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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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?
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.
- 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
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.”
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.
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 hand, have 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.