We didn’t have to wait long. Just 62 days on from last season’s curtain call Stones were back in action at fortress Vale for this pre-season opener.
Stones five new summer signings would all play – four of them from the start, with Eddie Oshodi joining the action midway through the second half.
The opponents, QPR U21s, travelled across West London and some familiar faces followed them; Chris Ramsey, who briefly managed the club, was one of those spectating.
The game got off to a lively start as Rangers played with a high tempo, whipping the ball quickly across the slick Vale pitch. And it was the visitors who struck first in the fourth minute. An incisive move through the middle left the home side exposed by a quick one-two, and with no one tracking Ryan Manning, the R’s man found himself goal side and made no mistake stroking past North.
The hosts struggled to assert themselves, perhaps understandable after only three training sessions, as the visitors continued to look the fresher of the two outfits. Wealdstone did equalise though, and if there was ever going to be a method by which they would do it, it was always likely to be a set play. Parker rose highest to profit from Hunt’s centred ball.
Thereafter Rangers dominated most of the possession and looked the more likely before Brandon Adams did have the Hoops ahead again four minutes before half time; there were five Stones players around the ball when he finally wriggled the space to fire a shot low into North’s bottom right corner.
Stones rallied and the lively Elliott Benyon, who was a nuisance all afternoon, might have done better when he raced clear of the last man but elected to shoot early; his tame effort sailing harmlessly wide of goal proved to be the last notable action of the half.
Both sides made an inevitable cluster of changes and the second half was played at a slower tempo. Stones started to enjoy more possession, but without really threatening. Substitute Sahr Kabba was closest for the hosts, his neat turn and shot from the edge of the area palmed to safety by the Rangers sub keeper.
Stones must now wait nine-days before they’re in competitive action again – Leyton Orient the next visitors to The Vale on Tuesday 12 July. Those wanting a little excitement before then need not wait long – The National League fixtures are released this coming Wednesday (6 July), and with Wealdstone famed for two notoriously slow starts let’s see what the first-ten throws up this time round.
Full time: 1-2.
Starting XI Stones: North, Urquhart, Smith, Parker, Hamblin, Godfrey, Wellard, Hunt, Benyon, Green, Wright