Worst night of the season

…and I don’t mean losing the match against Canvey 1-3 but seeing our goalkeeper carried off, in obvious agony, with what appears to be a double break of the tibula and fibula bones. The ‘good’ news is that it appears they are clean breaks and with a bit of resetting and repositioning in an operation tomorrow hopefully recovery will be reasonably quick – but more news to follow over the coming days.

Jonathan North is not only a great goalkeeper but also a thoroughly decent guy, a pleasure to have around the club and someone who has loved being part of our success this season. We have recently signed him on a new 2 year contract with the hope that he will be our goalkeeper for many years to come. We still hope that.

As soon as he had bravely tackled the onrushing forward Jonathan’s immediate reaction made it clear this was a bad injury. Coming relatively soon after the incident with Barrow goalkeeper Danny Hurst that’s twice we’ve stood and watched a goalkeeper suffer a serious injury recently and require the great care and attention delivered by the paramedics. Seeing a player carefully carried off in a stretcher must be the worst sight in football.

Seeing it once is one time too many – seeing it twice in less than 3 months is horrible.

I thought our players did ever so well given the shock that must have come with seeing their mate in such distress. On another night we’d have scored 6 but a combination of good and sometime fortunate keeping from the Canvey guy and some profligate finishing meant we only scored one, which wasn’t enough. But if we play that well every week then we’ll win more than we’ll lose.

But anyway, this is not about football tonight. Our thoughts and best wishes are with Jonathan and we hope fervently that he will make a full and speedy recovery.

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Oh happy day

A few minutes to reflect on a landmark day for the Club.

It was great reading the increasingly excited tweets and message boards in the build up to the game. Not just all the usual suspects but names I didn’t recognise looking forward to a chance of some FA Trophy giant killing. The Racing Post made us their headline non league tip of the day. Our form has been good but on the other hand knowing we had no Parker and no Massey (as well as no Dyer) was a huge worry. You don’t want makeshift formations and new systems being required immediately before a big game.

I arrived at Grosvenor Vale at around 1.20 and expectations were mounting. But Gordon wasn’t looking happy. James Hammond was stuck at Harrow on the Hill with no Uxbridge train due. This brought home to me the difference between the Blue Sq Prem and Ryman Prem. Barrow had travelled down the day before and stayed locally overnight. They would have had the chance for light training or team discussion/bonding during a relaxed morning and would be ready, tuned to the minute for our game. We had players delayed on the Underground requiring the Chairman to rush out and pick them up. As we were to find out preparation was one thing – 90 minutes is quite another.

The injury to their keeper Danny Hurst was very concerning. He had already made one world class save from Connor and again was brave and effective in saving from Britt. But very quickly as he didn’t rise things looked bad. I’ve always believed that the more you do something, like watch live football, the more things happen that you can ever imagine. In everything we thought might happen today a 25 minute break midway through the first half was definitely not one of those scenarios. The good news is the keeper seems ok. I don’t know if he was kept in overnight for observation or not but reports were positive. Good luck to him and well done to all the medical staff involved.

And then we were trailing 1-0 at half time. A soft goal I thought and not really what we deserved but now a mountain to climb.

But climb it we did. We’ve loved having Richard Jolly ‘home’ this season. The fans put their hands in their pockets to help make it happen and that trust continues to be repaid. Jolls is the archetypal ‘fox in the box’ knowing how to be in the right place at the right time to score many of his goals. Rarely can he have scored such a sweet volley as he did today. A goal out of the top drawer! And we were back.

Within minutes Britt had poked in from a corner to put us in front. As the match had started I chatted with Ross Wilson from Watford. He is their Football Business Director which means the guy in charge of how long Britt and Connor stay with us. The conversation was everything you would hope to hear, that they (Watford) are delighted with how things are going, that the players are really enjoying it etc. With Watford kicking off at 5.00 and given the injury break during the first half, I don’t know how long the Watford contingent stayed for. Had they stayed second half they would have seen Britt scaring the Barrow defenders everytime he got the ball.

Britt was judged man of the match but there was many candidates, for me Chris O’Leary and James Hammond were both excellent today – but they all were. The patched up defence harried, blocked and tackled and ensured Jonathan hardly had a save to make (again). The midfield fought tirelessly against their full time counterparts and the front men again delivered. Jolls must be the top scorer in this year’s competition.

