Wealdstone began their pre season campaign on Saturday with a very creditable draw against Championship side Watford. Despite missing a number of first team players, most notably last season’s top scorer Richard Jolly, Stones gave a strong account of themselves against Gianfranco Zola’s outfit and will be more than happy with their afternoon’s work in front of a bumper crowd of 1,335.
Stones used several trialists throughout the match and all performed well; giving Gordon Bartlett and his management team much food for thought over the coming weeks.
It was the visitors who had the first chance of the afternoon on five minutes when triallist Almen Abdi swung over a cross from the right hand side to Joe Garner who headed straight into the arms of debutant ‘keeper Rikki Banks.
Garner tried his luck again four minutes later, but his low effort from just outside the box was easily collected by the confident Banks.
But Watford took the lead on 13 minutes. Daniel Pudil sprinted down the left before picking out Mark Yeates in the box who made no mistake as he slammed the ball past the despairing dive of Banks.
Things then got worse for Stones two minutes later as trialist full back Nathan Webb picked up an injury and had to be withdrawn, with new signing Tommy Brewer coming on to replace him.
Another of Stones trial players, Rob Carrick, then came within inches on levelling the match on the half hour mark with his side’s first effort of the half. Tom Pett showed great feet to create space for himself on the left hand side before lofting the ball into the onrushing Carrick at the far post whose effort from an acute angle flashed just wide of the far post.
After an understandably sluggish start Stones were starting to find some rhythm, and Peter Dean was unlucky to see his close range effort blocked on the line by his own player from Alex Dyer’s neat pullback.
At the other end Mark Yeates came close to doubling his side’s advantage on the cusp of half time with a wicked 25 yard free kick which flew just wide of the post.
Watford changed their team entirely for the second half with Zola keen to test out his full first team squad.
Wealdstone almost had a dream start to the second half when a quick break saw Pett pick out Chappell on the edge of the box whose superbly hit strike was palmed expertly round the post by Watford ‘keeper Jack Bonham.
Matthew Whichelow had a great chance to add a second for Watford on 58 minutes when he got on the end of a cross from full back Carl Dickinson but his effort was too close to Banks.
Stones substitute Tashan Jordan showed great creativity on the 68 minute mark when he showed quick feet before picking out fellow sub Alan Massey at the far post, with the big defender heading just wide of the upright.
Two minutes later Steph Hamilton hit a vicious effort from 20 yards which was deflected away for a corner as the visitors looked to double their advantage.
Wealdstone did get the equaliser they’d been searching for on 77 minutes. Peter Dean fired in a corner which found Wes Parker at the far post whose thumping header gave the Watford ‘keeper no chance.
The Hornets looked for an instant response, and Craig Forsyth was unlucky with an effort from 20 yards which flew just over the bar, before Iwelumo headed high and wide when well placed.
Only a great save from Banks then denied Watford victory in the last minute, when he showed superb reflexes to palm away a vicious effort from Whichelow.
Wealdstone continue their pre season warm up next Saturday, 28 July at The Vale when they entertain Blue Square Premier side Braintree Town, 3pm kick off.
Wealdstone: Banks, Webb (Brewer 15), Chappell (Papp 80), Parker (c), Cronin, Dyer (Nicholas 46), Carrick (Massey 46), O’Leary (Brooks 46), Dean, Stanislaus (Field 73), Pett (Jordan 60). Sub not used; Poniskaitis.
Man of the match: Rikki Banks
Match Report by Stuart Warren