Monthly Archives: August 2015

Stones must bank points over holiday weekend

22-years ago Wealdstone slumped to the lowest point in their modern-day history with arguably the worst team ever to don the royal blue. The 1993/94 season got off to the worst possible start; five games, five defeats – no points.

1993/94...

1993/94… (pic taken season before with Vicarage Road in background)

That season was never going to end well.  The club, having managed just six victories all season, were spared relegation from the Beazer Homes Southern league only by virtue of Dunstable folding. What’s worse, the Stones suffered the ignominy of dropping out of both major cup competitions, FA Trophy and Cup, to local rivals Harrow Borough.

This season, with just one point from five games, minds have inevitably cast back to that torrid campaign. But comparisons should stop there.

Weald_1994-95_02

1994 at Yeading

1993/94

1993/94 was, after all, the beginning of a long road to recovery for a Wealdstone team that was coming off the back of a disastrous two-year ground share with football league Watford. It was a ground share that almost killed the club. With a reported 50% cost agreement with the Hertfordshire outfit, the Stones spiralled into administration forcing the club into another move.

Yeading.

Gates took a tumble at The Warren as then-manager Fred Callaghan elected to field 63, yes 63, players (including six keepers) over the course of the campaign.

1993/94 final table

1993/94 final table

If any good luck omens are needed ahead of Saturday’s trip to Sutton, the “class” of 1993/94 avoided defeat in their sixth league game of the season when they drew away to Newport (IoW).

Sutton

And that’s where we pick up the story in the modern day. Saturday sees the Stones travel to Sutton for their sixth game of the season, and it’s one the Stones need to get something from.

Head-to-head: Sutton v Wealdstone (all comps)

Head-to-head: Sutton v Wealdstone (all comps)

Half-time blues

Despite Wealdstone’s poor start they are one of just six teams still standing yet to trail at half-time. In fact, Wealdstone have plundered six second half points – the worst record in the league – matched only by Concord.

One of the other six teams yet to trail at half time – Sutton United. And The U’s have made a far from glorious start themselves drawing their last three, backed up by a solitary victory over Havant (0-2) and defeat on the opening day to Maidstone by the same scoreline.

Over 1.5 goals per game

All five of Sutton’s opening games have seen a minimum of two goals – only Concord and leaky Weston (played a game less) can match that.

By contrast, Wealdstone’s games have been low scoring – one of just five teams to have seen just three goals or less in all of their opening matches.

There has been little doubting Wealdstone’s team spirit and this was further in evidence when Elliott Godfrey fired a rallying cry out on Twitter this week. If he smells six-points, his team mates must react to ensure Wealdstone come out of the bank holiday period with the maximum return. But they’ll have to make do without the services of last season’s player of the year, Jonathan North – suspended for the first instalment of the two fixtures. That means a debut in goal for goalkeeper Shane Gore, who’ll start between the sticks when the Stones visit Sutton on Saturday.

Did somebody say goals?

Buchanan – back at The Vale

Buchanan – back at The Vale

Round two of the weekend’s double header sees a return to The Vale for Harrow-born Elliott Buchanan. The starlet, 26, grew up in the borough and has an illustrious back catalogue of former clubs including Stevenage, Boreham Wood and Newport County.

And it’s at the latter where perhaps he’ll be most remembered by Stones fans as scorer of the controversial first goal that helped set Newport on their way to a 3-1 victory over Wealdstone in the FA Trophy semi-final some three seasons ago.

Sharpshooters: five games in

Sharpshooters: five games in

Stats

  • Wealdstone’s matches against Sutton United ended in the same scoreline last season with both games finishing 1-1 – Sutton scored first in both
  • The pair have shared two wins apiece in their last six meetings; with two draws
  • Striker Dan Wishart has played for both clubs and scored for Sutton in the reverse fixture last season

Last season – Matt Ball nets 90th minute equaliser in 1-1 draw at The Vale

Summary

At a very reasonable £99 Sutton claim to have sold 602 season tickets (you read that right); true or false it will be interesting to see the attendance figure for a club that can boast an average just over 1,000 from their opening two home fixtures. Of course the purists would point to one of those games being against one of non-league’s heavy hitters – Maidstone United.

So what chances…?

