Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - Front Page -

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 Pic­ture cour­tesy of Hunger­ford FC

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