Welling United 3-2 Chelmsford City - Listen, they've come out and they've given me everything like they always do, says Welling United boss Steve King

Sunday 05th May 2019
Welling United 3 – 2 Chelmsford City
Location Park View Road, Welling, Kent DA16 1SY
Kickoff 05/05/2019 15:00

Vanarama National League South Play-Off Semi-Final
Sunday 5 May 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Park View Road

WELLING UNITED manager Steve King says he went through all of the emotions after beating Chelmsford City with a dramatic last-gasp penalty to reach the Vanarama National League South Promotion Final.

A crowd of 1,912 packed into Park View Road to witness the Wings score a dramatic last-gasp winner, courtesy of Brendan Kiernan’s penalty, to score his 14th goal of the season and to break Chelmsford City’s hearts.

Welling United were two goals in front, courtesy of striker Bradley Goldberg poking in his fourteenth goal of the season, following a set-piece.

The Wings doubled their lead through an own goal from Chelmsford City goalkeeper Nathan McDonald, before Rod Stringer’s men fought back.

They pulled a goal back right on the stroke of half time through a header from Tom Wraight, taking his tally for the season to 12 goals.

The only goal coming from open play was Chelmsford’s equaliser with seven minutes from time through substitute Jonny Giles’ who received a huge slice of luck to score his third goal of the season.

With Chelmsford City dominating and throwing everything at Welling, the Wings broke away and Kiernan held his nerve from the spot to snatch the winning goal from the spot right at the death.

“Just all different emotions, annoyed, frustrated, 2-0 up and in control of the game. The ref gives a free-kick on the touchline that wasn’t a free-kick. The linesman’s right on top of it, he hasn’t flagged for it and they’ve scored from it at the worst possible time, 2-1 at half-time,” said King, during the post-match press conference out on the pitch.

“We come off and it was kind of scrappy. It looked like we defended brilliantly and would see the game out and they score a fluke – let’s make no bones about this – it’s a fluke to get them back in the game at 2-2.

“It was a great strike but Dan (Wilks) should be pushing that over the bar! That’s what he tried to do and pushed it into his own net!

“We kept going, We were resolute. We’ve got a few match winners in the team. Brendan (Kiernan) being one of them and a little bit of magic and we won the penalty.”

Gary Johnson’s Torquay United won promotion after finishing top of the pile with 88 points from their 42 games.

Woking finished runners-up with 78 points, while Welling United finished in third-place with 76 points, four points clear of fourth-placed finishers Chelmsford City.  Bath City were fifth on 71 points, Concord Rangers followed on 70, while Wealdstone grabbed a seventh-place finish with 66 points on the board.

Concord Rangers were denied competing in the play-offs due to failing ground grading criteria and Wealdstone came away from Bath City with a 3-1 win last Wednesday.

Wealdstone led Woking 2-0 inside 19 minutes in today’s other Semi-Final, before Woking fought back and scored three times inside the final 14 minutes to have home advantage over Welling United in the winner-takes-all showdown at Kingfield Stadium next Sunday, 12 May (15:00).

Chelmsford City started this game on the front foot and created their first opening after only 91 seconds when central midfielder Billy Knott stroked a left-footed free-kick over the wall from 30-yards and keeper Dan Wilks caught the ball comfortably in his midriff.

“They started better without hurting us I felt. They were coming down the slope. We won the toss to obviously put them that way,” said King.

Former Bromley and Maidstone United left-back Joe Anderson clipped the ball over the top of the Welling United defence and the home side’s defence switched off after Scott Fenwick knocked the ball down and Max Porter’s left-footed drive from the edge of the box rolled into Wilks’ gloves.

Welling United weathered the early Chelmsford City storm and they were a threat in the air through target man Danny Mills throughout the game.

Welling United missed a glorious chance to score following the third-phase of their first corner in the 17th minute.

Goldberg found himself down the right and he floated in a great cross for Mills to rise near the penalty spot to flick his header just over the crossbar.

Welling United grabbed the lead with 26 minutes and 3 seconds on the clock, following a set-piece that Chelmsford City failed to clear their lines.

Winger Gavin McCallum swept in a free-kick from the right and the ball ping-balled around the Chelmsford City area before falling nicely for former Bromley striker Goldberg to poke his left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner from six-yards out.

King said: “That’s why I felt my decision was right to start him.  I could’ve played Mo.  Mo Bettamer has scored three goals in three games and he scored in the last game. 

“I felt that a little person getting in behind would cause them problems like they did in the last game, so that’s why I went with Brad over Mo.”

The goal lifted Welling United’s spirits and they then went on a dominant spell.

Left-back Craig Braham-Barrett linked up with Kiernan down the left and the winger cut the ball onto his right boot before floating in a cross for Mills to rise with centre-half Adrian Cascaval at the near post and the ball looped off a shoulder and McDonald stepped up to pluck the ball out of the air.

Knott attempted to release Fenwick on a counter-attack but Gibbons intercepted the ball along the deck and he released Goldberg, who twisted and turned Porter before cutting inside and unleashing a drive from 20-yards, which stung McDonald’s fingers as he dived to his right.

