Balham 1-2 Welling Town - There are more levels to come and we've won three out of three so why not go for four out of four, says Welling Town boss Kevin Oakes

Wednesday 16th September 2020
Balham 1 – 2 Welling Town
Location Mayfield Stadium, off Mayfield Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 6DN
Kickoff 16/09/2020 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 16 September 2020
Stephen McCartney reports form Mayfield Stadium

WELLING TOWN chairman/manager Kevin Oakes says there’s  more to come from his exciting team after extending their 100% record to three games at the start of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division campaign.

Prolific striker Ryan Golding took his goalscoring tally to five goals by scoring a brace as both of The Boots goals came from set-pieces, their second goal coming from the penalty spot.

Balham pulled a goal back when central midfielder Bakari Sinclair-Smith’s right-wing cross went in off the far post with seven minutes left but dark-horses Welling Town came out deserved winners at Mayfield Stadium.

Both teams were managed by their founders as Balham chairman/manager Greg Cruttwell founded Balham as an under 10 side back in 2001 and appointed himself first-team manager in 2010 when those players’ were old enough.

Oakes, meanwhile founded Welling Town in 2014 but this is the first time that he has managed in the ninth-tier of English football and wins over Canterbury City, Tower Hamlets and here tonight has put them on nine points and in fourth-place in the table, behind big-hitters Tunbridge Wells, Chatham Town and Sheppey United.  Balham, meanwhile sit in eighth-place with six points from their opening four games.

“Another really enjoyable game for the neutral. I think we’re making a bit of a habit of that at the moment,” said Oakes.

“Really pleased to go in front, worked hard and the lads did exactly what we asked of them before the game.

“We’ve watched Balham a couple of times and we’d like to think that we knew what we were walking into for the first time this season. 

“The lads followed the game plan, worked hard, went in front and second half is about digging in and making sure we don’t let them back into the game cheaply and I think their goalkeeper has got to be man-of-the-match today.

“On another day we would’ve been a lot more comfortable but a wins a win.  Not to be disrespectful to Balham, they were a very good side.  They do what they do really, really well. You can tell they’ve played together for a long time. They’re very well organised, they work hard but we do the same but for a work in progress, the boys have only known each other for five or six games so there’s more to come. It’s looking exciting.”

Cruttwell added: “Well, I’m pretty frustrated I suppose. We lost. We’ve had a great start to the season, won the first two games and the last two games we’ve had 2-1 defeats, very narrow defeats.

“I think today, to be fair to Welling, they caused us a lot of problems in the first-half and I think they were the better side in the first-half but second-half we changed things a bit and we nullified their threats of the first-half.

“Unfortunately, we gave away a penalty, whether it was a penalty or not, I don’t know but it was given and then I thought we forced the play and had we got the goal 10 or 15 minutes earlier, we could’ve got at least another one.”

Welling Town started the game in explosive fashion and could have been two goals up inside 129 seconds.

Left-winger Luis Montoya slipped in central-midfielder Alex Nelson but Balham’s long-serving goalkeeper Haydn Read swiftly raced off the line to smother the ball, before Montoya played in Golding, who chipped the ball across the keeper and watched the ball roll just past the far post.

“I don’t think it would’ve been harsh if we’d been 1-0 up within 90 seconds.  The goalkeeper made a big save and we’ve had another chance a minute or two later,” said Oakes.

“We could’ve had one or two in the first couple of minutes. It’s a shame that we didn’t but we set our stall out from the off, what our intensions were for the game, which is good.”

Cruttwell added: “We’re a really good ball playing team and I think we didn’t really get on the ball enough. They took the game to us and maybe we were a little bit hesitant.  I think there was a little bit of mental and physical fatigue but I’m not using that as an excuse. They were the better side in the first half.”

Nelson was guilty of losing possession in midfield to Tom Read, who released the impressive right-winger James Adebayo, who was instrumental in good wing-play but there was no end product in the penalty box from a Balham perspective.

“No, I think that’s fair, I agree,” said Cruttwell.

