Touring With The Stones; What Goes Around….

Peter Dean heads on goal for Wealdstone against Bognor Regis Town

Fat Ship stabilizers are fins mounted beneath the waterline and emerging laterally. In contemporary vessels, they may be gyroscopically controlled rotating active fins, which have the capacity to change their angle of attack to counteract roll caused by wind or waves acting on the ship. The bilge keel is an early 20th century predecessor that, installed on the flanks increases hydrodynamic resistance to rolling.

In a football team, rotation may also stabilize a rocking and rolling motion, changing the angle of attack will often help, and deflection from the bilge will generally help to break up an onrushing wave.

Science aside, there was an atmosphere of trepidation in some quarters of The Vale when Cyrille’s family arrived for the game on Saturday. So few of the Stones faithful had made the journey to see an improved if not resurgent performance in Hastings midweek – although the fairly positive reports circulating subsequently were there for all to see (after all, no-one believe what they read on the Internet, do they…), the recent miss-firing combined with a cold biting wind and a less than positive weather forecast was for some, justification enough to preempt a further on-rush of man-flu and stay in the warm.

Stabilising a rocking ship at this level and more importantly on these finances rarely involves wholesale changes and large injections of new blood – three or four sides have the money and the opportunity and try – and if they are lucky, one or two of these may succeed at least until the money man disappears off into the moonlight – but for the most part, once the financial cloth has been cut at the start of the year, the best option available to the management is to change the stitching.

That of course assumes the Management has a say in the matter!

Over the last few games, the machine that is Team Wealdstone has seen a couple of pit-stops and a bit of tweaking, which resulted in some part to the improvements on Tuesday. For the visit of Cyrille’s family however the decisions were forced rather than finesse.

Richard Jolly and Lee Chappell were both unavailable and while it may have been time for the off colour Jolls to take a break, the energy, enthusiasm and abilities both going forward and defending of Lee Chappell was a loss that no one would have chosen. Add to that the continued unavailability of the injured Wes Parker and the remaining options particularly at the back were few. Scott McCubbin moved over to the left hand side, James Hammond retained his place on the right and Sean Cronin took on the leadership role in the centre of the defence, bolstered by the Captain’s armband, while up front, Peter Dean came in to partner Chris Moore. An XI that didn’t cause too much consternation, but it left a bench that looked a little thin.

James Hammond in action against Bognor Regis Town

It gave the side a tighter feel as the match started – the two full backs less inclined to venture forward quite as freely, James H more a defender than a winger and Scotty on the ‘wrong’ side, though they did both use the space in front of them when the opportunity arose. Sean and Aaron marshaling the central areas with some aplomb. In midfield, the solid four was controlled by Dyer who looked sharper than in recent games, and Chris O’Leary seemingly has regained his timing as the hair grows back. Kurtney Brook and Tom Pett also both made a little more of the space afforded by less aggressive full backs and both pushed on as the opportunity arose, though Kurts needs to improve the final ball.

Up front, it took a while for Moore and Dean to click – and for the midfield to find the final ball that they could feed on. Frustrating in the early stages as the Bognor game plan seemed based around pair of gargantuan centre backs who were not the most mobile, but as is always the case with the Rocks, they set their stall in the most part to play football. No whinging and whining or going to ground at every opportunity made for a pleasant change and a flowing game even if both sides weren’t quite the purring machines that their respective Managers hoped.

Chances were few and far between in the early stages – Stones pressed forward with a blocked Chris Moore effort and a decent save from the visiting keeper a few minutes later, while the visitor’s best effort was more a Stones error rather than anything else, Banksie overstretching to reach a corner and ending up flapping the ball away – thankfully to safety.

Midway through the half Stones created a spell of pressure that resulted in Pett crossing deep. The ball broke to Chris Moore under pressure, he turned and gained a half yard on his defender – just enough to chip a delicate cross into the path of Peter Dean on the edge of the six yard box. He met the ball with a decent goal bound header. The ball beat the goalkeeper, only to strike the defender running across the goal behind the custodian and bounce clear. It did seem to be a turning point in the game though as Stones from then on enjoyed the greater possession and territorial advantage if not the goal scoring.

