Woking 1-0 Welling United - They've won it with a bit of brilliance today, says proud Welling United manager Steve King

Sunday 12th May 2019
Woking 1 – 0 Welling United
Location Kingfield Stadium, Kingfield Road, Woking, Surrey GU22 9AA
Kickoff 12/05/2019 15:00

Vanarama National League South Promotion Final
Sunday 12 May 2019
Stephen McCartney reports from Kingfield Stadium

WELLING UNITED manager Steve King says losing to Woking in the Vanarama National League South Promotion Final was hard to swallow.

Alan Dowson has guided Woking back into the Vanarama National League at the first attempt at the end of his first season in charge at Kingfield Stadium, courtesy of a sublime 22-yard free-kick from midfielder Armani Little, 22, currently on loan from Oxford United.

Torquay United returned to the top-flight after winning the title with 88 points from 42 games, while Woking finished runners-up on 78 points and King guided Welling United to a third-place finish just two points behind at the end of his first season at Park View Road.

Woking found themselves 2-0 down to Wealdstone in the Play-Off Semi-Final before fighting back to win, courtesy of scoring three late goals.

Welling United beat fourth-placed finishers Chelmsford City 3-2 at Park View Road, courtesy of Brendan Kiernan’s last-gasp penalty last Sunday.

“Hard to sum up, the game was cagey in the first half to say the least. I didn’t think we done a lot and they didn’t do a lot,” said King.

“Bradley Goldberg’s had that great chance like it’s beat the keeper and it’s going in and it’s kind of hit the inside of the post and spun out and gone into the goalkeeper’s hands.  I think that’s their bit of luck that they’ve had in the game. 

“They’ve had an one-on-one when they came inside Jordan Gibbons and got the shot off but there was nothing in the game in the first half, especially.

“They get a free-kick, was it a free-kick? I don’t know from my distance but they get a free-kick and he’s put it away with aplomb really. The quality of the whip on the ball was amazing but I’d like to see how the wall was positioned and things like that.”

A crowd of 4,865 (including 809 away fans) packed into Kingfield Stadium and saw Woking start the game on the front foot, with visiting keeper Dan Wilks showing good handling as the ball came into his penalty box.

But Welling United weathered the storm and should have snatched the lead in the ninth minute.

Welling United’s left-back Craig Braham-Barrett pumped the ball up, which was cleared away by Woking’s towering centre-half Moussa Diarra and Bradley Goldberg cut the ball onto his right boot and curled a dipping drive just over the top of the far post from 18-yards.

Welling United were now enjoying a good spell and Braham-Barrett floated in a cross which fell to Danny Mills, who drove in behind Diarra and left-back Josh Casey before drilling his shot into the side netting from 15-yards.

It was a cagey first half but Welling United created the better goalscoring chances with their next one coming at the halfway point.

Gavin McCallum’s corner from the left was palmed away by Woking keeper Craig Ross and Welling United winger Kiernan picked up the loose ball outside the box and cut across his marker Little, before floating in a deep cross back to McCallum, who drove his shot past two defenders, who threw their bodies in the way of the ball and past the near post from 15-yards.

“Gavin should’ve done better with one chance he had at the back post, which he shot wide,” added King.

Woking, who were brilliantly supported vocally throughout, took 29 minutes to create their first opening.

Max Kretzschmar floated in a free-kick from the left and Diarra came up from the back and steered his towering header just past the right-hand post from 16-yards.

Welling United went agonisingly close to taking the lead just 42 seconds later.

Wilks launched his resulting goal-kick straight down the middle of the pitch, the ball was flicked on by target man Mills and Goldberg latched onto the ball down the right channel and only had keeper Ross to beat from 12-yards on the angle.

The former Bromley striker stroked his right-footed free-kick across the keeper, who stuck out his right-hand and the ball kissed the inside of the far post and Ross was relieved when the ball dropped into his grateful hands.

“It just spun out the last knockings,” agonised King.

“We were here before and the same thing happened! Josh Hill’s header hit the inside of that goal down there but it completely stopped the ball from going in!”