“James has been in excellent form this year and we definitely created some chances, half-chances in the first-half. Maybe we didn’t gamble enough. I think if we gambled we would’ve scored a couple of goals.”

Sinclair-Smith dug the ball out from underneath his feet and with his third touch drilled his right-footed shot towards the bottom corner, which was comfortably saved by visiting keeper Jack Moore.

The game started at a high-tempo and most of Balham’s shots were high.  Ash Snadden wasted a good opportunity with his 20-yard free-kick, which he drilled over the crossbar after Ashley Wright slid in to send Adebayo crashing to the ground just outside the corner of the Welling Town box.

Adebayo produced some more excellent wing-play in the 18th minute cutting in from the right to the by-line but his cut-back was beyond striker Cameron Gordon and left-back Kojo Kyei pounced on the loose ball before drilling his low left-footed drive just past the foot of the near post from 25-yards.

Balham goalkeeper Haydn Read pulled off the first of two diving saves to deny Welling Town a deserved lead in the 20th minute.

Right-back Jack Bancroft clipped the ball down the channel and Golding cut in and nipped in front of the goalkeeper, who had advanced to the edge of his box.  Golding played the ball inside to Nelson, who struck a right-footed half-volley towards the top left-hand corner from 20-yards, forcing the keeper to dive high to his right to push the ball over.

Oakes said: “He’s made two or three really good saves, especially after five minutes you do think ‘is it going to be one of those days?’

“If we may be sliced one of those shots or caught it so well then we would’ve been in front. We’ve absolutely rifled three or four at the goal and he’s stood strong and the boys got heart from that.

“We kept knocking on the door and when the chances did come, whilst they weren't pretty to look at in many respects, the ball is in the back of the net and that’s what we’re really bothered about.”

Cruttwell added: “Haydn’s a great shot-stopper. He’s been with the club since he was a boy and I trust him to save any shot basically.”

William Muckle’s in-swinging corner came back out to Montoya, who floated the ball back into the box and centre-half Caleb Afoke glanced his header past the far post from six-yards.

Replacing Rob Gilman, Afoke slotted in beside Wright and put in a good shift, pleasing his manager.

Oakes said: “He’s been patient. I’ve looked at him sitting on the bench and you can see what’s going through his mind, disappointment. I’ve had faith in him and I’ve told him his efforts won’t go un-rewarded. He will get his opportunity and he’s come in today and it’s his first 90 minutes that he’s played for god knows long, at least March, probably a lot earlier than that.

“He’s absolutely battered and bruised. He can barely walk but he’s got a massive, massive smile on his face. He’s helped lead from the back. That is a very, very good centre-half in the making.”

Winger Tom Read went close for Balham, stroking his right-footed low free-kick under a jumping wall from 35-yards, which trickled past the foot of the left-hand post.

Welling Town deservedly took the lead with 25 minutes and 19 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a two-man set-piece.

Left-back Muckle launched a throw from the left and Golding beat a couple of defenders outside the box before cutting into the box and drilling his right-footed shot into the roof of the net from 12-yards on the angle.

“He’s worked hard. He’s put his body on the line. I’ve said to him when he's had a bit of treatment earlier today, every game this season he’s got kicked in the face and got a fat lip,” said Oakes.

“Golding works hard and I wouldn’t want to mark him in a game of football and I wouldn’t put my head in where he puts his head in. He’s got a bit of a shiner to look forward to in the morning but he’s got another two goals and he’s joint top scorer in the league.  He’s three or four stone lighter than he was last season so full credit to him, he deserves it.”

Cruttwell added: “Disappointing, there’s not a lot more I can say.  I mean we’ve defended really well in the games so far. We’ve given away a penalty today and we gave away a penalty in the last game.  In play we haven’t given any much but that wasn’t good enough for the first goal!”

A poor clearance from Balham’s keeper Read gave Golding a chance with a chip from 35-yards, which was caught underneath his crossbar by the relieved stopper.

