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Welling United 2
2
Adigun (61'), Fish (90'+2)
2 Tonbridge Angels
2
Odokonyero (27', 44')

Angels agonised by persistent Welling

Tariq Hinds was back available for selection after serving a ban and went straight back into Jay Saunders’ eleven to face Welling United. Paris Lock was unavailable whilst he nurses an injury as was Jernade Meade who’s spot was taken by Liam Vincent. There was a new man on the bench for Tonbridge, Ryan Hanson, a defensive midfielder who has joined the Angels on a permanent transfer from Torquay.

The XI: Henly, Fielding, Sutcliffe, Lyons-Foster, Vincent, Higgs, Gard, Wagstaff, Hinds, Odokonyero, Shields. Subs: Greenidge, Mampolo, Aransibia, Dabre, Hanson.

The opening 15 minutes of this clash was rather uneventful. Perhaps the most eye-catching moment was a nervous touch from Fielding back towards Jonny Henly who caught the ball. The referee deemed it legal but Welling fans behind the goal were incandescent, appealing for an indirect free kick for what they saw as a back pass.

Jamie Fielding who avoided such an outcome was substituted off almost immediately after, not as a result of his actions but because he had gone down holding his hip in pain. On came Francis Mampolo who went onto the right wing with Tariq Hinds retreating to right-back.

Substitute Mampolo had the first good chance of the contest having been slipped in by a cutting ball from Lewis Gard which the winger unfortunately struggled to direct into the net with his effort flashing beside the right post.

Just one minute later however, Odokonyero did what Mampolo couldn’t and converted an effort to put the Angels ahead. His strike came after Welling were dispossessed in the centre of the park and the loanee striker, who's had his stay extended, danced on the edge of the box and finished beyond Charles-Cook to put Tonbridge into the lead.

Tonbridge kept their foot on the gas and the fans, whilst still singing in celebration of the first goal, appealed for a penalty when Shields had his shot denied on the 29th minute by a block which could very well have been from a Welling player’s arm. Mampolo also had a chance to double the lead with a ball flying towards him in a fortunate position, but it proved a tricky one to turn in with his one touch effort escaping over the crossbar.

Lewis Gard helped the Angels stay ahead with an important clearance off the line to deny Joe Ellul’s header from a corner that was one of few attacking moments for Welling in the first 45.

Before the referee’s whistle ended the first period, Nathan Odokonyero capitalised on a loose ball to put another goal between the two sides. Initially, the ball was floated towards Jordan Higgs at the back stick, he cushioned it towards Shields who had an attempt on goal but that was denied by Charles-Cook’s parry which ultimately pushed the ball into Odokonyero’s striking distance.

At the break it was Welling United 0, Tonbridge Angels 2.

Four minutes into the second half, Jason Adigun volleyed a ball at goal which smacked the crossbar. Simultaneously, the referee blew up for a foul which had previously occurred and offered the reds another crack at goal. Antony Papadopoulos stepped over the set piece but placed it wide of the target with a low driven effort.

Tonbridge struggled to retain the ball as the second half developed and were forced to weather Welling’s storm as they time and again put the Angels defenders in uncomfortable positions.

Calls from the dugout were to calm things down in order to get a grip on the game again but, despite what looked like a possible easing of pressure, Welling wouldn’t give in and on 68 minutes, Jason Adigun, who’d already shown his quality from distance, fired an effort from outside of the box into the top left corner.

Tonbridge were now vulnerable, and Welling looked like they wanted it more which meant most of the action took place in the Angels half. A bit of argy-bargy occurred in the final ten minutes as the temperature rose. Jonny Henly talked himself into the book and Welling’s Kennedy was also cautioned.

Hanson and Greenidge replaced Gard and Odokonyero respectively, but fresh legs wasn’t enough to keep the Angels ahead as, in the second minute of injury time, former Tonbridge loanee Sonny Fish stretched out to reach an inviting cross and tap it home to send the home fans wild.

With seconds left to be played, it felt like anyone’s game, the ball bounced back and forth between the two boxes and the best chance saw Sean Shields almost win it for Tonbridge with a strike that hit the bar but, when the referee blew the full-time whistle, the sides couldn’t be separated and the spoils were shared. Welling United 2, Tonbridge Angels 2.

Published Saturday 17th February 2024