Sutton boss, Paul Doswell, reckons Saturday’s game represents a huge opportunity to capitalise on Wealdstone’s disappointing form.

Speaking to YourLocalGuardian about his side’s recent form Doswell said: “Two of the three draws were away from home at teams expected to do well this season (Dartford 2-2 & Maidenhead 1-1), so I have be a glass half-full person.

“As a manager you know when your team is working well and looking right, and I can safely say that we’re doing both.”

Speaking about the Stones: “Wealdstone might be at the bottom, but it is too early to tell if that’s a true reflection of where they should be, but we do need to be beating teams at home.”

Back to face Stones: former Crawley Town striker, Craig McAllister

Back to face Stones: former Crawley Town striker, Craig McAllister

And the Sutton gaffer will be boosted by the return of some much needed ammunition. Craig McAllister, striker who played for Crawley at Old Trafford in the FA Cup, and Dan Fitchett, another striker who previously netted 16-times for Salisbury in the Conference Premier, are both expected to feature.

But the hosts will be without Simon Downer and Kevin Amankwaah who remain on the treatment table, and Tom Bolarinwa who is out of the country.

Prediction

Stones must win. Whether they will or not is a different story. But you feel Connor Calcutt has to come good – and these two games present the perfect opportunity. He’s had a difficult start to the season but has the ability to cause problems and if he scores a couple this weekend it could light the touch paper for him going forward.

The Us, on the other handhave had an indifferent start themselves albeit against tough opposition, but at least they can point to the undoubted success of their season ticket sales – and they’ll be boosted by the return of a couple of key men in time for Saturday’s clash.

They’ll be goals for both sides we feel and if the Stones fans are in full voice, the season could finally kickstart… 2-2.

Note on StonesGoals – owing to international business travel cameras will finally return on 12 September v Chelmsford. However, the website is unlikely to carry previews of the forthcoming games v Bishop’s Stortford and Hayes & Yeading.

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Big spending Fleet hoping to light up The Vale

They say money can’t buy happiness. And perhaps Ebbsfleet fans can relate to that after a disappointing 8th placed finish last season – this off the back of a reported £100k transfer kitty and an £8k per week wage budget. Whether or not such figures are inflated is up for debate, but one thing is for sure – Ebbsfleet, backed by a Kuwaiti businessman, possess significant financial clout.

So significant that they blow many of their title rivals out the water when it comes to attracting new talent; shrewd, or ludicrous, business – depending on how you view it – has seen the club recruit some impressive names this summer.

Marquee: Jordan Parkes

Marquee: Jordan Parkes

Jordan Parkes, the Conference South player of the season 2014/15, signed from Hemel for an undisclosed fee. Parkes himself claims that he had interest from football league clubs but decided to sign for Ebbsfleet on the basis that “[They] were willing to pay the fee to Hemel.” He was quick to cite the ambition of the club, too. But there’s no doubting ambitions of Conference South clubs who are willing to chuck money at players.

All this activity (money) has seen a tumble in their title odds with the major bookies pricing them up at around 7/4 for the National League South title – yes, that makes them red-hot favourites.

But it’s not just Parkes, who’s had an impressive start by the way, it’s their whole squad. It’s full of names. The Kent side have won their opening three games to nil – the only side still standing yet to have conceded a goal; Saturday’s game will be bread and butter then? Especially facing a Wealdstone side who have netted just six goals in the last eight games at The Vale.

Names don’t always win prizes though and after bringing in nine, yes nine, players from football league clubs last season – including Gillingham captain Danny Kedwell, old gaffer Jamie Day was sacked by owner Dr Abdulla Al-Humaidi after a disappointing end to the campaign. And it’s fair to say he wasn’t happy. “There were mistakes on the playing side. Everything off the pitch seems to be going in the perfect direction so it’s just a matter of the playing squad and the football management part of the football club.”

Although the cheque book has been out less frequently this summer, they’ve still recruited well. Parkes has already scored twice for Ebbsfleet – adding to the 21 league goals he scored as Hemel’s captain last term – and did we mention he’s a midfielder by the way!? Elsewhere, the old Football Manager tactic of pinching promotion rivals star players usually works to good effect – in came John Paul Kissock from Whitehawk. The playmaker was instrumental for them ‘awks, playing 41 times last season as the sea-siders did what Ebbsfleet couldn’t by making the playoffs. Other additions include Robbie Wilmott, released from Newport County, the Fleet moved quickly to snap up the pacy winger and Danny Haynes – a player with over 280 appearances for a clutch of football league clubs but most notably Ipswich Town, also signed.

