Dartford welcomed Welling to Princes Park on New Years day eager to make amends for their drab performance in the first fixture between the sides on Boxing Day, a game in which the Wings ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.
In the first encounter between the sides Welling ‘keeper Dan Wilks wasn’t forced into a save until the 55th minute but with just 5 minutes on the clock he was off his line well to save with his legs from Charlie Sheringham who was fresh off a goal in his return to the side during Saturday’s 2-2 draw at East Thurrock United.
Just minutes later the visitors had a golden chance to get in front as a cross from the left by Craig Barnham-Barret found Julien Anau, who had strolled into the home box unmarked, but he somehow headed wide from 10 yards out.
Nassim L’Ghoul, who had been so effective on Boxing Day, had to be replaced after just 7 minutes played but it was the Wings who went close once more with Brendan Kiernan’s shot being cleared off the line by Mark Onyemah from a Luke Rooney corner.
Zac Newton then drove an effort just inches wide across Bailey Vose’s goal after he benefitted from Danny Mills’ knock-down before the visitors thought they’d taken the lead when Newton headed in at the far post but he was adjudged to be offside by the referee’s assistant.
The Darts struggled to maintain possession for long enough to mount a considerable attack and counted themselves lucky once more as Anau’s speculative effort from 30 yards flew just wide.
On the stroke of half-time the hosts went the closest of both sides as Ben Greenhalgh’s free-kick from the half-way line was met by the head of Tom Bonner but the home captain was distraught to see the ball strike the right post.
Half-time: Dartford 0–0 Welling United
It was Anau who had another chance, almost from the kick-off, to open the scoring but his run into the Dartford box culminated with a shot that Vose was comfortable to watch sail over the bar.
Wings boss Steve King was visibly delighted with the performance of Anau and his lung busting run forward caused the Dartford defence all sorts of problems before he forced Vose into a low but straight-forward save.
The game lacked the fast and furious tempo seen on Boxing Day but tempers flared on the hour mark as Ronnie Vint felt he was elbowed in an aerial collision with referee Robert Whitton waving play-on.
Newton managed to manoeuvre himself in a position to hook the ball goalwards after a scramble in the box but Vose produced a smart save with his legs before the ball fell to Anau on the edge of the area who curled his effort just over.
Substitute Bradley Goldberg must’ve thought he’d opened the scoring in the 69th minute but his effort destined for the bottom right corner was deflected wide by a combination of Greenhalgh and Jordan Wynter.
Goldberg looked bright after his introduction to the contest and his inch perfect cross looked destined for the head of Newton before Vint produced a superb divong header.
Sheringham and Phil Roberts had very little to play with for most of the game and the Darts finally mustered a second-half opportunity following a great run by Greenhalgh down the length of the pitch. His deep cross found Andre Coker who unselfishly controlled the ball down for Lee Noble who couldn’t quite get over the top of the ball and fired over.
The home crowd had been kept relatively quiet for most of the contest but laughter reverberated around Princes Park when Jamie Philpot bundled over referee Whitton to the floor.
It took 86 minutes for the one and only goal of the game to come and it was far from a classic. Greenhalgh’s deep free kick resulted in a scene of pandemonium in the box which culminated in Ronnie Vint lashing the ball home and wheeling away in a celebration he was later cautioned for.
Manager King would’ve been exasperated about how his team let the contest slip and deserved a point at the very least from the tie. But again, his side failed to take their chances late-on and, along with some heroic defending from Sheringham and Elliot Bradbrook, the Darts held on for three vital points.
Full-time: Dartford 1–0 Welling United
Dartford: Vose, Onyemah, Vint, Bonner, Greenhalgh, Noble, Roberts, Bradbrook, Coker, Johnson, Sheringham.
Welling United: Wilks, Anau, Barham-Barret, Audel, Acheampong, Hill, L’Ghoul, Ijaha, Mills, Rooney, Kiernan.
Man of the match: Lee Noble
Written by Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark)