Stones open their new home in style
PUBLISHED: 13:43 24 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:19 24 August 2010
By Ben Pearce WEALDSTONE were given the ultimate house-warming present on Wednesday as a below-strength Watford side gifted the club a Championship scalp in their very first game at Grosvenor Vale. After 17 years without a home of their own, Stones rose t
By Ben Pearce
WEALDSTONE were given the ultimate house-warming present on Wednesday as a below-strength Watford side gifted the club a Championship scalp in their very first game at Grosvenor Vale.
After 17 years without a home of their own, Stones rose to the historic occasion and outplayed their inexperienced visitors throughout to win 3-1 with a clinical display of passing football.
"It was a good christening, wasn't it," said manager Gordon Bartlett. "I'm just looking at the place, it's just fantastic and I like to think tonight was some sort of reward for all the people who have worked so hard over the last few months.
"It's been tremendous and when you walk in it gives you a bit of a buzz. At last we've got a home and I think this evening we thoroughly deserved the win and there were an awful lot of plus points."
Dean Papali was given the honour of the first ever touch at the Vale, tapping the ball at the kick-off to Ben Alexander, who passed it straight out of play.
But that was the only moment that Stones ever looked uncomfortable in their new surroundings, and they took a deserved lead as early as the eighth minute.
New signing David Hicks fought to keep possession outside the penalty area before curling a delicious, dipping effort over Scott Loach, a goal worthy of entering Wealdstone's record books.
Derek Quayle saw a vicious 20-yard volley saved three minutes later, and Alexander missed the chance to open his account after 15 minutes when he glanced Gary Burrell's pinpoint cross just wide of the far post.
Alexander was unlucky again 10 minutes later when he thumped an audacious drive narrowly over the bar with the keeper stranded, but it was third time lucky on the half hour as he doubled Stones' lead.
The goal stemmed from a familiar source, as Lee Chappell launched a trade-mark long throw into the box.
Watford won the initial aerial challenge but the ball dropped to Alexander eight yards out and, with his back to goal, he controlled the ball on his thigh before swivelling and volleying the ball past Loach.
James Gray maintained the two-goal lead after 35 minutes, making the first of two breathtaking tackles when he chased down Moses Ashikodi and denied the young striker with a last-ditch sliding block from behind six yards out.
But he couldn't stop Watford pulling a goal back three minutes later as Lewis Young, the younger brother of ex-Watford and current Aston Villa winger Ashley, headed in Rob Kiernan's inswinging cross at the back post.
As half-time approached Papali drew a stunning save from Loach, who seemed to have been beaten with a curling effort to the far post but got his fingers to the ball and turned it round the post.
And in injury time Wealdstone regained their two-goal cushion as the unfortunate Cedric Avinel lifted the ball over his own keeper under pressure and into the net.
Both sets of fans had been treated to a four-goal thriller in the opening period, and it was always unlikely that they would be given more of the same as both sides made wide-spread changes.
Ashikodi hit the bar with a header 10 minutes after the break, and Watford's Billy Gibson put two late free kicks inches wide, but Stones were never seriously threatened and ran out comfortable winners after a very encouraging start to their season.
"It's a nice win tonight but it doesn't mean anything," said Bartlett. "It's still our pre-season so we're not getting carried away.
"There's a nucleus of players who are going to come back in like Ryan Ashe, who won everything last year - player of the season, you name it.
"One thing that's made an enormous difference already is being able to use a facility where we can actually start doing a bit of pattern of play and set pieces. We've now got our own home and that will help us massively."
Wealdstone: Barnard, Hawes, Chappell, Gray, Massey, Hicks, Quayle, O'Leary, Papali, Alexander, Burrell.
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