Welling Town 2-2 Punjab United - The last few weeks it's been a bit hit and miss, one minute we're great, one minute we're poor, we've not had a medium, says Punjab United boss Chippie Sian

Wednesday 11th March 2020
Welling Town 2 – 2 Punjab United
Location Bayliss Avenue, Thamesmead, London SE28 8NJ
Kickoff 11/03/2020 19:45

Sea Pioneer Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Wednesday 11 March 2020
Stephen McCartney reports from Bayliss Avenue

PUNJAB UNITED manager Chippie Sian says his side must replicate their performance tonight for their remaining nine league games of the season after claiming a deserve draw despite playing with 10 men for 56 minutes.

Welling Town, who went into this game without a win in four games, were 2-0 up inside the opening 29 minutes, courtesy of goals from striker Malik Ouani and left-back turned central-midfielder Ashley Wright, before Punjab United pulled a goal back through striker Bryan Zepo’s ninth goal of the season just 130 seconds later.

Punjab United had midfielder George Goodwin sent-off for two yellow cards, although referee Abdulaziz Olol should have shown a straight red card for both challenges as the struggling side faced a mountain to climb after 34 minutes.

However, the outstanding Arun Suman scored a last-gasp free-kick to ensure Punjab United claimed a deserved point, although they have now extended their winless run to nine games.

“I thought we deserved to win to be honest. I thought we played better with 10 men.  I wanted to play like that from the beginning, that’s how I set up.  We seemed to drop off a bit too much and we didn’t do what I told them really,” said Sian.

Sian was quick to praise his impressive winger Suman.

“I thought he was unbelievable.  He’s come back from Greenways.  He wanted to come back so I’ve taken him back. I Know what the boy can offer. I’ve told him over the last couple of years that he needs to go forward with the ball. He was superb, absolutely superb and they couldn’t cope.”

Welling Town manager Danny Wakeling said: “My thoughts are we are very close to achieving our initial objective of getting to 33 points, which is a tally that doesn’t relegate anyone out of this league so that was our first base objective.

“It’s seemed to have taken a decade to get there after our brilliant start to the season with 25 points on the board really early. We are clawing our way there.

“I think when you’re 2-0 up at home and in charge of your destiny, fate is in your hands and then conceding within a minute of going 2-0 up, you’re always vulnerable for five minutes  and then conceding at the death due to that you can be extremely disappointed.”

Welling Town were to be denied the lead after only two minutes and 49 seconds after Punjab United goalkeeper Joe Hagan pulled off a very good save.

Centre-half Ryan Mahal clipped a long ball down the right channel to release Ouani, who cut inside centre-half Paul Lorraine before cracking a left-footed drive towards the top far corner from 16-yards, which forced Hagan into making a flying save to use his right hand to push the ball towards safety.

“It was a very good save and that’s exactly how we wanted to play tonight,” said Wakeling.

“Malik is a massive threat up top. He moves across the line really well, peels down the side really well and you don’t have to be a hell of a midfield player to find him.  Just play it forward and he tends to make a forward ball, anything seems to be a really good pass but it anything we didn’t do that enough tonight.”

Sian said: “I thought Paul Lorraine and Diljit Boora took a bit of time to get used to their front two. I told them to go one-on-one. I said be brave go and mark one-on-one and give our midfield a chance but we dropped off a bit too much and gave him a few too many yards.”

The first 25 minutes was poor viewing but the game burst into life as soon as Welling Town smashed the deadlock with 24 minutes and 23 seconds on the clock.

The physically strong Hassan Oshilaja released Ouani down the right and some poor defending from Punjab United centre-half Diljit Boora allowed Ouani a chance to cut across him before drilling a sublime left-footed screamer into the top far corner from 15-yards.

“Brilliant finish but that’s what Malik is all about. His movement up top is really good, he’s quick, powerful and he sort of glides across the ground, looking effortless,” said Wakeling.

“A brilliant pass by Hassan, exactly what we’ve been asking from our midfield players to punch things with real purpose. It was a good pass forward, it wasn’t a clump and we’ve got bodies in the box as well.

“Malik’s a confident lad and he’s been scoring for fun for us really. I think that’s his sixth goal for us, a good strike rate for a side that’s not creating as many chances as it should.”

Sian said: “Take nothing away from the finish, it’s a great finish but he should never have got there in the first place!