McMahon: pressure

McMahon: pressure

Leading them? That’s the job of Daryl McMahon, who, at just 31-years old is the league’s youngest boss. He’ll be well aware of the criteria required to remain in the hot seat having been at the club when Steve Brown was sacked last November with the club trailing then leaders Borehamwood by just seven points.

Wealdstone

So what chance then, in the blue corner, for Wealdstone. The blues have been pillaged on three occasions this season and it won’t have gone unnoticed that during that time the Stones have slipped to an incredible 7 defeats from the previous 8 at the once fortress Vale. One of those defeats was against an Ebbsfleet side who, until this season, had a torrid time on their travels at the back end of the last campaign losing 4 of their final 5 games away from home; the solitary victory against Saturday’s hosts.

Wealdstone survived an onslaught against another Kent moneybags outfit in Margate on Tuesday night, scraping to a goalless draw, the first time the Stones have ended scoreless since… Ebbsfleet – last August. This season has been a continued tale of hard luck for Wealdstone, with injuries, suspension and unavailability issues blighting Bartlett and preventing the gaffer from fielding a settled side.

It might not be too much longer before Bartlett can call upon Tom Cadmore. The former England-C international has battled his own injury problems since his switch from Whitehawk in the summer and the Rickmansworth-born defender is believed to be edging closer to a return.

Surprise? Cadmore...

Surprise? Cadmore…

His return would be welcomed for a defence that has been breached five times in the past four matches.

Striking dilemma

It’s up front where the problems seem to continue for the Stones. Hardly prolific in front of goal, the side has managed to hit the net just twice this season and Bartlett will be looking to Connor Calcutt to come good.

The former Stevenage man has failed to hit the net this term and perhaps his fortunes so far were summed up when he was presented with a golden guilt-edged opportunity against Margate in midweek. An inform Calcutt would have buried that but instead the striker fluffed his lines as his wait for a goal continues.

Misfiring: the striker needs goals

Misfiring: the striker needs goals

In other news… Stones were back in the market this week with the signing of goalkeeper Shane Gore on dual registration from Chesham United. The 33-year-old veteran stopper will go straight into tomorrow’s match-day squad providing cover for North after on-loan Alex Lynch returned to Wycombe last week– ironically on the day that Wealdstone would have benefitted from having a sub keeper on the bench after North saw red. Incidentally, his suspension not beginning until next weekend so he should start in goal.

So, what’s the betting?

Literally, Wealdstone are 7/2. Wow. Little faith in the home side but after securing a battling point in mid-week, fortunes might be changing – really? Statistically, Ebbsfleet are the division’s front-runners with only floodlight failure preventing them from topping the table after the first four matches. Matches between the pair last season were low scoring – just one goal shared over the two games (0-0 and 0-1 in Ebbsfleet’s favour).

Tactically you would expect Bartlett to be cautious – containing the visitors with a reliance on Lucien’s pace on the flanks to catch Ebbsfleet on the break. You feel that if Wealdstone are to win this game the big players need performances and you can expect Louis to be fired up after dismissal in last season’s corresponding fixture.

Prediction

No pressure on the Stones. They did well to get a point out of the Margate fixture and with the return of a few key players and a more settled side they can slowly recover their position and move up the league – and they will.

Realistically though it all points to an away win – just by how many? Ebbsfleet fans are a demanding bunch but should be reminded that money can’t buy history – nor success – and a defeat for them here would leave serious question marks over their title aspirations.

Personally, we see another close game with goals at a premium. 0-2.

 

Stones need to rediscover champion resolve two years on from greatest triumph…

It makes less prettier reading than it did a week ago. Three games. Three defeats. Wealdstone can finally kick start their season against a frivolous Margate side that have thus far struggled to acclimatise to Conference South football – despite being a promotion dark horse.

Margate v Wealdstone: match preview, Tue 18 August 2015

Flash back >>>

Two years ago Wealdstone travelled to Hartsdown Park knowing that victory would deliver a long awaited return to the Conference against a Margate side that was then languishing in the wrong half of the Ryman Premier Division table.

