Underdogs roll over Stones as Wilkinson shoulders blame
WEALDSTONE boss Bobby Wilkinson has told fans to “blame me, not the players” after the Stones crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Burgess Hill Town on Saturday.
In the final quarter of an increasingly frantic cup tie of huge importance to both sides, it was the visitors that were piling on the pressure with several spurned gilt-edged chances. But this is the FA Cup and the socalled underdogs had other ideas and seized upon a single opportunity to find the net from a rare late foray upfield.
With 90 minutes on the clock, defender Cheik Toure found space outside the area from a throw in and blasted the ball past Jonathan North who had had little to do other than hold onto hopeful aerial efforts.
A distraught Wilkinson said: “I didn’t sleep at all. I need to let the fans know that I take full responsibility. There are things I cannot say about how I feel right now and it does not concern the players. We cannot hit the selfdestruct button at this club and I will not allow that to happen.
“We know we didn’t take our chances but must now back the players. The supporters have to believe in what we are trying to achieve. Blame me, not the players. We will be training hard this week as we prepare for Whitehawk next Saturday.”
The Hillians started the brighter of the two sides and got the ball forward early, as was expected. The Stones had a scare after 12 minutes’ play when, in attempting to clear a ball into the box, Matt Day sliced onto the upright and somehow the rebound was eventually cleared.
But that was as close as the home side came with the Stones guilty of overhit passes and they struggled to find the rhythm going forward to create openings against a determined defence.
Abo Eisa did get a decent strike in and won a corner with the game settling into an even contest. Elliot Benyon, who was back in the front line, was caught offside when well-placed on a few occasions but a further three corners in rapid succession for Wealdstone failed to break the deadlock.
The Stones looked livelier after the break – Luke Williams found more space and hit just over and then the same player saw his powerful strike pushed away by home custodian James Shaw.
The introduction of substitute Alan O’Brien brought more threat down the left flank as the Stones pushed up and worked hard to make the breakthrough against their lower-league opponents.
Dan Fitchett was also brought into the action and the game was now seemingly on a knife edge. With 15 minutes to go, Fitchett had a great chance to net but his strike was frustratingly blocked by Shaw who got down well – it was a gilt-edged opportunity that went begging.
Final substitute Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick almost made an immediate impact with two mazy runs as the away corners kept flying in but Burgess Hill defended everything that came at them.
A final couple of forays upfield by a resilient home side got the alarm bells ringing and the sucker punch came right on cue in the final minute to send Stones out of the cup in a gut-wrenching defeat.
Wealdstone manager Bobby Wilkinson