Welling United deserved their two-goal lead when it came during this dominant spell but it had a large slice of luck when it arrived with 33 minutes and 11 seconds on the clock.

Welling United forced their third and final corner and McCallum swung the ball in from the right.  In the end, French centre-half Thierry Audel hooked his shot through a crowd of players and against the base of the left-hand post. The ball then bounced off McDonald’s legs – with the luckless goalkeeper back to the goal – and the ball kissed the opposite post before trickling over the line.

“That’s Thierry’s goal, that ain’t an own goal, that’s Thierry’s goal for me. End off,” insisted King.

“I just felt at 2-0 we were just comfortable. I thought we was comfortable.  I didn’t see them that they were going to get back in. The only way they were going to get back in was the way they got back in, a set-piece.”

Cascaval hit a long free-kick into the Welling United penalty area and Chelmsford worked the ball over to an unmarked Fenwick, who scuffed his left-footed shot from 15-yards on the left-hand side of the penalty area, which rolled into the gloves of the Welling keeper.

Anderson’s ball over the top released Knott in behind Gibbons and he reached the by-line before cutting the ball back towards the near post but Wraight slid in and couldn’t poke the ball into the bottom near corner from inside the six-yard box.

Chelmsford City changed the momentum of the game by scoring with 43 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock, following another set-piece.

Knott swung in a free-kick of high quality from the right touchline and Fenwick rose to guide his header across the keeper and into the far corner from 12-yards.

Chelmsford City still had time before the interval to create one more chance when another long ball was met on the half-volley by 28-goal striker Rhys Murphy, which was saved by Wilks.

“We were comfortable and we haven’t marked at that set-piece and they’ve scored, so it was a different team-talk,” revealed King.

“I didn’t mix my words in there if I’m honest. I went a bit crazy! 

“Listen, they’ve come out and they’ve given me everything like they always do.  I didn’t want to go out in the manner that we possibly may have gone out. I’d rather go out with a team that proper beats us and we deserve to lose but I felt for long periods of the game we were in control of it and they weren’t really hurting us.”

Welling United kicked-off the second half and were kicking down the slope and they were clearly in a rush to score with their first chance coming after only 13 seconds.

David Ijaha fed Goldberg, who raced into the final third before rolling the ball inside to McCallum, who delivered a first time cross which curled out to Kiernan, who bent his right-footed shot around the foot of the far post from 20-yards.

“The keeper was on his starting position and he was never going to get there if that was on target,” added King.

The lively McCallum played the ball into Arnaud Mendy and he floated over a deep cross which was met by Mills’ hanging header, which was cleared out to Kiernan, who hit his left-footed volley over the crossbar from 18-yards.

Chelmsford City made a tactical change in the 53rd minute when Anderson was replaced by Lamar Reynolds.  Wraight slotted in at left-back, while Reynolds were pushed up down the left-wing and deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Welling United wasted another headed chance in the 63rd minute when Gibbons floated over a deep cross from the right and Mills free header sailed across the keeper and past the far post from eight-yards out.

Chelmsford City started to increase their urgency levels and dominated the final 20 minutes as Welling United sat back on their lead.

Chris Whelpdale floated over a cross from the right wing and centre-half Michael Spillane  jumped to loop his header from eight-yards out into Wilks’ hands for a comfortable catch.

Chelmsford City threw the kitchen sink at Welling United and last defender Cascaval launched a big kick forward towards the edge of the box for Giles to flick his header past the far post from 20-yards.

Chelmsford City were gifted a deserved equaliser when it arrived with 37 minutes and 12 seconds on the clock.

Substitute Chez Isaac played the ball inside to Giles, who was given time and space to drill a left-footed drive towards goal from 35-yards.

The ball sailed towards the roof of the net but Welling United keeper Wilks rose both of his hands and tried to palm the ball over the crossbar. However, he didn’t get enough on the shot and the ball spun behind him and dropped over the line to the delight of the vocal visiting fans behind his goal.

King admitted:  “Let’s face it, they’ve got a draw through our error, not through their good play. Dan’s thrown the ball in the net. If that doesn’t go in, they don’t score and we win 2-1.

“The second goal was a howler, wasn’t it?  I’m upset for Dan as well because it’s a great strike, don’t get me wrong, but it’s coming straight at him and he’s tried to push it over the bar. I don’t know what he’s done. He’s just pushed it in.  I was looking away thinking it’s gone for a corner and he’s pushed it in so really from that point of view, we’ve given them a goal without them making that goal, I felt.

“Dan’s been big for us this year. He’s kept us in games and he’s made some fantastic saves. He’s been consistent all season and I just felt I didn’t want it to end like that for him.”

Chelmsford City almost nicked it with 44 minutes and 10 seconds on the clock, following their fourth and final corner.

Isaac swung in a corner from the left; Wilks’ punch was poor and was lofted back into the box by an unmarked Knott. Wilks and Josh Hill (a centre-half who came on at the break for Anthony Acheampong, who pulled his groin) got in each others way and Murphy’s overhead kick dropped over the crossbar from 14-yards.