Welling Town built-up well inside the final third with Richard Jimoh and Montoya, who fed Golding, who took a touch before drilling his right-footed shot across the keeper, who did brilliantly to dive to his left to push towards safety for his second fine save of the night.

Muckle swung in a corner from the right and Oliver Bennett had a couple bites of the cherry from inside the box. His initial low shot was blocked and his rebound stung the keeper’s fingers, the shot was too hot to catch and Read was relived to patter the ball behind for another Welling Town corner.

Nelson swung in the resulting corner from the left and Afoke climbed at the back stick to plant his header down into the ground and Read reached up to pluck the ball out of the air.

Both bosses were asked their thoughts at the break.

Cruttwell said: “We’ve got to play on the front foot. We changed a couple of things, we moved a couple of players around and we just changed the shape off the ball to try to be more effective on the ball and play a little bit more on the counter-attack.

“I think in the second-half we nullified their threat out wide, which was very much what we set out to do.  Obviously, the penalty gives them a good lead doesn’t it and they’ve got breathing space with the penalty, it changed the game.”

Oakes said: “More of the same really, doesn’t get boring! Complimented them that they’ve done well but half a job done.  They’ve gone out and kept doing what they’re doing and then once the game has opened up a little bit, a few tired legs but certainly not tired minds, they’ve kept their eye on the ball and kept doing what they do well.  Kept things nice and simple and worked hard to keep he lead that they rightly earned in the first half.”

Nelson’s free-kick on the half-way line was intercepted by Sinclair-Smith, who passed to left-winger Tom Read, who tried to score with a speculative first-time shot from 40-yards, which was easily brought under control by Moore’s legs inside his penalty area.

But Balham squandered a glorious chance to grab an equaliser with six minutes and 16 seconds on the clock.

They produced a fine three-man move as holding midfielder and captain Dan David advanced over the half-way line to play the ball inside to  Snadden, who rolled the ball over to an unmarked Tom Read, who got in behind Afoke and side-footed his shot high over the crossbar when he only had Moore to beat from the angle, 15-yards from goal.

Cruttwell expected more from last season’s top scorer in the Combined Counties League Premier Division.

“I think on another day he scores that.  To be fair to Tom he was our top scorer last year but Covid-19 interrupted the season but I think he was a little bit fatigued tonight. That’s why he came off not long into the second half and I think if he had been at his absolute best that’s the kind of chance he was burying for fun last season.”

Oakes admitted: “He’s their best player for me. He’s the one we picked out when they played at Punjab.

“You see him in that position and you’re thinking ‘oh no, I know where this is going,’ and thankfully on a poor pitch – I think poor is probably polite – you’re worried about where that ball might go but thankfully it’s gone into the netting behind the goal and it’s a bit of a let off there.

“I think if he had worked the target I think Jack might’ve worked really hard to keep that out.”

Balham paid the ultimate price for that wasted chance as Welling Town converted a penalty with 10 minutes and 50 seconds on the clock and Golding was never going to miss.

Muckle played a corner short to Bennett, who turned Kyei, who challenged his opponent and gave away a soft penalty.

Golding sent the keeper the wrong way with an emphatic right-footed penalty, which nestled nicely into the bottom left-hand corner.

Oakes said: “Golding’s penalty record in competitive games is very good but don’t ask him about his penalty record in pre-season – none out of three I believe but who cares?

“I’m not sure if it was a penalty in hindsight. Like their player has gone diving in and as they say he’s put the referee into a position where he’s got to make a decision and he’s given us a penalty.

“I think on the balance of play at that point in the game, maybe not the way it came about but for us to be 2-0 up bearing in mind what happened in the first-half, overall I think we deserved to be 2-0 up.”

Arsene Wenger, sorry, Cruttwell said: “I honestly didn’t see it well enough, I really didn’t!

“Some people on our side of the pitch were up in arms saying it wasn’t and some were saying they were not sure.

“We had a penalty given against us in the last game which I can categorially say it wasn’t a pen but this one, I won’t like to call it.”

