Mar 26 2012 By Jon Batham
East Thurrock 2
WEALDSTONE’s hopes of a playoff spot suffered a blip as they were held at home by 10-man East Thurrock on Saturday – but it could have been a whole lot worse.
A woeful first half saw stones 2-0 in arrears and seemingly down and out, but the sending off of United’s Sam Collins early in the second half gave them hope and goals from Richard Jolly and Alex Dyer saved a point for Gordon Bartlett’s men.
Even that came at a heavy cost with Chris O’Leary (hamstring) limping off and Jolly picking up an ankle knock ahead of Tuesday’s crunch game away to Canvey Island.
The recent FA Trophy semi-finalists drop to 12th in the standings and now face a mammoth task to reach the end of season knockout lottery.
Lee Chappell went close in the fourth minute as Stones began brightly, but for the remainder of the half the hosts played like a team whose heroic cup exploits had finally caught up with them, quick to give the ball away and slow to react once the ball was lost.
Sam Higgins wasted a glorious chance to put united in front on 15 minutes, shooting weakly at Jonathan North after Sean Cronin’s underweight header back to his keeper sent the striker racing clear.
Bartlett’s men did not escape as lightly on 33 minutes when the disappointing Connor Smith fouled Reis Peddie right on the edge of the box and Joe Keith exacted the full penalty with a delicious free-kick over the wall which went in off the inside of the post leaving North rooted to the spot.
O’Leary who had been struggling since kick-off limped off soon afterwards to be replaced by Dyer and the visitors doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time as Higgins rose unchallenged to head another set piece past a helpless North as Stones waited in vain for an offside flag which never came.
Gordon Bartlett’s response was to hook Scott Fitzgerald at half-time in favour of Peter Dean, but it needed a sprawling save by North when Higgins raced clear on 50 minutes to keep the hosts’ chances alive.
However, they were thrown a lifeline on 52 minutes when Sam Collins, already booked was sent off for an elbow on Scott McCubbin
The misfiring Smith then gave way to Alan Massey, while Tom Pett was pushed up just behind the front two as Stones looked to capitalize on the man advantage.
Dean forced a sprawling save from Richard Wray before inevitably it was Jolly who offered them real hope as he scrambled in his 40th of the season at the second attempt with 25 minutes left.
With McCubbin now rampant down the right Pett and dean both went close to a leveller, while Wes Parker, almost playing as a striker now flashed another effort right across goal with nine minutes left.
The leveller came just two minutes later when Lee Chappell’s throw was not properly cleared and Dyer squeezed the ball inside the far post off the outside of his foot.
Stones were incredibly sniffing an unlikely victory but though Brooks, Jolly and Cronin (twice) went close in a frantic finish the points were shared.