was met by Oshodi but Benyon was on hand to claim the final touch and take his tally to five league goals in the process.
Poole, up until then, hadn’t looked like testing North but they nearly found a way back in when Oshodi was caught napping under a long ball and the ever alert Burbridge nearly sneaked in.
The visitors sniffed an unlikely equaliser could be coming and they snatched one before the half was out when Hamblin was caught dallying on a downfield punt and was adjudged to have fouled Roberts as he attempted to hack clear. A #NonLeagueDay gift.
Television replays appeared to show the Stones captain clumsily swing his foot towards the ball as Roberts raced in front of the defender. @StonesGoals pundit Gary Neville was insistent that the penalty should not have been given, but the defender was always asking the ref to make a decision with such ponderous play.
Devlin made no mistake for the visitors sending North the wrong way to send Poole in level at the break.
During the half time interval the rain began teeming down and the 900-odd Stones supporters sought cover under Couch Corner. And the hosts came out firing, first through Koroma who’s daisy cutter was well watched by Hutchings low to his right, and then five minutes later through Urquhart. The Stones right-back heading narrowly over after good work from Whichelow and Benyon to keep a Green corner alive.
Wealdstone sensed goals and when Wright was withdrawn for Cox – who signed just 24-hours earlier – Stones would show their intent on retaking the lead with three good chances in quick succession. First, Smith fed Whichelow who ran into space and shot powerfully at the near post with Hutchings equal to it, then Whichelow turned provider but Koroma, on the stretch, failed to connect with his measured cross before Benyon finally had the home fans jumping again. Smith’s hooked clearance was headed on by Green and Whichelow found himself clear and in space. The midfielder should have scored himself but when Hutchings could only parry at his feet the ball fell kindly for Benyon, akin to a computer game, who made no mistake with the rebound. 2-1.
Stones looked in cruise control and should have seen the game out comfortably. Koroma had the host’s best chance to put it to bed when Green’s pinpoint cross found the striker in acres of free space at the back post. Unfortunately for him, and for Wealdstone, his header was woefully wide – failing to hit the target from little more than a few yards out.
And that miss would prove very costly. With clock beginning to tick down Poole, roared on by their management team, started to commit numbers forward as they went in search of another unlikely equaliser that would cement their position in the top-5.
That equaliser was to come in the 90th minute courtesy of another Wealdstone error when North flapped at a corner allowing Burbridge to hammer home. The visitor’s relief at netting was evident as the entire Poole team, including Hutchings who was in the Stones box when they scored, raced to their supporters in unison to celebrate. The Stones bench, by contrast, was deflated with McGleish muttering some expletives about his side’s defensive inabilities.
We weren’t quite finished, however, and it could have been worse when North parried a 30-yard Devlin strike onto the feet of substitute Surridge. Fortunately for Wealdstone, and 90% of the crowd, the striker couldn’t adjust his feet efficiently enough to hit the target. Poole would have one more foray at goal before the whistle, but centre-back Michael Walker couldn’t keep his effort down from a centred free kick.
There was plenty of entertainment at the Vale but Wealdstone yet again must rue their own downfall. If they want to be serious players one point must consistently become three – especially at home.
Photos courtesy of Alan Palmer unless otherwise stated.