That night, Wealdstone showed the champion grit that has eluded them in the early stages of this campaign and Tuesday they face a Margate side who, although they followed in the Stones’ footsteps to attain promotion a year later, have hardly covered themselves in glory during the opening three matches.

Whilst many of the travelling blue army would have you believe the visitors travel in hope rather than expectation, Wealdstone have a good record on their travels to the Kent coast – losing just once in the previous seven visits.

Stones have lost just once at Hartsdown Park

Good record: Stones have lost just once at Hartsdown Park in the previous seven visits

Jefferson Louis

The visitors are handed a major boost with the return of talisman Jefferson Louis from suspension. The striker who has represented a record 35-clubs, Margate included, will undoubtedly be thrown straight back into the starting-11 tomorrow night as Stones look to reverse their dismal start.

Louis: back in the fold

Louis: back in the fold (photo: Alan Palmer)

Catalyst

Louis was instrumental in reviving the shot shy Stones last term contributing 10 goals & seven assists from 19 league appearances – the sort of figures that back up his status as a terrace favourite. And when he scores, invariably Wealdstone win; his 10 strikes were spread across just seven league games – Wealdstone won six of them.

Electric: Louis since Stones debut

Electric: Louis since Stones debut

Fans took some convincing to take to the journeyman and after a difficult start in a Stones shirt the striker justified Bartlett’s initial opinion who, speaking to Harrow Times back in December, said: “He is big, strong and is a winner. He gives us an option and brings something different to the side. That will benefit us.” 

Meanwhile, the jury remains out on all of Wealdstone’s summer signings with at least one of them expected to make way for Louis’s return. Tactically, it would be of little surprise if Bartlett deploys a five-man midfield using Louis as the lone front-man – and such a move could see the reinstatement of both Dan Brown and Elliot Godfrey to the engine room.

Elsewhere, injuries have continued to restrict game time for Binns and Cadmore and it seems supporters will be kept waiting another few weeks before they’re flung into action.

Wealdstone probable: North; Watts, Hamblin, Parker, Martin; Godfrey, Brown, Lucien, Ball, Wright; Louis.

Jury out: summer signings

Jury out: summer signings (not listed: Calcutt, Urquart, Bonnett-Johnson, Bevans, Case)

Last time out

Margate slumped to a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Havant in a game that had boss Terry Brown seething and the gaffer is quick to admit that he’s wary of the threat Wealdstone pose.

Wealdstone are a local side for me,” Brown said speaking to Isle of Thanet Gazette. “Stuart [Cash] and I watched them last Monday and they will be wanting to win.

“They’ve had players missing for the first three games and they’re all back to face us, including Jefferson Louis, and he’ll want to make an impression.”

Brown, who’s side are still expected to challenge for a position at the business end of the table, admitted he expected more from the opening fixtures:

“We wanted six points from the first three games. There was very little to like at Havant, we looked leggy, tired and short of a little bit of nous in the final third.

“It’s back to the drawing board for Tuesday. We’ve got to get our first three points under our belts.”

Wealdstone, on the other hand, go into the game on the back of a catastrophic run of results having lost 0-1 to an Eastbourne side who, until Saturday, have been unable to buy a win away from home. That match was not without it’s controversy however as the game changed on the dismissal of Stones stopper Jonathan North. His replacement, Matt Ball, performed admirably for the best part of an hour before he was beaten in the dying seconds by Sports striker Nathan Pinney. If Stones are to have a chance of nicking the points on Tuesday night they’ll hope that Matt Ball is back where he plays best as he looks to renew his impressive link up with Jeffereson Louis.

Prediction

Perfectly balanced with two teams still searching for their first win of the season. Wealdstone have been better on their travels whilst Margate have endured a nervy start to life in the Conference South.

It’s not crisis at Wealdstone yet but it might be with another defeat. 1-1 – could go either way.

StonesGoals

Due to unforeseen business travel StonesGoals will be running a significantly reduced service over the next couple of months. This is regrettable. I will not be at Margate on Tuesday night.

Please continue to follow the Twitter feed and I will update my availability as to which games I will cover – at present my next availability is mid-Sept.