“We told Diljot before the game, I know what the left-footer is like. Take him on his right side, down the channel and what he done he come inside and he’s two or three yards away from him so he should’ve taken him down the line and he wouldn’t have cut in. I think it was a mistake by Diljit but you can’t take nothing away from the finish, it’s a great finish!”

Punjab United created their first opening in the 27th minute when the combative Goodwin played the ball into the feet of Zepo, who held off Welling Town’s centre-half Gary Beckett, before drilling his shot on the turn across the keeper and just past the far post from 25-yards.

Sian said: “I thought from that moment we knew we would score.  We will score goals today. We needed to move the ball quicker.  That move there was unbelievable, one or two touches and we were right through them and he was just unlucky we didn’t finish that one.”

Welling Town doubled their lead with 28 minutes and 2 seconds on the clock, courtesy of a sublime finish from Wright.

Good wing play down the right from Jason Thanni, where he twisted and turned his markers, before playing the ball inside to Wright, who took several touches of the ball before bending a sublime left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner from outside the D.

“That’s Ashley’s first ever game in centre-midfield tonight, he’s a left-back and he’s probably surprised himself,” revealed Wakeling.

“I’m a stickler with a left-footed left-back, a left-footed centre-half, someone left in midfield and preferably another one at the top end of the park. I do like that balance on the side of the pitch and it’s very difficult to get at this level.

“But the movement inside, we felt we needed a little bit more aggression, defensive stability and also he’s a very good footballer.  You wouldn’t thought he was a left-back playing in midfield for the first time in his life!”

Sian said: “To be honest that’s another three or four mistakes. He’s walked past three of our players!

“I know other teams have called us soft and that’s the reason why people are calling us soft. He went through three players and bent it into the bottom corner. It’s a great finish but he should never have got there! How can you walk past three players?”

However, Punjab United showed great character to pull a goal back just 103 seconds later.

The impressive right-winger Suman cut in from the right with the ball at his feet before he fed Zepo, who drilled his right-footed drive into the roof of the net from 16-yards.

Sian said: “It was coming to be honest. The first couple of chances, Hicham had one as well, he didn’t connect to it. The move up to Zepo was excellent and it was one touch passing and what a goal!”

Wakeling added: “Brilliant finish! He’s had one sniff tonight, great turn and he gets his shots away quickly.

“Malik is a good player, if he gets that into his game he can go and play another couple of levels but there’s things that Malik does that Bryan Zepo doesn’t and that’s why they’re both playing at this level.”

Punjab United produced a slick move in the 32nd minute when Zepo played the ball into his strike partner Hicham Akhazzan, who flicked a reverse pass into left-winger William Johnson-Cole who was certain to place his shot into the bottom left-hand corner from six-yards, only for Welling Town goalkeeper Lee Kidman to rush off his line and flick the ball behind for a corner.

“I still think he should’ve finished, he should’ve scored,” said Sian.

“He’s six-yards out, it was a beautiful move. I think even their bench shouted ‘what a move.’  It deserved a goal and I think he should’ve scored.

“He’s had two weeks off because off suspension. I forgive him for that because he hasn’t been playing for the last couple of weeks.”

Wakeling added: “Brilliant save! I thought he made a couple of good saves tonight.

“I thought we started very strongly and should have been two, possibly three up.

“Then we ship one through a lack of concentration, then you could say they deserved to be level, by not being in the game by that point, they deserved to be level on chances created.

“All the stuff we had, we should have scored one more clean goal for our efforts and he’s made a very good save.” 

However, Punjab were reduced to 10 men with 33 minutes and 29 seconds on the clock when the referee pulled out another yellow card for Goodwin, for another bad foul, this time on Oshilaja, connecting with the Welling Town’s number 10’s right shin after putting an another bad foul on Wright earlier on in the game – which should have resulted in a straight red-card too.

“I didn’t think it was a red. Nothing wrong with those tackles at all. He just screamed and fell over and he’s got two yellows,” said Sian.

“The first booking, I said to the ref at half-time, the bloke actually elbowed him in the back of the head. It’s a free-kick to us and you let it go and George hits a tackle and you give him a yellow. It should never have happened!

“The second one, the way he screamed, it’s like someone shot him! It’s terrible but I think he gave the yellow card for the scream rather than the tackle!”

Wakeling said: “I don’t tend to run referees into the ground but I feel hard done by and I don’t see no reason to dig them out but both challenges are reckless. He’s not in control, whether someone deems he won the ball or not, it’s actually irrelevant. The wording of the Law is excessive force and not in control and he wasn’t in control in what he was doing, they were two reds!”

