Wealdstone’s amazing 15-match unbeaten league run came to an inglorious and abrupt end in the unlikely surroundings of Imber Court on Saturday and the title celebrations, already expectedly premature of course, were put on hold following the 2-1 defeat at Met Police.
A combination of a ridiculous four games played in seven days, a reshuffled line-up and several key players missing all took their inevitable toll. And most of the 260 Stones fans in the ground would also have to admit that the Met played a tight, well-engineered game plan that stifled the stuttering away attack albeit shorn of Tom Pett who was rested. In fact, the hosts' number five Steve Sutherland was the stand-out performer and scored the winning goal for his side.
And as frustrating as it may seem to a well-supported club such as Wealdstone, the lack of a home fan base supporting an organisation rather than a community doesn’t translate itself to a lack of commitment and desire on the pitch. The Met were nothing if not committed and were more than delighted to stop the Stones' steam roller…and so will all the other sides they have yet to play.
Stones' shape looked disjointed almost from the first whistle with Charlie Penny playing wide and Johnny Wright and Carl McCluskey in central forward positions. Stefan Bailey returned to the midfield but was clearly lacking match sharpness following his lengthy lay-off and was replaced at half-time by Scott McCubbin.
But this lack of overall fluidity didn’t seem to matter early on as Wright went close from a Penny cross and then Stones suddenly took the lead after only 11 minutes. Elliott Godfrey was bundled over in the box and Sean Cronin unerringly did the business from the resultant spot-kick.
The home side were undeterred and dealt with Stones' limited attacks in the first period and they soon began to gain a solid foothold in the midfield. And with a surprisingly swirling wind for both sides to contend with, play became increasingly scrappy and creative ball penetration was seemingly not able to be placed on the agenda.
When a disputed free-kick was awarded to the Met on 35 minutes, it didn’t come as too much of a surprise when Sutherland stole in aggressively at the far post to level up the scores.
The second half saw McCubbin on and Tom Hamblin replaced by Wes Parker. With Penny now moved into a central attacking position the visitors looked a little more threatening and the diminutive striker was unlucky when he broke free with pace but his shot was skewed wide of the target.
Stones then had probably their best spell of the match when some pressure almost resulted in an own goal. Then on 58 minutes McCubbin was unlucky when his excellent low strike was well held by Met keeper Stuart Searle. But Stones were still far from in control as the home side broke quickly and with purpose finding their men with a decent range of passing.
Enter final substitute Glen Little and the he certainly made an impact but the Police defence held firm and the final killer ball just couldn’t be found.
Stones paid the price for some poor defending on the flank with 12 minutes left on the clock when Ty Smith rifled a great strike past Jonathan North. Stones huffed and puffed in the remaining minutes but it was North who was again called into action to tip a shot over the bar.
Wealdstone: North, Hammond, Okimo, Hamblin, Cronin, Godfrey, Bailey, O’Nien, Wright, Penny, McCuskey, Subs used: McCubbin, Parker, Little. N/u: Pigden, Dean.