After the excitement of the cup run Stones return to league action this weekend hoping for a repeat of March’s league visit to Clarence Park.
Then, Stones travelled in search of a vital three points as they continued to steer themselves further away from relegation trouble. Jefferson Louis was inspired for the visitors that day – netting twice as the blues cruised to a 3-1 win. And after an indifferent start to this campaign, interrupted in part by suspension, Louis is beginning to show signs he is returning to his best form netting five times in his previous eight appearances.
Above: Big Jeff tucks his penalty away against Colchester United
Matty Harriott – legs
But what about Matty Harriott? The midfielder was cup tied last weekend but was pivotal on his debut against table toppers Ebbsfleet. The whole team were brilliant that day with the vociferous away following also playing their part in ensuring the full-timers were sent crashing to just their second defeat of the season.
Harriott was a surprise inclusion – only sealing his move the night before – but rightly grabbed the headlines for his casting role as match-winner. I asked Gordon Bartlett what, as the local paper claimed, a midfielder “not renowned for his goals” was doing scoring twice in one game.
Bartlett’s response: “Don’t believe what you read in the paper. The same paper said he’s 6 foot. He’s 5 foot 8. I signed him to score goals. He scored 11 for Hemel last season. We need legs. Matty Lowe gives us legs, and Matty Harriott will give us legs too.”
It’s not entirely clear why Hemel were willing to part company, and nor do Wealdstone care, but the Hemel Today hints at a bust up following The Tudors loss to Concord Rangers. Dean Brennan, the Hemel boss, said: “Matty wanted to play more regularly; he’s done a good job for us but he wanted to be guaranteed to start and I can’t guarantee that to anyone. He’s a good kid with a fantastic attitude and fantastic energy – you can’t knock what he’s done at our football club – but both parties have decided it is best if we go our separate ways.”
Wealdstone had to move quickly for Harriott and if fate had operated differently, he’d be lining up against the Stones for Saturday’s opponents – St Albans. The Saints were rumoured to have come in with a last minute offer to tempt the player before Bartlett moved swiftly to ensure it was Wealdstone blue and not St Albans yellow that he wears come 3pm Saturday.
With Elliott Godfrey also returning from suspension there will be healthy competition in the middle of the park.
Stones will have to arrest a change in fortunes on Saturday – their 13-match unbeaten run ended emphatically in the FA Cup by Colchester (2-6) on Saturday before a further set-back followed in midweek against Harrow Borough with a last minute goal knocking the Stones out of the Middlesex Cup (2-3).
In St Albans they face a side who sit second-bottom of the National South with just two wins all season – only bottom side Basingstoke (1) fair worse. Current league form doesn’t offer much solace for The Saints either – it’s now four games since they won three-points – only Gosport and Eastbourne (5 games apiece) fair worse. Wealdstone, on the other hand, have won each of their last three league games – a sequence only bettered by Maidenhead (4) and Maidstone United (6), whilst only Truro (9 matches) have gone on a longer run than the Stones (7) since last tasting league defeat.
Did someone say FA Cup?
What a day it was. A superb occasion for Wealdstone FC with the obvious highlight being the live BBC coverage as part of Football Focus (look out for @StonesGoals “The day that was” revisit sometime later this month). On the pitch, matters didn’t go quite to plan and the league side tore holes in the Stones backline.
Bartlett gave a fair assessment of what many others felt in regard to the on-pitch action, speaking to local media he said: “I don’t think we did justice to ourselves. When you go 2-1 up, even though it was against the run of play, you expect to hold that until half-time but we didn’t. You hope that you can hold and consolidate and steady things for 10 minutes into the second half at level pegging but from nothing they go up the other end and score a third within a minute of the restart. That was a very poor goal to concede and gave us another mountain to climb. We then had to go for it but we left too many holes at the back for a lethal attack.”
Meanwhile in North-East Lincolnshire St Albans were suffering a similar fate as they too were humbled in the cup by a full-time outfit – and by the same four goal margin – suffering a 5-1 defeat away to National League Premier side, Grimsby Town. James Gray’s tweet below summing up the difference between the haves and have nots.
History lessons and old faces
Wealdstone will once more do battle against several old faces on Saturday with both Lee Chappell and Graeme Montgomery expected to line up down the left flank for Saturday’s hosts. Former-Stones favourite James “Jimmy” Gray is still leading the side and Darren Locke still features prominently at the heart of their defence. But what about Billy Gibson? The former Watford trainee played five times for the Stones and netted twice in a derby day victory over Harrow Borough way back in 2009. Amazingly, still just 25, the playmaker is back after taking a few years out and away from the game.
And let’s not forget it was one of the ex-brigade, Chappell, who angered Stones fans with his ill-timed tweet ahead of the first meeting between the pair 14-months ago:
At the time Wealdstone were winless but three-days later recorded an unlikely away win over Whitehawk; a first win of the season at the tenth time of asking. Match-day 11 was not so kind as St Albans travelled to The Vale to dish out a 3-0 hammering. The result and abject performance were so bad that many flocked to the forum to call for the manager’s head.
A particularly good forum post was this:
“Howard, Please sign a rugged 6’4 Mobile forward,that will score 20 goals a season, thats if you want to hoof it up as we have been doing, Howard please sign a PLAYMAKER that can orchestrate the water carriers in the midfield, Howard, please sign a minder for the afore mentioned players, O’Nien apart,do this and as Gloria Gaynor once said, We will survive. No negativity here, I know even against teams like St Albans their budget far exceeds ours, but, as we all know the players that cost the money are the goalscorers and the playmakers. SORT IT.”
stevo999, Sun 21 Sept 2014
And how stevo999’s wishes were answered. With an additional inch of height, and a 62 “bronze player rating” card on FIFA no less – 6″5 Enoch Showumni joined. A case of big man, little impact…
Perhaps in many ways the St Albans humiliation signalled the start of the turn-around. Attacker Tom Collins had already been bombed off, despite possessing an excellent pedigree and expected to shine in a Stones shirt, whilst Jack Mills, who started so promisingly, followed him out the exit door.
Stones would face the Saints no fewer than three additional times after that difficult September day – and on all three occasions emerged undefeated, winning twice and drawing once. The draw coming at Clarence Park where Scott McGleish netted a late-equaliser to send the Trophy game to a replay which the Stones won emphatically back at The Vale by the same reverse scoreline (3-0) St Albans had inflicted just three months earlier.
Above: McGleish nets equaliser at Clarence Park in November’s FA Trophy game
St Albans aren’t going to go on a winless run forever and Wealdstone aren’t going to remain unbeaten. Eventually both those statistics will change – that’s obvious, but less obvious is when that changes. And whilst Wealdstone have addressed early season concerns to argue that the word relegation does not belong in the same sentence, question marks remain over St Albans – with a particular low-point coming in their 6-0 drubbing away at Whitehawk.
And you have to wonder who, if any, of the Wealdstone old boys would make the current first 11? On last week’s evidence it’s pertinently obvious that Wealdstone miss a decent left-back and with Watts’ shock departure confirmed in GB’s programme notes, there is no doubt that if Chappell was a blue he’d slot straight back into that position tomorrow. Montgomery, on the other hand, might struggle. His form at Wealdstone was indifferent at times but he always showed signs of real promise (he’s bound to score a screamer now) – but quietly Wealdstone’s own wingers have come to the fore in recent weeks.
That’s where the game can be won and lost; there’s pace on both flanks and for either side too, which should make for an exciting and open game. That’s why for the first time in a few weeks @StonesGoals sits on the fence. 1-1 score-draw.