A SEVEN-GOAL thriller saw Marathonbet’s Premier League Legends come back from 3-0 down against Non-League Challenge winners Wealdstone FC yesterday.
Four goals in quick succession at Grosvenor Vale saw the legends, inspired by second-half substitute Dion Dublin, run out 4-3 winners in Marathonbet’s first-ever NLC clash.
The Legends went into half-time with their heads down after a fit and sprightly Wealdstone team took their handful of chances in front of goal.
But a brace from Dublin in the second half propelled them to victory in front of a 900-strong crowd at Wealdstone’s home ground.
Stones frontman Josh Hutchinson opened the floodgates in the 17th minute when Legends keeper Maik Taylor spilled the ball from a rather innocent-looking free kick. It was a Christmas present come early for the young Wealdstone striker.
The former Fulham goalie made up for his howler five minutes later when Hutchinson raced through from a brilliant chipped ball over the top of the Legends backline. This time though Taylor won his duel – smothering the ball first to deny Hutchinson his second.
Legends gaffer Alan Curbishley paced the touchline anxiously mid-way through the first half – but he would have been delighted with his team’s response.
A barrage of attacks from the former Premier League stars soon followed – kick-started by a whipped ball from Frank Sinclair into the back post which just missed a leaping Teddy Sheringham.
A minute later Darren Anderton hooked up with ex-Arsenal man Ray Parlour on the edge of the box, but the Romford Pele blazed over with a first-time shot.
Taylor made another fine save to deny Hutchinson down the other end before Legends turned the screw further.
Bolton big-man Kevin Davies found himself on the end of a Sheringham cross and was moments from pulling the trigger at the back post – but impressive Stones keeper Liam O’Brien was all over it like a rash.
O’Brien made the difference again when pulling off a fine save from a Matt Holland drive – the Legends skipper finding himself through on goal with just the keeper to beat – before Kevin Davies picked up the rebound and fired another bullet for O’Brien to save.
Stones’ box was like a pressure-cooker – a goal surely inevitable – but heroic O’Brien was having none of it. He denied Darren Anderton as he raced through on goal before saving again from the former Spurs man when he jumped highest in the box from a corner.
Stones doubled their tally completely against the run of play in the 38th minute when Ricky Wellard picked out Josh Hutchinson with a cross from the right to glance past the stranded Maik Taylor.
And three minutes later the tie looked dead and buried when Hutchinson netted his hat-trick. Former Cardiff star Danny Gabbidon lost possession clumsily on the left to allow Hutchinson to cut inside and bury an unstoppable shot off the post into the net.
The Legends had it all to do after the break.
Sheringham, Holland, Winterburn and Anderton created a host of chances for the visitors but it took them until the 73rd minute before Ruel Fox raced to the byline and pulled it back for Dion Dublin to pass into an empty net.
And in true London-bus fashion, the rest of their goals quickly followed.
Two minutes later Sean Cronin – who swapped his Wealdstone top for a Legends jersey – scored the goal of the game with a delightful chip over the rushing goalkeeper to make it 3-2.
And the equaliser came almost immediately afterwards when Dion Dublin picked up a Matt Holland square-ball to fire into the top corner from 12 yards.
The Wealdstone faithful sung their hearts out – all too aware of what was unfolding in front of them.
But their war cries were of no use to their heroes, who finally surrendered everything when quick-footed Sean Cronin floored three Wealdstone defenders with a tasty turn before firing a screamer into the top corner.
The Wealdstone Raider made a cameo appearance in the final minutes – duly obliging when the crowd begged him for a wave.
But despite all he’s done for the club, he could not stop the Marathonbet Premier League Legends running out 4-3 winners in what was a day to remember.