In the meantime, I hope to continue with match previews and continue feeding this website as I can.

Final audition for Calcutt and Hutchinson in “shoot-off showdown” as Louis return looms closer

Two wins. Two defeats. Eastbourne come to town Saturday and they too find themselves in the same predicament. A lack of ruthlessness has cost Stones thus far and now Hutchinson and Calcutt have a final opportunity to show their clinical side and stake a claim to partner Louis when the striker’s suspension is lifted next week.

One game to go: Louis misses Eastbourne but will be back next week

One game to go – The Chase is on: Louis misses Eastbourne but will be back next week

The young partnership have created plenty of opportunities in the opening 180-minutes of football but with neither finding the net Jefferson Louis must be readying himself for a return straight to the first eleven against Margate next week. But before that, Wealdstone must navigate an Eastbourne Borough side who have also lost their opening two matches.

Last summer: Pigden nets against Eastbourne (photo: Alan Palmer)

Last summer: Pigden nets against Eastbourne (photo: Alan Palmer)

‘Ghost goal’ gate

The sides last met back in January in a game dogged by the last-minute ‘ghost goal’ controversy. Unfortunately, without the advent of carefully positioned Sky Sports cameras, expert punditry and goal line technology it is (almost) impossible to tell with 100% certainty although both @WfcYouTube and @StonesGoals seemed to capture the moment that Richard Pacquette’s header flew wide of the post – and some national newspapers seemed to agree. The incident drew widespread coverage across a range of esteemed (and less esteemed) tabloids such as the Daily Mail, Independent and The Mirror.

Nonetheless, Wealdstone drew the game 1-1; the same scoreline as the reverse league fixture on the opening day of last season when Stones debuted in the Conference South full of optimism against an Eastbourne side expected to challenge at the business end of the table. That didn’t materialise for the visitors, and Wealdstone quickly learnt the hard way that day when a last minute equaliser denied Saturday’s hosts all three points.

Match stats

Alarming: Stones have mustered just one league win at The Vale since February

Alarming: Stones have mustered just one league win at The Vale since February

  • Wealdstone have lost six of their last seven Vanarama Conference South home matches – no side has a worse record (the solitary result in that run: a victory v Gosport)
  • By comparison, Eastbourne have lost four of their last seven on the road picking up two wins and a draw from the same sequence of results
  • Only relegated pair Staines Town & Farnborough (15 points; 4 wins, 3 draws) had a worse record on the road than Eastbourne Borough (16 points; 3 wins, 7 draws) last season
  • Only a win for Wealdstone would match their corresponding points tally from the opening three games last season – 3
  • If Stones do win they will better their first two results at The Vale last season (D 1-1 v Eastbourne, L1-2 v Farnborough)
  • After January’s 1-1 draw between the two sides, the Stones claimed another 22 league-points; Eastbourne bettered that tally claiming 24 – that was enough for the sides to swap places with Borough finishing 11th, one point and one place better than Wealdstone (12th).
Bartlett: eager to reverse worrying decline at The Vale (photo: Alan Palmer)

Bartlett: eager to reverse worrying decline at The Vale (photo: Alan Palmer)

Match stats – division

  • The first two-rounds of Conference South matches have been free-scoring with an average of 2.82 goals per game (62 goals from the first 22 fixtures)
  • Just 32% of games have resulted in home wins, 18% draws, and a huge 50% away wins (that’s 11 away wins from the opening 22 league fixtures).
  • 0-2 is the most frequently seen score with four games ending that way for the visiting side
  • Interestingly, there’s only been one 0-0 this season; Stones last three 0-0 draws at home have all come against the same team – Lowestoft; but it’s now over a year since a league fixture at The Vale ended goalless.
Sharp-shooters: former Newport County star, Elliott Buchanan, tops the list

Sharp-shooters: former Newport County star, Elliott Buchanan, tops the list

Team news – Wealdstone

Captain: expected to start after suspension

Captain: expected to start after suspension (photo: Alan Palmer)

The Stones are handed a welcome boost with the return of club captain Wes Parker, back from suspension, and Matt Ball for the same reason.

When Ball has scored, the Stones have never lost (winning four and drawing two).  Ball was instrumental the last time the sides met; having netted the opener the playmaker was presented a golden chance to win the game in added time but could only smack his effort off the post just moments after that equalising ‘goal’ from Pacquette.

