National League South: Eastbourne Borough 1 Wealdstone 1
PUBLISHED: 10:01 27 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:09 27 August 2017
A new era dawned for Wealdstone in the bright sunshine of a seaside setting on Saturday, following the end of Gordon Bartlett’s long reign as manager.
It was a first opportunity for the 150-plus travelling fans to see the new management team in action, and, just as significantly, the effects on their team.
What they saw generally pleased them but this is, by all admissions, a work very much in progress.
Bobby Wilkinson is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a wilting wallflower in the technical area. His style is an animated one, constantly exhorting his charges for more effort and to constantly get forward quicker whilst keeping their shape to avoid the sucker punch of the counter attack.
As for the match proceedings, there was a fast and furious start but with Stones sometimes struggling to get to grips – literally- on the 3G surface with quick turns ending with occasional slips and falls.
This would later prove costly, but these are playing conditions that they are going to have to increasingly come to terms with as more clubs lay down the plastic surface.
Wealdstone soon picked up the pace and started to look dangerous but with the correct decision-making in vital areas still a challenge.
Elliot Benyon raced clear on 12 minutes but made the wrong pass, then the ever-lively Abo Eisa moved rapidly clear on the opposite flank but with time and space blasted well over the Eastbourne woodwork.
Then another decent chance presented from a corner but Leyton Orient loanee Aron Pollock took an air shot at the far post.
The away side suffered a blow on 18 minutes when effervescent skipper Sam Cox pulled up with a groin injury and was replaced by Matty Whichelow as Benyon took the armband.
The Sports had their first real opportunity at goal soon after when a foul outside the area saw an excellent free-kick smash off Jon North’s crossbar but the former Watford glove man was able to hold the rebound.
Wellard then headed over from another Danny Green Corner as Stones continued to attack, taking a good share of the possession.
Finally the home side started to show their attacking intent when they took a strike but straight at North for an easy take.
Pollock then smashed a great header off the upright from yet another corner kick, but five minutes later the young centre half slipped on the surface just outside the area and up popped Jamie Taylor to rifle past North for an unlikely opener and the lead for a grateful home side.
Stones soon recovered and caused mayhem in the Eastbourne box with a move started by Eisa who wriggled and weaved past defenders only to see his shot blocked and the follow-up somehow stopped on the line.
The half ended with Whichelow taking a strike from 25 yards that man of the match keeper Bailey Vose somehow tipped over.
But Stones came out with greater intent in the second half, yet started to flag as the game wore on.
Pollock saved them from conceding a second goal on 56 minutes, then Nathan Pinney hit wide when he should have done better.
Fitness was becoming an issue on the energy-sapping surface for both sides as midfield gaps appeared and the game looked far more open.
And Stones appeared to be running out of ideas with The Sports defence thwarting all attempts with Leon Redwood outstanding in the back line and when coming forward.
But Wealdstone kept at it and on 84 minutes Eisa took a great corner and Eddie Oshodi powered in at the far post with a header giving Vose no chance for a hugely deserved equaliser.
Stones could and should have won it in the final few minutes but Eisa tamely went for goal when he should have rolled the ball to a colleague on two occasions. The new management team will take good information from this match and interesting times lie ahead as they face a home clash with local rival Hemel Hempstead Town on Bank Holiday Monday at The Vale (3pm), with a bumper crowd is expected.
Wealdstone: North, Oshodi, Okimo, Pollock, Brown, Wellard, Hippolyte-Patrick, Cox, Benyon, Green, Eisa. Subs used: Whichelow, Fitchett. Unused: Constable, Godfrey, Ijaha.