Welling Town hit their hosts on the break in the 66th minute when Nelson clipped a ball over the top to put Golding through on goal but Balham centre-half Marco Erriu read the danger and came across to clear the ball straight to the otherwise quiet Jimoh, who swept his shot straight at the keeper from 25-yards.

“Good chance. I think the game was getting a little bit end-to-end at that point as Balham were obviously chasing it,” said Oakes.

“It was opening up a little bit but we had a couple of opportunities in the second half and releasing the ball at a more appropriate time could’ve really killed the game off there and then.

“Goalscorers want to score goals and we’ve got a lot of creative players on the pitch and we want them to be a little bit selfish and we want them to score and get full of confidence but sometimes they need to release the ball at the right moment and we’d have made the last 15 or 20 minutes a lot easier if we done that.”

Balham should have been reduced to 10 men when referee Lanray Alapafujah allowed Kyei get away with a yellow card for a nasty looking late challenge on Muckle.

The referee took 141 seconds to think about the challenge and produced a yellow card for the offender when really it should have been red.

An incensed Oakes said: “The left-back seems a lovely bloke but for me they should’ve had three at the back as a result of a tackle.  I think if Billy’s leg is planted in that situation then the game doesn’t get concluded. I don’t think necessarily there was any malice because I’d like to think I’m a fairly good judge of character and the guy seemed quite humble after the game.

“I think that is so late and so high, the ref had already turned his back and he knew something had happened. The linesman (Daryl Ann) was going bananas with the flag and he knew he had to consult him but he couldn’t commit giving a red without having seen it with his own eyes.

“I think in that situation credit to the referee that he’s asked the assistant’s opinion but the assistant had to be firmer there but the referee’s clearly saying he hasn’t seen it.

“It’s a sort of nothing decision really and you don’t want to see a player sent-off sincerely but at the same time I don’t want to see a player carried off and that could’ve ended up a lot worse.  For me, it’s above the ball, it’s very, very high on the shin pad or over the shin pad and late.”

Cruttwell’s response was rather surprising.

“I think it was definitely a yellow, absolutely a yellow because partly because he was fouled previously but I think it’s one of those ones that kind of looks worse than it is.

“Also, I think whether it’s the modern day player or whatever, everyone’s immediate reaction, ‘that’s shocking, oh my god,’ makes it seem a lot worse than it is.

“I think the referee got it absolutely right, of course it was a yellow.  You could even say that’s a kind of orange, between a yellow and a red but I think to send him off for that would’ve been very harsh.”

The introduction of Balham substitute Luke Hedges down the left inspired more life into the home side during the final 15 minutes as they pressed for a goal.

Centre-half Jake Henry was inside the Welling half and he slipped the ball along the deck to release the diminutive Hedges but his shot lacked composure and power when he was left unmarked inside the box and Moore collected the ball quite easily.

Both sides then created a chance apiece all within 13 seconds of each other.

Muckle’s long throw went in behind Anthony Thompson and Erriu and Golding’s low left-footed angled drive was comfortably held by Haydn Read, low to his left.

The Balham keeper then launched a big kick upfield and Moore rushed off his line and was relieved to see Hedges’ chip trickle past the far post.

Balham looked more likely to score as soon as they went with three at the back inside the final 10 minutes.

David, Erriu and Henry were the three, while the pace of Hedges down the left was a threat to Welling Town’s right-back Bancroft.

Balham notched a rather fluky goal with 37 minutes and 47 seconds on the clock.

Hedges’ fine pass released Adebayo down the right and his trickery left Jhoan Tabima on his backside before the winger teed up Sinclair-Smith, who whipped in a first-time cross from the right some 35-yards from goal.  The ball sailed over Moore and kissed the far post and nestled in the back of the net to open his goalscoring account for the season.

“You ask him (whether it was a shot or a cross!)  I haven’t actually asked him,” said Cruttwell.

“I honestly think if it had gone in 10 or 15 minutes earlier I really think we could’ve got back level but unfortunately the clock was ticking.  We still had a chance or two but it just wasn’t to be. That’s when the sands of time ran out and you wanted it to go on for a bit longer.”