2-1 might well have been 4 or 5 and we spurned enough chances that would have taken the tension out of the final few minutes. But we held on well enough to deliver the shock result.

And what scenes at the end from players and fans alike. Real jubilation. Moments we all will not forget.

It is always hard work at Wealdstone with so many contributing so much but we are lucky enough to have days like this every now and again and this is why we all do it. Since we’ve been at Ruislip we’ve enjoyed big crowds at friendlies against Watford and Leeds, we’ve had the Rotherham day and last Boxing Day was pretty decent too. But today was right up there – and we won.

I should also say how excellent the Barrow officials and supporters were today. It must have been a shock to them but still they were a credit to their club, but I wouldn’t have fancied their long coach journey home.

We will hope for a home draw for the last 16 But you take what you’re given and whoever we get we will give it our all. My only hope in these games against teams from much higher up is not to be embarrassed. That never looked likely today.

Back in early October our season was threatening to unravel fast. But how we’ve turned it around. Starting Tuesday we have a run of very tough league games which we need to be winning. That’s for Tuesday though, tonight is all about the FA Trophy and as Chairman of Wealdstone FC I can say how proud I am tonight.

Good to progress

Whatever my comments earlier winning tonight was important.

The prize money, while not life changing, is always welcome but I thought it was good to see a solid, battling performance highlighted by two classy goals and that gives us plenty to be pleased about tonight.

Margate had the first 15 minutes but they didn’t really cause too many problems. Other than that I thought we created a lot more, and looked like getting through them on several occasions, especially in the second half. Both goals were similar, good passing movements releasing Lee Chappell on the left hand side to put excellent balls in, first for Jolls and then Alex Dyer to finish expertly.

It was tense towards the end but we never do anything easily – but we were always doing enough – and we now head to Banbury in three weeks time.

Scott Fitzgerald and James Hammond both picked up slight hamstring injuries but we will see how they are for Saturday’s tough trip to league leaders Billericay.

We had a good Trophy run last year highlighted by the great trip to Brackley and two epic matches against Newport County. Let’s hope for more of the same in a few weeks time at Banbury.

A statement of intent

I must comment on our recent signing of Richard Jolly.

Of course this is a fantastic and exciting signing for us, not only a player with a proven goalscoring record but also a rarity in someone so popular throughout the Club given his previous exploits with us.

A few people to pay credit to for this pretty amazing news, Gordon for his persistence, Jolls himself for “wanting to come home” and refuse considerably more money on offer elsewhere and of course Jez and so many supporters for helping to make this signing possible with their help.

Richard Jolly, a fit Scott Fitzgerald who underwent a successful operation at the end of last week, and 25 goal Peter Dean looks a pretty good front line especially if we can get Callum fit and able to deliver on his potential this season.

So is it a statement of intent? Every year we try to improve on the last and there’s no doubt a consistent goalscorer could make the difference for us. But remember most other clubs are strengthening too. We know of one local club who have had a big injection of cash to their budget and you don’t have to look too far to read about Carshalton’s spending or the plans at Bury and Lowestoft.

With 8 weeks until the season starts its far too early to make any predictions. But from our perspective the excitement is building.

Reflections on turning fortunes

It’s been a while, but with so many things happening at the Club and outside, the blog has had to take a backseat for a little while, so apologies for the lack of saying anything.

So time for a couple of posts this evening while I’ve got a few minutes.

Firstly some comment about on the field activities. After the slow start to the New Year with three defeats we’ve bounced back with three straight wins. Barring a real collapse we look to have established a good gap to the bottom 5 who look a little stranded now, and if we can continue playing as well as we did against Concord on Saturday we should keep moving up the table.

Saturday was one of those days when everything went right. I am sure plenty of people woke up and decided that a trip to Canvey Island on a cold day to a game, which on paper looked very tough, was a trip too many. Well those who did travel got full value. Sometimes it is easy to say the opposition were poor and we had the breaks, but I felt that from 20 minutes on we played excellently and were good value for our big win.

Of course Richard Jolly grabbed the headlines. Jolls proved he is the goalscorer we all know he is and the way he took each of his four goals was calmness personified. We knew that bringing him in would give everyone a buzz. Whether he stays longer than a month we don’t know at the moment, and maybe it is unlikely given the Sutton manager’s comments today, but whatever the future holds it is good to have him back around for now.