Omen when he scores: Matt Ball (photo: Alan Palmer)

Omen when he scores: Matt Ball (photo: Alan Palmer)

Elsewhere, the squad may be handed an unexpected boost by the return of Tom Cadmore – alongside Calcutt the imposing centre-half is rated as the summer’s marquee signing. Ryan Watts could be back in contention as he overcomes an eye infection whilst new summer signing Dale Binns is hoping to recover from a foot injury which has kept him sidelined for the first 180-minutes of football.

Team news – Eastbourne

Tommy Widdrington will undoubtedly be looking for a response from an Eastbourne side that has lost their opening two which in fairness were, on paper, difficult fixtures – a 1-2 reverse v Alan Devonshire’s rejuvenated Maidenhead United (boasting an array of new faces) and a 0-1 defeat at relegated Dartford Town, who are attempting to bounce back to the Conference National at the first attempt.

Stones fans will get their first sighting of Widdrington’s flamboyant new boy, Miguel Baptista. The midfield playmaker is the sort of signing that rubber stamps the boss’s belief that The Sports can contest a play-off spot.

The star, 22 next month, comes to England from the Portuguese game and some Eastbourne supporters agree that capturing his signature signals a clear sign of intent.

From their forum: “At only 18, he made his Portuguese First Division debut – at Benfica in front of a mere 55,000 people. In the second game, he scored. But his club, Unioa de Leiria, suffered an almighty financial meltdown and Miguel was left without a club, a contract, or even an agent. He did subsequently play in the Portuguese Championship (ie second tier) with some success but with one or two injuries. Now he wishes to try his luck in England, and through one of Tommy’s many contacts in the game he arrived at Priory Lane.”

Meanwhile at least one change is expected in midfield with Elliot Romain expected to replace Darren Lok who limped off injured against Dartford on Tuesday night. Richard Pacquette and Dean Bown, who scored Eastbourne’s goals in the two fixtures against the Stones last season, have both moved on so expect former Palace man Nathan Pinney to lead the line alongside former Canadian international Gavin McCallum – last season’s top scorer with ten goals.

Prediction: 1-1. Same as last season – both teams dare not lose.

Woodwork denies Stones against organised outfit

Three times the woodwork denied Wealdstone against The Beach Boys on Monday night as the home side slumped to their second defeat in the space of three days.

Bartlett: not happy with first goal

Bartlett: not happy with first goal (photo: Alan Palmer)

Monday, 10 August, 2015: Wealdstone 1-2 Concord Rangers, att: 664

Stones line-up:  North; Case (Urquhart, 86), Hamblin, Martin, Bevans; Lucien, Corcoran (Davies, 75), Godfrey, Wright; Hutchinson, Calcutt (Hudson-Odoi, 75).

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

There were plenty of positives in the build up to this, and the first came when experienced defender Carl Martin was named as a starter alongside Tom Hamblin. Martin, who will see his availability curtailed this season, is still highly regarded at The Vale and his inclusion was a welcome boost to a defence in desperate need of bolstering.

Elsewhere, James Hammond, who enjoyed no fewer than 134 league appearances in Wealdstone blue, was afforded a good reception on his return but his evening came to a premature end when he limped off before half-time.

The opening exchanges were cagey to say the least; Concord appeared well drilled and did an admirable job in marshalling the hosts and quietening the 664-crowd.

The first chance of note came 22-minutes in, Stones contriving to give the ball away in the middle of the park allowing Tony Stokes the chance to nip in and drive at the back line, his clever slipped pass set his team mate in the clear but the shot was wasteful and fell comfortably wide.

Perhaps that was the fillet the Stones needed and two minutes later they nearly profited from some calamitous keeping. First, a hopeful Hamblin punt panicked Conor Gough enough to merit a charge from goal but he succeeded only in fisting the ball to the feet of Corcoran who’s centre looped up in the air where it remained for what seemed an eternity. The keeper again flapped and Johnny Wright attempted an audacious bicycle kick which was comfortably quelled by the Concord custodian.