Woking created a good move down the left, which saw winger Reise Allassani link up with left-back Casey and Allassani cut inside Kiernan before slipping in Little through on goal. He flicked his shot with the outside of his right-boot, which trickled across Wilks but Josh Hill got back to clear his lines from inside his six-yard box.

Woking sealed their promotion back into the top-flight courtesy of a sublime free-kick with 41 minutes and 11 seconds on the clock.

Welling United centre-half Thierry Audel committed a bookable foul inside the D and then lined up seven players in the wall.

Little was allowed to move the ball back a couple of yards, on the arch of the D and whipped a sublime right-footed free-kick over the wall and past the diving Wilks to find the top right-hand corner.

King said: “If you look at the size of our wall, it was six foot three, six foot four, six foot one. It was a massive wall to get over, up and down and sometimes you have to appreciate the quality of the execution and yes the quality of the execution was top drawer!”

Welling United created one more chance on the stroke of half-time when McCallum whipped in a free-kick from the left for Audel to rise on the edge of the Woking box to flick his header into Ross’s hands, who dropped down to his knees to make a comfortable catch.

Welling United created an opening after two and a half minutes into the second half when McCallum’s corner was cleared out to Hill, who hooked his volley high over the crossbar from a central position on the edge of the Woking penalty box.

Wilks had a good game in goal for Welling United and he prevented Woking from snatching a second goal in the 56th minute.

Woking winger Kieron Cadogan released 15-goal striker Jake Hyde through on goal – in behind Hill – and Wilks rushed off his line to make a vital block with his left-foot to ensure the ball trickled across him and past the far post.

Woking right-back Cook launched a long ball out of defence and Welling’s defence failed to clear their lines and Wilks palmed away Allassani’s right-footed shot on the turn from inside the Welling penalty area.

Welling United’s right-back Jordan Gibbons charged down the wing on a 50-yard run before reaching the channel before crossing towards the penalty spot for Mills to rise to steer his header past the top of the right-hand post.

The introduction of left-winger Nassim L’Ghoul sparked Welling United into life and King was incensed when he felt the Frenchman was tripped by Gerring inside the box in the 20th minute.

King said:  “You’ve got to make decisions and Gavin’s done ever so well lately and I think he’s been a steady player for us for most of the season and there was no way I was going to throw Nassim in like that.  We gave him (nearly) half-an-hour and he done really well in that half-an-hour.

“That decision was an absolute joke,” claimed King.

“Naz slipped and got up and flicked it past the defender and he’s took him out. He’s just taken him clean out and everyone in the ground saw it was a penalty and I didn’t get how he can’t see it!  That’s a massive decision in the game! We’re 1-0 down and we’ve got an opportunity to make it one-all and it wasn’t even a hard decision.”

Welling United then went on to dominate the final 20 minutes with Woking soaking everything up and centre-half Ben Gerring proving why he was selected for the National League South team of the year as he headed everything away.

“We was all over them second half I felt, especially the last 20 minutes. We were camped in their half and they just tried to hit us on the counter-attack,” said King.

“If you look at their system that they set-up today, it was like 4-5-1 at home with players breaking beyond it.   In theory it was 4-3-2-1 but it was almost they had everyone behind the ball and trying to counter-attack and that shows the respect they had for us but we had loads of opportunities in the box and we didn’t quite get on the end of things.”

Braham-Barrett clipped the ball up to Mills, who turned Gerring before stroking a right-footed drive towards the bottom corner from 25-yards, forcing Ross to dive to his right to push the ball towards safety.

Kiernan rolled the ball inside to substitute Julien Anau, who was given time and space to flash his low right-footed drive flashing just past the foot of the left-hand post from 25-yards.

Woking wasted and opportunity with 13 minutes left when Allassani received a short corner from Kretzschmar but lashed his left-footed drive high and wide from 15-yards out down the left-hand side of the box.

Woking hit dominant Welling United on the counter-attack inside the final five minutes when substitute winger Paul Hodges was released down the right channel and forced Wilks into diving to his left to push the shot around his near post for a corner.

But after five minutes and 37 seconds of injury-time, referee Andrew Kitchen walked towards the touchline and blew his full-time whistle before sprinting down the steps and down the tunnel as Woking’s fans invaded the pitch to celebrate.