On the other hand we were disappointed to see Greg leave. He has been a popular figure at the Club but to my mind hasn’t ever got going this season and perhaps a change of scenery will be what he needs. He has certainly started well at Hendon and we wish him well.

Some have questioned whether bringing in the various loan signings is a good move or not. We took a decision to do something because we needed something to spark us up after three straight league defeats and 5 games without a goal. I know Gordon is thinking longer term too and will use the time while the loan players are with us to assess what we need for the rest of the season (and longer term).

For now though, upwards and onwards and to Maidstone on Saturday.

 

Newport reflections and looking forward

Having written this column for tomorrow night’s programme, I thought I’d post it here (with added extras)

Every season there are 1-2 games we tend to remember for a long time in the future.

Last year’s trip to Aylesbury and the following fortnight up to and including the Rotherham game are good examples of a time that will last long in my memory. This season the trip to Brackley was very exciting, with the last minute winner and Sean Cronin’s heroics in goal. And now the match against Newport County joins that list (video here and photos here) and who is to say that the replay won’t be there too.

Let’s consider what we were going into away at Newport. A team on the crest of a wave, two leagues above us and in the play-off positions of the Blue Square Bet Premier on the back of having just been awarded a Welsh team of the year award following a record season last year. On top of that we had the recurring Jonathan North FA Trophy migraine scare to deal with. My hopes were not high.

What we got was a performance to be proud of. Of course Newport had chances and pressure – that was to be expected. But Wealdstone had 14 disciplined, passionate, never say die heroes with a goalkeeper outstanding. I don’t know how many balls Jonathan was seeing but he saw the right one when it mattered, with one save in the first half simply world class.

Over the last 4-6 weeks the team have turned around the season and now there are many possibilities. Performances at Lowestoft, Carshalton, Sutton and now Newport show there is no one we should fear, at least at our level, if we continue to play to this standard. And it is not just the players who have upped their games but the supporters too who were outstanding at Newport winning many plaudits.

I want to say something about Newport County too. I was very impressed by their whole set-up. Remember they are a club who have come back from the brink in recent years but from Chris Blight the Chairman down, they conducted themselves in a thoroughly professional and welcoming manner throughout the afternoon. Chatting to Chris, I was reminded of the advantages of being a club representing a town and having a Board of Directors who are all company owners and able to support the Club where it matters financially. We will continue to strive to emulate this model.

Monday night will be another big game. By rights Newport will win and win comfortably but you never know. I always tend to believe the ‘little’ club has one chance and has to take it when it comes. But you never know and with a passionate home crowd getting behind the boys perhaps the upset can be delivered.

 

A stormy end to an ultimately frustrating game

A couple of weeks ago I blogged that the Croydon Athletic game was one of the worst 4-3s you would ever see. I couldn’t say that about today. After the Croydon game I looked at the next three matches, at Lowestoft, Carshalton and Sutton and thought that getting anything out of those three games would be good so to get 4 points (and after today you have to say it should have been 7) shows the progress we are making.

Obviously we deserved something out of the game today, probably all three points. Three great goals, always threatening when attacking and relatively comfortable in defence. You would accept that the team top of the league and at home would do most of the pressing. Forbes’ goal apart though how many shots did Jonathan have to save as the game went into injury time.

Anyway with an air of inevitability we then conceded in the 92nd and 95th minutes to lose the game. As for the injury time the only thing I’ve got to say about that is that there was no board held up to tell us how many minutes were left – so this wasn’t a Canvey situation of being told 4 minutes and then playing 7. Not for the first time this season we went into stoppage time without knowing how long was left yet this is a Ryman League requirement and we will be writing to the Ryman League to share our thoughts on referees and injury time – as there is little consistency. Mind you, I wouldn’t use this as an excuse. Clearly you need to play until the final whistle regardless of how many minutes are played.

I think that every few years you get a game where you lead going into injury time and end up losing. It is deeply frustrating but looking around on the final whistle, despite the disappointment, our supporters were not suddenly going to look for trouble. There had been no hint of that today. That was until the Sutton players – maybe 6-7 of them – moved behind the referee and towards our supporters apparently intent on goading the crowd from the safety of the pitch.