Oakes added: “Maybe I’m doing the guy a dis-service.  I think at that point they were pumping a lot of balls into the box. It was noticeable that Caleb was on his last legs. They were putting it in the right areas and they tried to play it on the deck and it wasn’t quite working and I think they were just putting balls into the box and hoping something would happen.

“I don’t want to do the guy a dis-service, that was a cross and it sneaked in at the back. Jack’s been disappointed with himself and I said he doesn’t need to be. You can’t keep everything out, you certainly can’t keep out, not freak goals but something like that.  He’s not been beaten by a good goal. Nine times out of 10 that doesn’t go in.”

Tomasz Wocial came off the bench for Balham and slotted in as a left-centre-half and he pinged a diagonal pass which was taken by Thompson in his stride but his touch was too heavy and an alert Moore rushed off his line to smother the ball.

Balham welcome First Division side Lewisham Borough to Mayfield Stadium on Saturday in The Buildbase FA Vase First Qualifying Round.
Welling Town travel to Lordswood in the league.

Oakes said: “Looking forward to it. They’ve got a few of our former players in their group. We’ve had them watched as well and we’ll go down there full of confidence, not arrogance, not entitlement but confident that we’ve played well but there are more levels to come and we’ve won three out of three, so why not go for four out of four?”

When asked if his club are a dark horse this season, Oakes quickly played it all down.

“No, no, no! Never too high when you’re winning and never too low when we’re losing so enjoy the good times because you’re not going to win every game so make sure you enjoy it.

“It’s a good start. I’m pleased, the boys should be pleased. What’s really interesting is that they’re still self-critical after a game even after three out of three.  They’re pointing out what they could’ve done better and demanding more from their team-mates. I tell you that’s a really good quality in a good group of lads.”

Both of these sides were knocked out of The FA Cup at the first hurdle with Welling Town losing 3-1 at Abbey Rangers while Hassocks beat Balham 5-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes.

Balham have beaten Hollands & Blair (2-1) and Fisher (1-0) but have now lost 2-1 to Punjab United and Welling Town.

Welling Town have beaten Canterbury City (3-2) and Tower Hamlets (3-2) and when asked what he has noticed about the teams in their new league, Cruttwell replied: “The one thing I’ve realised so far in all of the games is that the margin of error in this league seems to be very small.

“We had a real battle to beat Fisher last week.  The opening game of the season we won here at home and we’ve lost 2-1 and 2-1 and it’s been tight in every game.

“From our point of view we’re playing teams that we don’t know a lot about. I’ve been impressed with the level. I think we’ll have to play a lot more sides before I can really, really say but I think the level is good.

“We’ve played four teams in the league and they’ve all been at a really good standard.

“We’ve got Sheppey (away on Saturday 26 September) and we’ll see. It’s all a new experience for us. I am really confident that on our day we can beat anyone but it’s about being consistent.”

Balham: Haydn Read, Anthony Thompson, Kojo Kyei (Tomasz Wocial 82), Dan David, Marco Erriu, jake Henry, Tom Read (Andre Cruzrosa 54), Bakari Sinclair-Smith, Cameron Gordon (Luke Hedges 73), Ash Snadden, James Adebayo.
Subs: Julian Fuller, Stan Hill

Goal: Bakarri Sinclair-Smith 83

Booked: Jake Henry 42, Kojo Kyei 71

Welling Town: Jack Moore, Jack Bancroft, William Muckle, Jhoan Tabima, Ashley Wright, Caleb Afoke, Luis Montoya (Sam Bailey 62), Alex Nelson, Ryan Golding, Ollie Bennett, Richard Jimoh (Billy Murphy 87).
Subs: Jacob Smale, Jamal Batchilly

Goals: Ryan Golding 26, 56 (penalty)

Attendance: 65
Referee: Mr Lanray Alapafujah
Assistants: Mr Daryl Ann & Mr Sikiru Idris