Last-Minute Mawford Magic Stuns Stones
Weston-super-Mare kept their recent revival rolling on Saturday, emerging 2-3 victors over Wealdstone in a shootout at Grosvenor Vale thanks to Jake Mawford’s added time winner.
In blustery conditions, Jonny Wright’s 4th minute header gave the home side the initiative, but a strong second half showing saw the Seagulls to their fourth win in as many games.
Joe McClennan, outstanding throughout, ignited the comeback just 90 seconds after the interval before teeing up Bradley Ash for his 9th league goal of the campaign on 54 minutes.
Ryan Northmore’s side controlled the second half proceedings, almost entirely stifling the hosts’ attacking threat, and the likelihood of a Stones comeback seemed remote, particularly when skipper Tom Hamblin received a second yellow card with eight minutes to play.
Yet the home side were able to conjure a moment of quality with just five minutes remaining, finished off by veteran forward Jefferson Louis’ header to level the scoreline at two-apiece.
But when it seemed the Seagulls had relinquished their monopoly of the points, Alex Byrne delivered for late substitute Jake Mawford, who stole a march on his man to send a thundering diving header into the top corner to seal a dramatic victory.
Two changes were made to the Weston side that defeated Hitchin in the FA Trophy, with Ollie Barnes and Jacob Cane returning from one-game suspensions to replace Jamie Edge and Danny Wring.
Lining up in Wealdstone’s maroon change strip following a kit clash, the Seagulls had the first chance of the game through skipper Dayle Grubb on two minutes, who galloped through midfield to the edge of the area, mishitting his effort, yet it threatened to dribble into the bottom corner, but Stones’ stopper Jonathan North got down well to tip behind.
Weston’s recent winning run has coincided with some sturdier defending of set pieces, but those demons remerged on five minutes when Josh McLoed-Urquhart’s wind-assisted free-kick from Wealdstone territory drifted over the Seagulls’ defensive line, allowing Jonny Wright to profit by heading the bouncing ball past Luke Purnell to give the home side the lead.
Weston were bright throughout the first half; at times the link up play from the forward players was superb as the Seagulls were able to play through Wealdstone midfield with regularity, but when presented with an opportunity to threaten the goal, to the frustration of travelling support, they were unable to cash in.
This frustration was compounded when a pair of inviting McClennan crosses flashed across the six-yard box without the finishing touch they deserved.
But for all of their possession and invention, the Seagulls could have conceivably found themselves further behind at the interval.
Purnell produced a pair of terrific diving saves to deny rasping efforts from Jefferson Louis and Bradley Hudson-Odoi respectively, while Tom Hamblin headed over from a handful of yards out as the score remained at 1-0 at the interval.
Returning from the break, it took little over a minute for Weston to find the composure they dearly lacked in the first period. A move that was built from the back concluded with a delightful one-touch exchange between Grubb and the goalscorer McClennan, who displayed his trademark shiftiness in wrong-footing the Stone’s defence, firing left-footed into the bottom corner with North static in goal.
Weston’s swift start to the second half saw them arrest the ascendency, as their superior energy and passing gave them hegemony of the middle of the park.
And the Seagulls took the lead through that exact route. Brad Ash’s seemingly relentless harassment of the Stones’ defence forced Dale Binns into erroneous pass that was picked off by McClennan on halfway.
The 24-year-old midfielder took no time in charging forward, dancing past Binns on his way to the perimeter of the penalty area, before eventually releasing Ash on the overlap, who once again displayed remarkable confidence and composure for a striker of such little experience to score for the fourth consecutive game, allowing the keeper to commit himself before smashing high into the corner of the net to give the Seagulls the lead on 54 minutes.
An already dismal second half for Wealdstone got distinctly worse when skipper Tom Hamblin was dismissed, receiving a second yellow card for a rash hack at Jacob Cane with eight minutes remaining, after earlier picking up a caution for an equally ugly challenge on Bradley Ash.
But when it seemed that the Seagulls would be able to manage the remaining moments against the ten men with comfort, Hudson-Odoi’s pinpoint cross from the left flank found Louis in space in the centre, with the lanky striker heading back across goal, rendering Purnell helpless as it hit the back of the net, bringing the strangely subdued Stones’ support into life.
With the crowd at their back, Wealdstone could have snatched all three points with Louis once again presented with space in the area, but his volley likely ended in a resident’s garden in the adjacent housing estate.
With the hosts passing up their chance of a winner, Weston were able to ascend The Vale slope one more time, with late substitute Jake Mawford earning a corner after his testing cross was headed behind as the game ticked into added time.
From the resulting flag-kick, Alex Byrne, as he has done on so many occasions in his loan spell, sent in a luscious left-footed cross with pace and bend, begging to be attacked. Mawford duly obliged, hurling himself at the ball, powering it into the net before wheeling away in jubilation as the Seagulls had secured a third-consecutive league win, lifting them out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
Final score: Wealdstone 2-3 Weston-super-Mare (Wright 5, Louis 85; McClennan 47, Ash 54, Mawford 90)
Weston starting XI: Purnell, Withey (Edge), Barnes, Cane, Keary, Fortune, McClennan (Mawford), Ash, Wilson (Camper), Grubb (c), Byrne.
Substitutes: (not used) Pope, Davis.
Man of the Match: Joe McClennan – Energetic and pacey in his work in defence and on the front foot. Scored the equaliser and assisted Brad Ash to give Weston the lead.
Match report written by Sam Frost
Images courtesy of Alan Palmer Photography