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Wealdstone 1 - 2 Chelmsford City
For Wealdstone, this match against runaway league leaders Chelmsford City couldn't have come at a more difficult time with Stone's players confidence still fragile and looking over their shoulders in a relegation dogfight situation. It was always going to need a Herculean effort to get a point let alone a win, but although Stones ultimately lost this match they were always competitive against a side with reputedly 5or 6 times the weekly wage budget of the home side. Wealdstone to their great credit battled from start to finish in an entertaining encounter for a good crowd of 410 at a cold Northwood Park on Saturday.
Stone's problems are now further compounded with Wycombe Wanderers recalling right back Robbie Rice who has enjoyed a good loan spell and with Carl Martin injured once again, Manager Gordon Bartlett is urgently seeking new blood to bolster his side.
The Clarets enjoyed most of the possession in the opening quarter and applied pressure to the Stones rearguard but without creating any clear cut opportunities and Dale Bennett and the dynamic James Gray coped admirably down the middle, with Rice Chappell doing more than enough to contain the away side's lively flank players who presented the biggest threat all afternoon.
But Stones play improved as the first half progressed and man of the match Liam Henderson was a constant thorn in the side of Chelmsford's backline with his pace and close control. Peter Dean appeared to be playing behind Henderson and although he worked his socks off as ever he was not as effective as he should have been. But it was Dean who created a brilliant opening for the home side on 16 minutes when he hooked over for the onrushing Ryan Ashe to head home at the far post to give Stones the lead.
Stones ought to have gone further ahead on the half hour mark when Henderson put over a great ball from the right flank accurately into the path of Dean who shot over when greater composure was called for.
Chelmsford continued with their high possession percentage and were winning corner after corner - most were wasted and defended well but something had to give and the finally the break through came on 33 minutes when Oliver Berquez netted following a brave initial save from Karamoko.
Stones would have gone in for the half time break reasonably satisfied with a hard working performance and a 1-1 scoreline.
At the restart Ryan Ashe was subbed by Stephen Hughes as he did not recover sufficiently from a hard challenge just prior to half time. Stones continued to battle hard through the second period but were undone by the old problems of lost possession in key areas of the pitch and a frustrating lack of quality ball at set pieces. They paid the price on 67 minutes when the Clarets edged into the lead following a corner that Dean Palmer headed in at the far post.
Stones brought on Marcus Gross for the hard working Delisser and then Dean Papali for Graeme Montgomery to bolster the attack. The closest Stones came to an equaliser was a Peter Dean free kick that brought a good save from Danny Gay.
So another defeat for Stones, perhaps not unexpected, against the uncrowned league champions with infinitely greater resources that Gordon Bartlett dreams about but nevertheless a solid battling performance that will be required again on Tuesday when another tough challenge awaits at AFC Wimbledon.
Stones: Karamoko, Rice, Chappell, Gray, Bennett, Ashe, Delisser, O'Leary, Henderson, Dean, Montgomery. Subs used: Hughes, Gross, Papali. N/u: Sonuga, Alexander.
MoM: Liam Henderson