Both Peter Worby and I were standing amongst our support and I want to say how well the supporters did today in backing the players, singing songs and shouting encouragement. It was one of those games where (I am pleased to say) there was very little barracking of opposition players and both sets of fans contributed to an excellent atmosphere so why there was this reaction on the final whistle is a mystery to me.

Understandably the Sutton players wanted to celebrate their ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card and had they gone over to their fans then there would have been no problem. Instead they seemed determined to come over to wind up our supporters, and they got the desired reaction.

This appeared to continue as our fans made their way towards the exit (and the home fans) and with an apparent lack of stewarding very quickly insults and bad language were freely traded between both sets of supporters and with Sutton players and management continuing to join in; one guy maybe their goalkeeping coach seemed unable to resist getting involved.

Had I seen Wealdstone players or officials react in this fashion I would be furious and would have taken action. What Sutton decide to do is down to them but both Peter and myself, and Pauline Worby, made it very clear to their officials how this had started, given they only saw the tail end of the incident and got caught up in some of the unfortunate posturing that happens, so understandably blaming our supporters.

I look forward to the day when these incidents are history. Frankly I am fed up with them and there are 1-2 of our fans who we felt crossed the line of acceptability and who we will be speaking to. But let’s be clear, in my judgement, none of this would have happened if their players hadn’t provoked it and they had no reason for doing so.

When the dust settles on today though there are many positives to take and if we keep playing with this intensity and quality we will do ok. Let’s try and progress in the League Cup first, weather permitting on Monday.

This is why we do it

A great day yesterday.

It didn’t seem that way when I got a call from Gordon, who was on the coach travelling up to Brackley, telling me that we had no goalkeeper. I felt this was going to be a tough game with a full team so without a goalkeeper it was going to be very difficult.

But how well did the team do? how well did Sean Cronin do? The save he made in the second half was excellent.

Our support was tremendous, in great voice and fantastic scenes at the end; and what a finish with Peter Dean’s excellent goal. For once, not much injury time and 13 heroes able to enjoy their ovation.

The report in today’s Non League Paper is a bit on the blinkered side. Remember we created three excellent chances in the first half and other than the save Sean made and the one against the bar I don’t recall Brackley creating many other clear chances.

So onto the First Round of the FA Trophy and enter the Blue Square Bet Premier sides. Will we get a good draw? Ideally for me we either get a winnable home game or an away game against a big Conference side. Most likely we will get Sutton away. Anyway we will get what we get and go into it looking to do as well as we can, and hopefully progress further.

Back to tough league action with two trips to South London this week. Carshalton only won by 5 yesterday and Sutton are top of the table. Should be fun.

That was hard work

You will have to go a long way to see a poorer 4-3.

With a bitterly cold wind exacerbating the pain we struggled to master a poor Croydon Athletic side tonight, but at least a win is a win and with trips to Lowestoft, Carshalton and Sutton ahead these were an important 3 points.

I praised Croydon after our game there last month for their energy and desire but didn’t see that so much tonight and thought we should have won far more comfortably. Having been ahead twice we let them back in the game and it took one moment of class from Peter Dean to make the points safe.

The game will be remembered most though for the incident which led to Scott Fitgerald getting sent off in injury time. It seemed clear to me that he did not headbutt their left back who deserved top marks for lying prone for several minutes. Let’s face it, if Scott had made contact that then there would have been blood and probably serious injury. I think most people worked out what was happening except the referee who saw something that deserved a straight red. Scott’s reaction said it all, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets him in further trouble.

That said you also have to ask why Scott picked the ball up when it was their throw – especially given he had already been booked – so he was risking a second yellow anyway from the referee who seemed determined to have a say in the game one way or another. After scoring two goals why get involved in the first place? He already has a one match ban coming up for getting to 5 bookings and that will be another 3 on top. You do the math!

Play-offs are the target!

Steady on, bet that made a few people do a double take!

Actually we are just delighted to win a league game and isn’t it funny that you can’t beat the bottom club but could beat the team top of the table. A funny old game as someone once said.

Standing with some of the players in the bar after the game what was noticeable was the realisation that they had played a lot better tonight. No one could really put their finger on why but the togetherness and pride was far more evident tonight on and off the pitch.

Now one game does not constitute a recovery. But the performance, the desire and the will to win throughout the team was a return to what we need if we are to start climbing the table.

Nice for all of us to savour a win tonight, but again on Sunday please lads.