Ouani was the home side’s major threat and he drilled in a cross from the right channel for the quiet Steven Ita, who rose above Punjab’s right-back Marvin Okundalaiye to flick his header over the crossbar at the near post from inside the six-yard box.

Punjab United squandered an excellent chance to equalise on the stroke of half-time.

Welling Town’s holding midfielder James Day was sloppy in defence as he gave the ball away straight to Akhazzan, who took a touch before sweeping his right-footed shot past the left-hand post from 22-yards.

“It’s another great chance, another great move! With 10 men I thought we played better,” said Sian.

“It took George to get sent-off to play the formation we wanted. It’s unreal. I thought he should’ve scored to be honest.”

Wakeling added: “You can turn round and say that should be a goal for them!

“It’s come from ourselves receiving a football, facing your own goal, not on the half-turn, haven’t looked where you’re going next and all off a sudden panic sets in and you play a blind negative pass and the lad should score!

“That could have been brutal, you could have been playing well and been 3-0 up but we deserved to be 3-2 down coming in at half-time by your own ball work, not being opened up by the opposition.”

Both manager’s were asked their thoughts at the break.

Wakeling said:  “We’ve got to 2-1 and they’ve gone down to 10 men. It was classic cliché stuff, no-one’s allowed outside for the second-half unless you put everything you have, in.

“If 11 men put everything in, it’s going to be more than 10 can put in, it really is that simple and sometimes you do need to remind people of that.

“What we did say to them, we stopped doing that for the last 15-20 minutes of the half. We stopped getting the ball down the sides to Malik and we stopped turning them and we stopped getting in and running at them and then we invited our own pressure so we said we had to stop doing that.

“Every team needs to supply their forward, whatever type of forward you’ve got, you have to feed him.”

Sian added: “I said to them at half-time that we were the better team.  I said they’re pushing backwards. I saw them drop off in the first half and when they scored their second half and we had a man sent-off, I thought they’d push on a little bit more but they dropped back, which gave us a chance to push on.

“Arun Suman started picking up the holes and I said to him at half-time keep doing that and he will get a goal – just do not concede again!”

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Punjab United were clearly the better side during the second half and often went in search for the equalising goal that they deserved.

“They worked harder than us, again it just wasn’t good enough, it just isn’t good enough,” admitted Wakeling.

“We said about making sure we stayed aggressive and getting on the press and winning second balls and keep feeling Malik and the two wide players. 

“We dropped off and we had a situation when we had a player in midfield one deeper than the other and when the ball was bouncing in the middle they had a spare man as we had one dropping back and making it a back five and we didn’t have to do that.

“We said stay on the front foot and keeping the football and get our front three men away. That’s what’s unpicked us and it was the total opposite of what we requested at half-time and that is not difficult, it’s poor.”

The first real clear cut chance of the second half came at the half-way point when Johnson-Cole stung Kidman’s fingers with a drilled right-footed free-kick from 20-yards, which the Welling Town goalkeeper saved at the second attempt.

“I think it was a nice free-kick but it was a comfortable save for the keeper,” admitted Sian.

“In this sort of weather when it started raining, hit it low and hard, it probably would’ve rebounded back off the goalkeeper and we could tap one in. It was a good free-kick but it was an easy save really.”

Then came the downpour with heavy rain and strong winds battering the stadium.

Punjab United goalkeeper Hagan pulled off a brilliant save to prevent Welling Town scoring the winning goal with 15 minutes left.

It came from the home side’s third and final corner, swung in from the right by substitute midfielder Adam O’Neill, met at the far post by a bullet header from centre-half Mahal just eight-yards out, which was superbly clawed out by Hagan, high to his right.

Wakeling said: “I can be hyper critical if he could’ve raised that ball another three or four inches somewhere because it was a very instinctive save. He put his hand out, it wasn’t an acrobatic save as such, it was lightening reflexes, it was a great save.

“From my perspective, standing in front of a gaping net really, you’ve got to put a bit more on that, another two or three inches and it’s in the roof of the net and that’s a goal and we go 3-1 up at that point and anything can happen in terms of a wider scoreline.

Sian said: “I thought it was a great save. Sometimes we’ve been unlucky with some of our keepers, they would’ve let it in. I thought here we go, we’re 3-1 down, but it was a great save. It gave us a chance to keep going and keep pushing because we were on top then.”