Welling United were agonisingly close to winning the game with 46:16 on the clock.

The impressive McCallum whipped in a great free-kick from the right and picked out Hill at the near post but all he could do was steer his free header across goal and it sailed agonisingly past the top of the far post.

With extra time looming, there was still time for one last Welling United raid on the counter-attack.

Substitute striker Mohamed Bettamer played the ball up to Ijaha, who played a diagonal through ball to put Kiernan through on goal. He cut past Isaac, who tripped the winger just inside the left-hand side of the penalty area and referee Scott Jackson pointed to the spot with 48:11 on the clock.

With designated penalty taker Goldberg now sitting on the bench, it was Kiernan who grabbed the ball and held his nerve from the penalty spot, scoring with 49:58 on the clock.  The final whistle went with 51:05 on the clock.

Kiernan stroked his right-footed penalty and McDonald got a strong hand to the shot as he dived to his right - but couldn’t prevent it nestling into the left-hand corner of the goal to spark wild scenes of celebration.

“I don’t get why did he took so long? Why didn’t the referee not let us take the penalty earlier, I don’t know,” quizzed King.

“I said to Brendan, I wasn’t comfortable with him taking it so he said ‘you’ve got to have faith in us’. 

“I said I couldn’t really look! I don’t know where I was, I was up the touchline somewhere but he’s changed his corner. I thought he was going in the other way because at training he puts them the other way. We were practicing them the other night in training and he puts them the other way, so he obviously changed his mind and he’s gone that way.

“It was emotional to a lot of people. I had family here come to see me for the first time in a long time.  I couldn’t look at it, I was with people I knew. I couldn’t look and then I heard the roar and my missus went up and my mum went up and everyone went up and I just knew then it was in!”

Play-offs are great if you win them but heart-breaking when you lose and King felt for his friend Stringer.

“Rod’s done a magnificent job there.  That’s three play-offs Rod’s been in the last three years, two semi-finals and a final so I wouldn’t say we’re the old brigade of the league but we know the league at the back of our hands.

“I was talking to Rod before the game and he was hoping it was third time lucky for him because it’s the third time. He didn’t get that one more and I’m hoping it’s the third time lucky (for me) in the play-off finals because I’ve been in there twice and lost. This will be the third time in the finals.

“I feel for Rod, I like Rod, we talk a lot. Rod’s won the league and been in the play-offs three times. I’ve won it and been in it six times. I know how hard it is. It’s a grind for 10 months of the season. It doesn’t stop for us and a lot of credit has to go to Rod because he works hard as well and he’s got a lot of people to please over at Chelmsford and sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”

Woking are looking to return to the National League at the first attempt after finishing third-from-bottom in the top-flight last season, while Welling United have spent three seasons in this division.

“That must show a lot of character for Woking as well because they haven’t had the greatest league form of late and to be 2-0 down and win 3-2 shows character,” said King.

“Another tough, tough, tough, tough, tough game. We haven’t beaten them this season. I felt a little bit hard done by when we played them. We should’ve won the last game against them but listen it’s going to count for nothing!  It’s on the day.

“I can’t ask for no more. One to get in the play-offs – they’ve done that.  Now to get in the finals – they’ve done that. It’s one game between this level and the next level.

“That’s taken a lot of energy out of us today and it’s probably taken a lot of energy out of Woking because they’ve come from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in the last minute.

“We’ve got a week to prepare, a week to rest.  We’re all going to Spain this week, no I wish!”

King wants all Welling United fans to make the 108-mile round trip to Kingfield Stadium next Sunday.

“It’s an hour down the road so if we can’t take at least 500 there there’s a problem, there’s a big problem. We have to be looking at those sort of numbers 500-700. It’s a play-off final, it’s a final, it’s a cup final.”

Welling United: Dan Wilks, Jordan Gibbons, Craig Braham-Barrett, Arnaud Mendy, Anthony Acheampong (Josh Hill 46), Thierry Audel, Brendan Kiernan, Danny Mills, Bradley Goldberg (Mohamed Bettamer 74), Gavin McCallum.
Subs: Mohamed Hajizadeh, Nassim L’Ghoul, Julien Anau

Goals: Bradley Goldberg 27, Nathan McDonald 34 (own goal), Brendan Kiernan 90 (penalty)

Booked: Thierry Audel 45

Chelmsford City: Nathan McDonald, Elliot Omozusi, Joe Anderson (Lamar Reynolds 53), Max Porter (Chez Isaac 62), Michael Spillane, Adrian Cascaval, Chris Whelpdale, Billy Knott, Rhys Murphy, Scott Fenwick (Jonny Giles 68), Tom Wraight.
Subs: Anthony Church, Jazzi Barnum-Bobb

Goals: Tom Wraight 44, Jonny Giles 83

Booked: Adrian Cascaval 41, Rhys Murphy 45, Michael Spillans 69

Attendance: 1,912
Referee: Mr Scott Jackson (Plymouth, Devon)
Assistants: & Mr Michael Begley (Ealing, London W5) & Mr Jack Bloxham (St Albans, Hertfordshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Jason Richardson (Northwood, Middlesex)