Wealdstone progressed to the third qualifying round of The FA Trophy on Saturday as they ran out 6-2 winners over Ryman Division One South side Merstham in an enthralling encounter.
Some woeful defending from the home side had gifted Stones a 4-0 lead inside the opening 20 minutes and it looked like the tie was going to become little more than a damage limitation exercise for them. However, Merstham put in a spirited performance to pull back to 4-2 by half-time before, eventually, Stones were able to add some gloss to the scoreline with two more goals late on.
Wealdstone got off to a dream start with just four minutes on the clock when Richard Jolly picked out Tom Pett on the corner of the box, and he showed great trickery to beat his man before drilling the ball across the six-yard box where defender David Graves could only turn it past his own goalkeeper, much to the delight of the large contingent of the Stones faithful behind the goal.
Thirty seconds later and it was 2-0. Stones won possession back almost immediately from the restart, with the ball finding its way to Peter Dean on the edge of the box and he finished smartly past Paul Agu in the home goal.
The home side looked shell-shocked and incredibly found themselves even further behind on ten minutes. Nathan Webb found Pett on the edge of the box and he cleverly flicked the ball first time into the path of Jolly, with last season’s top scorer taking a touch before slotting the ball left-footed past Agu.
And things got even better for the visitors when they added a fourth on 17 minutes. Chris O’Leary won the ball just inside his own half before threading a pass through to Jolly, who unselfishly squared to Dean on the edge of the box, with the striker skillfully sweeping the ball into the top corner.
After the nightmare start, Merstham then started to pull themselves together, with Stones keeper Rikki Banks having to be alert to tip a shot from Luke I’Anson over the bar on 23 minutes.
Some loose defending from Wealdstone then saw the hosts pull one back on 28 minutes when Fabio Saraiva slotted the ball through to Mark Nwokeji, who rounded Banks before slotting into the empty net.
Pett was certainly enjoying a lot of the ball for Wealdstone in the first half and he showed great skill on 34 minutes when he danced past two defenders before crashing a shot off the inside of the post. This could have been a turning point in the whole game and it almost proved to be so.
O’Leary came close to adding a fifth for Stones five minutes before the break, picking up the ball in midfield before hitting a dipping 25-yard effort which flew just over the bar.
A minute later though, and the home side had pulled another goal back. Jack Macleod crossed to Liam Wright, whose effort was well saved by Banks. However, with the ball still loose, Saraiva was able to smash home.
Things could have got even worse for Stones right on the stroke of half-time when I’Anson found Wright; he beat the offside trap before firing wide but should surely have scored.
There was an enforced change for Wealdstone at half-time, with injury forcing Captain Wes Parker to withdraw with a back problem; George Nicholas replaced him.
Just as the first half had ended, the second half began with Merstham on top and within a minute of the restart a misplaced pass from Sean Cronin gifted Saraiva a chance, but his shot was well saved by Banks.
There was then another enforced change for Stones on 50 minutes, with full-back Tommy Brewer picking up a dead leg and having to be replaced by Tashan Jordan.
As the half wore on the game became more stretched and Agu had to be alert to palm away a 20-yard effort from Dyer, before the Merstham stopper was called into action again on 70 minutes as he denied Jolly after he’d been picked out inside the box by Lee Chappell.
A defensive slip from Nicholas allowed Wright a run at goal with 16 minutes left on the clock, but fortunately for Wealdstone the winger misplaced his pass as he tried to square the ball to Saraiva on the edge of the box.
A fifth goal did eventually arrive for Wealdstone on 77 minutes as they made absolutely sure of their place in the next round. Dean found space down the right-hand side before picking out Dyer on the edge of the box and he fired coolly into the top corner.
It wasn’t the end of the scoring though, and a sixth arrived two minutes from the end. A neat one-two between Dean and Dyer ended with the latter pulling the ball back to Pett, who lashed home.
Next up for Wealdstone is a vitally important league encounter with Hampton and Richmond tonight at The Vale (kick-off 7.45pm).
Wealdstone: Banks, Brewer (Jordan 50), Chappell, Parker (Nicholas 46), Cronin, Dyer, Webb, O’Leary, Dean, Jolly (Baidoo 80), Pett. Not used: Haxhia.