Offensive:  Stones attack the Bulla stand (Pic: Alan Palmer)

Offensive: Stones attack the Bulla stand (photo: Alan Palmer)

The crowd seemed buoyed and Wealdstone should have taken the lead two minutes later.  Lucien was roared on down the left hand flank and managed to create a yard of space against Hammond; the resultant cross was precise and was met ferociously by Josh Hutchinson who looked to have done everything right. Unfortunately for him, and the home crowd, his header came crashing down off the underside of the crossbar and Concord managed to head the ball clear of danger.

Concord responded well to that and, minutes later, when Hammond found himself goal side of Case, his dangerous cross was punched clear by the onrushing North. Concord continued to apply the pressure as they recovered the ball before an innocuous 30-yard drive cleared the bar by a distance.

The momentum of the game seemingly swinging once more. And the opener came on 36 minutes.

A long Bevans punt clear was helped back first by Hammond and then by White before Martin contested the loose ball with Stokes, the striker winning the exchange but appearing to tug the grounded defender back as he attempted to recover. Play continued and when Greenhalgh enacted a multitude of step overs, Bevans was left wanting and Martin, who had by now recovered, was powerless to stop the ghosting run of Max Cornhill who headed emphatically past North. 0-1.

Agony for Stones as Concord take a one-goal lead (photo: Alan Palmer)

Agony for Stones as Concord take a one-goal lead (photo: Alan Palmer)

Concord sensed blood and for the best part of the last ten-minutes they remained in control. Only a Lucien ranger which clipped the outside of the post would have doubted what the resigned crowd were beginning to believe – Stones would trail at half time.

And when Concord streamed forward in the dying seconds of the half, they threatened to kill the game. The impressive Greenhalgh wriggled some more space on the left and his cross-cum-shot was palmed away by North. Lucien picked up the ball and his pace drove the Stones forward – leading to a punishing counter. The winger picked out Corcoran, unmarked in the middle, who in turn beautifully picked out Godfrey who had ghosted between the centre halves.  If the move was good, the finish was exquisite and the Stones, with the last kick of the half, were level. 1-1.

The old adage of your most vulnerable when you’ve just scored a goal seemed apt enough but it’s easier to apply the theory that the Stones were mentally still in the changing room as within seconds of the re-start, they trailed again.

To say it was sloppy was an understatement. Concord won an early corner which was headed clear and when Greenhalgh struck it first time from the right hand touchline few would have expected it to bounce into the net; perhaps North was unsighted by the line of bodies in front of him but the keeper would have been disappointed to concede from there. 1-2.

Scorer Greenhalgh flashes a free-kick just wide (photo: Alan Palmer)

Scorer Greenhalgh flashes a free-kick just wide (photo: Alan Palmer)

Stones pressed into action and a Hutchinson snap shot flashed wide, before the game swung again and a Greenhalgh free kick sailed past North’s right-hand post. Minutes later and Lucien cleverly fed a subdued Connor Calcutt, the striker evaded the offside flag, but his shot could only shave the outside of the post.

In a repeat of Saturday, Bartlett called on reinforcements and threw on Davies and Hudson-Odoi for Corcoran and Calcutt with 15-minutes to play. Davies arrival immediately boosted the atmosphere but Stones resorted to pumping long balls forward and the crowd soon grew frustrated as a couple of Davies range-finders failed to pick out Lucien – the man causing the visitors the most problems.

Lucien stretching Concord (photo: Alan Palmer)

Lucien stretching Concord (photo: Alan Palmer)

As time started to run out first (late-substitute) Urquhart and then Lucien fed neat threaded balls in behind the Concord defence but on both occasions the danger was stifled and this was the last the Stones could muster as the game petered to a close and Stones suffered another meek surrender.

Bartlett couldn’t hide his disappointment and when quizzed by Harrow Times the gaffer retorted:  “I have got to say I think that is two games running where I don’t think we have got what we deserved and that is very frustrating and possibly sums up our pre-season; if something is going to go wrong we seem to be able to find it at the moment. 

“It is no good feeling sorry for yourself, you have to learn from these things. I thought they went in front against the run of play but we equalised at the perfect time. To concede a minute into the second half put us right on the back foot when we should have been on the front foot.”

Nonetheless, the Stones lost the game and are left to reflect on yet another set of squandered chances against a Concord outfit that would do well to maintain their form as the early season pacesetters.

F.T. 1-2.