At 0-0 half time, there was some question whether the Stones would be able to break down their opponents going up the hill and indeed if they would be able to defend them with the wind in their faces. As it turned out, the half wasn’t as polished as the fans hoped but it was solid enough. Bognor were limited to a couple of long range efforts and Banksie had little to do, while at the other end to be fair, Bognor coped well with the more regular forays forward of the Stones.

Peter Dean heads on goal for Wealdstone against Bognor Regis Town

The deciding goal (as it turned out) was scored with about sixteen minutes to go. Stones had the ball in midfield. Dyer found Brooks wide on the right and he beat his first man before seemingly over-hitting a ball diagonally into the penalty box for Dean to chase. One of Bognor’s stoic central defensive pairing was closest to the ball and seemingly content to escort it out of play at midway across the eighteen yard box. Chris Moore, some twenty yards away on the other side of the goal was less so. With a number of fans berating the poor ball, Moore sprinted across the box behind the erstwhile defender and literally nicked the ball of his toes at the bye-line. One step more and a turn, and he slotted the ball back into the ‘D’ and directly into the path of the equally alert Alex Dyer. Leaving his marker for dead he crafted a delightful curling shot that left the defenders and goalkeeper for dead as it nestled neatly inside the post and into the back of the net.

It was a finish worthy of winning a game and the anticipation that lead to the chance was the sort of spark that had been missing in recent weeks. Combined with a strong, solid team performance it was enough on the day to secure the three points, plaudits also due to Sean Cronin for his clearance off the line under pressure, and also to Peter Dean whose tireless ninety odd minutes culminated with an excellent header out from under the bar in the 91st minute to prevent a late and undeserved equaliser.

It’s not a Division where there are stand-out teams; Whitehawk at the top seem intent on spending to maintain their position but they’re still shipping goals – albeit at present scoring more to hold on to the points, Stones at less than 100% by their own standards are second. Margate and even Lowestoft are well in the picture but still suffering some inconsistencies as are Canvey, Concord, Bury, Kingstonian and Bognor while the early season leaders who didn’t concede a goal for half a dozen games are now in tenth but only six points off the play-offs and seven off the Runner-up spot. Bad weather may yet play a part in the final shakedown.

For Wealdstone, Saturday was not as polished as it might have been and Stones are still not 100% on top of their game, the final third still needs a bit more direct impact on goal and perhaps a bit more responsibility being taken but the increasing element of stability in the performances over the last three games is a positive change. With three ‘starters’ not in the side but due back soon the options will also improve…

However not as it turned out, in time for the midweek footballing feast away to Ryman South leaders Dulwich Hamlet in the League Cup.

It was a game played in front of a crowd around 100, as neither side’s fans seem to think a great deal of the competition at this stage, and as it was a changed Stones set up, going three at the back – Hammond and Valcev partnering Cronin, while Webb came into the midfield and Jolly up front as Pett and Moore were rested.

Dulwich certainly had the better of the first hour and took a deserved lead in the second half. The goal sparked Wealdstone into action and they created a number of chances as the clock ran down but they were unable to score against their lower division opponents.

Looking back, Stones can now concentrate their efforts on the league as promotion has been the stated aim since the start of the season and, weather permitting, that will continue on Saturday at Thurrock. Then Wealdstone will prepare for next Tuesday’s 3rd v 2nd clash at Margate’s Hartsdown Park rather than a home tie with Kingstonian in the next round of this competition, a match the Dulwich faithful will perhaps now relish with the final one step closer.

A missed opportunity no doubt but in a crowded fixture schedule and with the likelihood of more postponements in the next few weeks possibly a blessing in disguise. To be fair, Dulwich probably owed us one on our first return to the Hamlet since the play-off win all those years ago…

Images are used courtesy of Steve Foster/Wealdstone FC.

About Roge Slater

Roge Slater is a long time fan, former secretary and board member, not to mention published historian of Wealdstone FC. He knows a thing or two...