King said: "I think we've given everything! I just think that final little ball, they defended well. They headed everything, the keeper punched everything.  They defended brilliantly, so credit to them for defending the way they did.

"It's just hard to swallow!"

King and his squad looked on in despair either sitting or standing up in and around the dug-out while Dowson’s men received their winners medals before reflecting on a campaign that also saw them win the London Senior Cup by beating Brentford 1-0 in the Final.

King said:  “I just said to them in there, when I came in we had to improve on last year and that was my thing for me in my head that when I go in anywhere I have to improve what happened the year before.

“We ended up with 15 more points than last year, finished third when we finished tenth, gates are up, we play decent football, unbelievable home record, so we tick a lot, a lot of boxes and to get to the play-off final, which we thoroughly deserved to do, which at Christmas it was a long shot.  People didn’t think maybe it was going to happen, so to keep going with short (squad) numbers and kept ticking off the results left, right and centre.

“I told them all in there, you’ve got to be proud to get to the final, which we’ve done and we’ve deserved it. It’s a fine line football isn’t it, winning or losing, it’s a fine line and listen they’ve won it with a bit of brilliance today.

“It hurts right now to go out to a 1-0. Listen, it’s a brilliant free-kick. The pride is already there because nobody expected us to finish third in the league.  We thought we’d have a go and be in and around it but we finished two points off second.  That’s no feat in this division because it’s a very competitive division.

“It gets even stronger next year.  It gets even tougher so we’ll just have to see where we go from here.”

When asked about his future at Park View Road, Eastbourne resident King replied: “We’ll let the dust settle and I’ll speak to the players in the week. I’m meeting the whole squad in the week and I have to make decisions on who we keep and who doesn’t stay and who wants to stay, whose been tapped up elsewhere, so it might be a rebuilding job. It might not. We might be able to keep the majority and go again, we don’t know.

“I think it will be hard to do better than third (next season).  You’re on about winning it then, aren’t you? 

“Listen, we compete with what we’ve got, within the restraints that we have, which is right. We’re not going to be a big club as in financially in the league. We’ve just going to have a go budget and see if we can make that better, which we have and to finish third and two points off second, I think they’ve done remarkable.

“It’s going to be even tougher next year, make no bones about it! The clubs that are coming in, there’s some big clubs coming in, some big clubs, even the ones that are coming down, the ones that are being promoted. It’s going to be a much tougher league than this year. 

“It’s a tough league so to emulate this year is going to be tough. Our targets are can we make play-offs and can we go from there?”

King had this message for the Park View Road faithful.

“It’s a shame really, I couldn’t get to them at the end to thank them because of the scenes here and everyone running on to the pitch but by the time that all cleared and they’ve done all their bit, all our fans had gone, so I didn’t get over to thank them. 

“I’d like to thank them because the numbers have been up whatever way you look at it, whether it’s bigger teams in the league. We’ve got a 37% increase in our fan-base and they need to keep coming and see what we’ve done and can they bring a friend next year and can the numbers get even higher?”

Woking: Craig Ross, Jack Cook, Josh Casey, Armani Little, Ben Gerring, Moussa Diarra, Reise Allassani (Olumide Durojaiye 86), Kane Ferdinand, Jake Hyde (Harvey Bradbury 90), Max Kretzschmar, Kieron Cadogan (Paul Hodges 74).
Subs: Nathan Collier, Sam Mason

Goal: Armani Little 42

Booked: Josh Casey 58, Reise Allassani 79

Welling United: Dan Wilks, Jordan Gibbons, Craig Braham-Barrett, Arnaud Mendy (Julien Anau 65), Josh Hill, Thierry Audel, Brendan Kiernan, David Ijaha, Danny Mills, Bradley Goldberg (Mohamed Bettamer 72), Gavin McCallum (Nassim L’Ghoul 64).
Subs: Mohammad Hajizadeh, Richard Orlu

Booked: Thierry Audel 41

Attendance: 4,865 (809 away)
Referee: Mr Andrew Kitchen (Stanley, County Durham)
Assistants: Mr Shaun Barry (Northampton, Northamptonshire) & Mr Mark Stevens (Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Ryan T Atkin (Farnborough, Hampshire)