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.

Ref ref!

Been meaning to post this for a while.

Don’t think it is just me but this season a depressing trend in the Ryman Premier League has been to see the number of players who now shout “ref ref” every time someone is tackled, or who scream as they get tackled or the number of clubs who surround the ref whenever any decision is given against them – and this might just be for a throw in!

Of course we see it in the Premier League and these things trickle down, maybe we’ll soon see Ryman managers waving imaginary cards a la Mancini.

I can only assume that some clubs have taken conscious decisions to put refs under pressure during games. I don’t believe we do it, I don’t want us to do it but are we missing a trick by not doing it?

I always say we watch Ryman football so we get Ryman refs. Putting them under additional pressure seems a cynical tactic to me – do we need to follow suit just to keep up?

W

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.

Not letting things go quiet

…on so many fronts.

A quick update. We had a call last week involving a number of people  from the Club, directors, officials and other interested parties to discuss our current stance on activities going on with the Prince Edward site. The call really focused on what the Club’s objectives and next actions should be. We had some widespread agreement which was good and one of our priorities is to continue developing our relationship with Harrow Council. We are expecting a meeting with them towards the end of January, early February to follow up the meeting we had with a prominent Harrow councillor just before Christmas. To some extent until we know more definitively what is planned for the Prince Edward site then we can only prepare. So more news when we have it.

Also at the moment we are preparing for an important meeting as we start to properly fuse together the football club and social club entities. As reported at the Club AGM, we have reached agreement with the shareholders of the Ruislip Social Club to bring the two entities together. This is now going forward and is a very exciting development for us. Again more news in due course.

Otherwise I hope everyone is enjoying the football at the moment. Some great passing football, goals, quality defending long may it last! One game at a time though and next stop Horsham.

Is tonight’s game the season?

Big game tonight. Some might say that if we lose then we will have nothing much left to play for this season.

Well that is plainly wrong. Firstly we desperately want to win tonight and travel to Banbury in the next round. Much like the Margate tie, Banbury is a tie which both Clubs (or all three as it stands) will think they can progress from.

But whether or not we are in the Trophy after tonight, or by the end of November, we have only played 1/3 of the season so far and are only 4 points off the play-offs (11 points away from the drop zone). What the Ryman League season tells me is there is no outstanding team and everyone is capable of taking points off anyone else. Sounds familiar? seems to happen every year. People said beating Tooting was just beating a bad team but they then beat Lowestoft in their next game.  Similarly we beat an apparently struggling Hastings comfortably but they have now won their last 3 games.

Any team who puts a good run together will quickly shoot up the table. There is no reason why that can’t be us.

And yet, there is a feeling of under achievement so far this season. We know that in too many games we haven’t delivered what we expect. We know there are too many players not playing as consistently as we would all like. I am convinced there is better to come.

Of course the FA Cup was a huge let down – for everyone – and I think it set a tone for the following weeks which we’ve struggled to get away from.

We then had that 5 match run against leading teams, Hornchurch, Cray, Hendon, Lowestoft and Lewes. We were disappointed to only take 2 points from those 5 games, when with a bit more luck and more clinical finishing we might have got draws at Lewes and Cray, taken something from the Hendon game and beaten Lowestoft.  3 straight wins and a courageous draw on Saturday were good come backs and obviously we must keep it going tonight.

So even though from a cup perspective we will only be left in the Middlesex Senior Cup if we lose tonight, the season will be far from over. That said, let’s be clear, victory is what is required tonight and a good performance against a decent Margate side will be a necessity to make that happen. See you there.

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.

Play-off perspectives

The blog is back. Over the next few days I will aim to post a few articles up while the time allows.

Given all the excitement of the play-offs tonight I thought that was a good place to start.

There are many views about the play-offs, both for and against. For me I can see the attraction, they keep the season open for many clubs for several weeks leading up to the season. We’ve experienced that first hand more particularly last season. And this year the race for the play-offs was undeniably very exciting going to the last day for up to 6 clubs.

So I get all that.

But.

What I don’t like is the clinical nature with which non league play-offs are run. Take Slough Town in the Zamaretto League. Guaranteed the play-offs in their penultimate game with the season finishing on Bank Holiday Monday last week. The play-off semi final at Hitchin took place three days later and they were beaten 4-1. And like that their season was over. Before we had even played our last game.

Take Bury Town. They somewhat fortuitously beat us 1-0 on Saturday to claim 3rd place and a home game against local rivals Lowestoft who they had beaten away just a week later. Yet 72 hours later on the Tuesday evening they lose in front of a big crowd and that’s it.

And of course take Harrow. What a season for Harrow Borough this year, goals, consistency, FA Cup 1st round and despite only 2 draws in the last 2 games, and Kingstonian’s collapse at Margate, they were in the play-offs. But, again despite a great comeback from 2-0 down they lost in extra time to the odd goal in 5 and will be back in the Ryman League next year, their hopes snuffed out. Gallant losers maybe, but losers none the less.

I understand the argument that for clubs at our level you need to play these games quickly to avoid an extra week’s wages, hence only one leg and quickly to the play-off final. But it strikes me that the euphoria you feel getting to the play-offs is worth nothing when you get beaten so quickly thereafter. For as well as Harrow have done it counts for nothing now and let’s face it no one really remembers who got to the play-off semis.

And it gets worse, especially if you are involved with Bognor Regis Town FC (though the same could be said for many clubs in the past). Having faltered on the last day of the season when they could have won the Ryman South, Bognor had to play Dulwich in their play-off semi three days later. They had finished 31 points ahead of Dulwich in the league (yes thirty one – as the old vidiprinter would say) but managed to lose tonight. Whether the disappointment of Saturday contributed who knows but how can this be right or fair. A great seasons work undone in the most painful fashion.

On balance I am changing my opinion about play-offs. I’m beginning to think that coming second should entitle you to go up, or at least go directly into the play-off final. I know I’d be mightily pissed off if I was the Bognor chairman tonight.

Will try and post more tomorrow.

A couple of dates for the diary

We have some big dates coming up the week after next (w/c 21 March).

On Monday 21 March we have the Wealdstone Club AGM. This year I expect this should be a reasonably quick affair following a year of consolidation but all are welcome to come and ask questions and find out what is happening.

On Wednesday 23 March the reserves play Harrow Borough in the Middlesex County Premier Cup Final at Harefield

On Thursday 24 March we welcome World Cup referee Graham Poll as guest speaker at a dinner, which will again by hosted by the excellent Rob Nothman (who it was great to see at Aveley yesterday). Tickets still available and I am sure it will be a great night. Someone told me yesterday just what a good speaker Graham is, so looking forward to that.

And either side of these events we have Folkestone at home on Saturday and Tonbridge away the following week.

Lots happening!

12 and counting

Another scrappy win yesterday at Aveley. No disrespect to Aveley but it is a tough place to go with the ball bouncing on an uneven place with so little atmosphere. “Win ugly” seems to be the phrase of the day.

So if I’ve counted right that’s 9 wins and 3 draws since last losing against Margate back in January. Can we keep it going? Let’s hope so – only another 9 league games to go and with so many clubs covered by so few points anything can happen.

Another challenge for us will be to keep two fit strikers. With Jolls and Kieron Knight returning to their parent clubs we’ve seen Joe Benjamin impress against Sutton and then get injured, Gavin Massey signs on loan from Watford and then gets a hamstring problem, Scott Fitzgerald almost certainly out for the season and Callum is fragile at the best of times. Not many midweek games helps though. Let’s hope Peter Dean stays fit at least!

Looking forward to Folkestone next week.

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.