Punjab United created a great chance to slot home an equaliser but it fell to the wrong man – centre-half Paul Lorraine – who by this point was playing up front as Sian changed to a back-three of Okundalaiye (right), Adam Cuthbert (centre) and Boora (left).

Cuthbert clipped the ball over the top, splitting Mahal and putting Lorraine through on goal, dribbling towards the penalty area, only to run out of steam and rolling a weak shot towards the bottom far corner, which was cut out by Kidman, diving low to his right.

“I actually said that when he went through. I thought I wish that was Will,” revealed Sian.

“I thought he got tired when he got to the edge of the box and when he hit it, it was a bit of a soft shot.

“It was a great move. We split them open again with one ball that put Paul through. It was a great run and it was unlucky that we didn’t get something out of it.”

“Paul Lorraine is a very good player and has played at some levels for pretty much his entre footballing career,” added Wakeling.

“I wouldn’t say we wasn’t worried but if that chance fell to Will Johnson-Cole, it’s in the back of the net – or Malik for us – but that’s another opportunity for them.

“A centre-half has outpaced us so his desire to get there was more than our desire to prevent him. It’s another clear sight of goal in the second half.”

Punjab United celebrated scoring a deserved equaliser, however, with 45 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock.

Johnson-Cole drew a foul from a Oshilaja on the edge of the box in a central position and Suman curled a sublime right-footed free-kick into the left-corner from 22-yards.

Sian said: “I told Arun to push on. Steve Ratcliff was about to take it and I shouted at Arun to take it and what a free-kick!

“You can see by the celebration that we’ve been waiting for that for the last few weeks. It’s been a bit hit and miss this season, one minute we’re great, one minute we’re poor, we’ve not had a medium and it was a great celebration with 10 men and I think we deserved every single thing with that.”

Wakeling said: “He had a good game all night. He looked like a type of player to dictate the rhythm and tempo of a game. He’s cute, clever, moves the ball quickly, scan and moves the ball fast.

“I actually felt Punjab deserved to get something from the game. It’s their fault they went down to 10 men with two horrendous tackles that should have been reds but they worked harder than us in the second half and they deserved to come away from here with something.”

Ninth-placed Welling Town (33 points with 10 games remaining) travel to tenth-placed Erith Town on Saturday, while bottom-four side Punjab United (24 points from 27 games) travel to thirteenth-placed Fisher.

Wakeling said: “It’s another game against a club that’s in the swollen bracket of midtable clubs doing their very best not to get out of that pack in the middle.

“It will be nice to go there and put in a performance. If we can sustain that and get back to what we were doing in October and before that, I think we’ll give them a good game.”

Sian added: “They gave me everything and they’ve shown me how much they love the club, the passion, pride in themselves, which we’ve been lacking.

“What I’ve been letting them know for the last four or five weeks, it’s not about the result, it’s the way you play. If you walk off the pitch and we lose and we give everything, I can’t say no more but to go half-hearted and you have seven players playing poor and are not giving their all, we need to start putting it in.

“The Fisher game is the sort of games we’ve pinpointed that we should get something out of the game, a draw or a win. We should start to pick up points and that’s the frustrating thing about this season.”

Welling Town: Lee Kidman, Chris Sholu, Peter Ojemen, James Day (Adam O’Neill 73), Ryan Mahal, Gary Beckett, Steven Ita (Ben Slade 61), Ashley Wright, Malik Ouani, Hassan Oshilaja, Jason Thanni (Jordan Sandiford 90).
Subs: James Owolabi, Bradley Gooden

Goals: Malik Ouani 25, Ashley Wright 29

Booked: Ashley Wright 62, Gary Beckett 66, Hassan Oshilaja 76

Punjab United: Joe Hagan, Marvin Okundalaiye, Stephen Ratcliff, Adam Cuthbert, Paul Lorraine, Diljit Boora, William Johnson-Cole, George Goodwin, Bryan Zepo (David Ikumobasin 74), Hicham Akhazzan (Chandler Kasai 69), Arun Suman.
Subs: Joe Salmon, Prem Jayabrarath, Max Ovenden

Goals: Bryan Zepo 30, Arun Suman 90

Booked: George Goodwin 11

Sent Off: George Goodwin 34

Attendance: 29
Referee: Mr Abdulaziz Olol
Assistants: Mr Teddy Osborn & Mr Danny Geary