Welling Town 3-3 Punjab United - We need to improve a lot to get to where we want to be and that's the challenge for the rest of this season, says Welling Town boss Darren Manning

Monday 28th March 2022
Welling Town 3 – 3 Punjab United
Location Maidstone Road Sports Ground, Bournville Avenue, Chatham, Kent ME4 6LR
Kickoff 28/03/2022 19:45

Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division
Monday 28 March 2022
Stephen McCartney reports from Maidstone Road

PUNJAB UNITED chairman/manager Chipie Sian says he was suffering from sleepless nights earlier in the season before guiding the Gravesend-based club to thirteenth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division table with six games remaining.

A crowd of 74 were treated to a six-goal thriller in Welling Town’s first of three Monday night games played in Chatham.

Darren Manning’s 30th game in charge of the nomads saw his side race into a 3-1 lead going into half-time, before Punjab United’s second half dominance resulted in them scoring twice to earn a point.

Welling Town striker Timothy Monsheju scored his sixth goal for the club as The Boots' raced into the lead with only two minutes and 56 seconds on the clock.

However, Sian’s side swiftly levelled through left-winger Chandler Kasi’s seventh goal of the season, before electrifying quick right-winger Casey Nolan-Samuels scored twice to put Welling Town into the driving seat going into half-time.

However, a couple of tactical switches from Sian saw Punjab United dominate the second half and the introduction of Danny Phillips turned the game and he pulled a goal back before centre-half Stephen Ratcliff hooked in a volley.

“We were atrocious second half, absolutely atrocious,” admitted Manning.

“The decision making and everything that we done well in the first half we neglected in the second.  We just took the foot off the gas and let them in and when you keep making bad decisions and giving them certain situations and the ball in certain areas they’re going to punish you and we’ve given them four or five sighters with free-kicks and one of them was going to cause us a problem and it did tonight.”

Sian added: “I was disgusted first half, absolutely horrified with what I’ve just seen because the last eight weeks we’ve been phenomenal.

“We’ve been on a great run and that was not Punjab for the last eight weeks.  We just seemed really flat and we gave the ball away. It wasn’t great but the second 45 was what we’re all about, that’s what we’ve been doing for the last 8-10 weeks.

“I think we should’ve won it in the end.  We had the better chances, they didn’t do nothing second half.”

Punjab United play out from the back, with centre-half Jack Barry dictating play, but Welling Town were much more direct when they raced into an early lead.

Punjab United’s left-back Ashley Probets was given a torrid time by Nolan-Samuels' electrifying pace during the entire first-half, although Sian made a tactical switch after the break and put Jordan Campbell there and snuffed out the threat.

Sian said: “I knew it straight away. I could’ve done it in the first 15 minutes but I didn’t. I waited until half-time.  I knew Jordan’s got the pace to catch him. We took him (Nolan-Samuels) out of the game and we were on top of the game and it worked really well.”

Manning added: “It wasn’t even that.  He (Campbell) didn’t snuff him out at all. We just didn’t give Casey the ball.  The difference in the second half was we didn’t get Casey in the right areas as we did in the first half to cause all the trouble and that’s down to our poor decision making.  There were times when it should’ve gone to his feet. It was going long and it was very erratic in the second half. 

“First half I thought we were sensational, absolutely sensational. We looked electric going forward but football’s a game of two halves and second half we were nowhere near good enough.”

Nolan-Samuels sprinted down the right at pace and easily reached the by-line before putting the ball on a plate for Monsheju, who drilled a first time low right-footed drive into the bottom right-hand corner from 10-yards.

“Sums Tim up. Tim’s on fire at the moment, scored six in four, I think it is now. If he’s given those situations he will score but that summed up our first half that first couple of minutes,” said Manning.

Sian added: “Listen, I can’t take nothing away from them, they were brilliant first half.  They were on it, they were better than us, quicker to the ball and won every second ball as well.  He was lightening first half, he was unbelievable.  I was just fuming on the sidelines because I didn’t see my side not doing what they were told. We were just very dead.”

Punjab United showed good character to clinically level through their first attempt on goal, timed at eight minutes and 23 seconds.

Emiliano Hysi was not pressed and played a sublime through ball along the deck which was played in between right-back Damilola Oni and centre-half Vinny Murphy to precisely play in Kasai, who stroked a right-footed shot past the advancing keeper to roll the ball into the centre of the goal.

Sian said: “It was a brilliant equaliser. That’s what we’ve been playing, quickly.  I did say if we don’t open them up if we go really slow, we won’t get nothing out of the game but if you opened them up with quick passing, two or three passes and we were through on goal – and then we went flat again.”

Manning added: “The positioning of the full-back for that was all wrong.  He allowed him to get the pass inside him and it’s a good pass but we gave him too much time in an area where we’re very vulnerable so it was a goal that was very, very much avoidable.”

Welling Town’s holding midfielder Ross Gleed loved drilling balls upfield and he found himself in space some 35-yards from goal but his shot clipped Barry on the way through and was comfortably gathered by Max Ovenden in goal.

Probets got away without being booked after taking out Nolan-Samuels as he tried to cut inside just outside the corner of the Punjab United penalty area.

Gleed drilled another shot, this time into the wall and he had a second bite of the cherry but his drilled low drive was blocked inside the box before the ball came out to Murphy whose hooked shot from the edge of the box trickled into Ovenden’s gloves to prevent the ball nestling inside the bottom corner.

Welling Town played some sublime counter-attacking football to take a deserved 2-1 lead with 26 minutes and 38 seconds on the clock.

Left-back Dennis Agbudune played the ball into left-winger Adebola Sotoyinbo inside his own half and his first time pass saw Emmanuel Okunja turn his marker superbly before splitting open Ratcliff with a long pass on the deck.

Ratcliff and his goalkeeper Ovenden were not on the same wavelength and the impressive Nolan-Samuels nipped in to slot his right-footed shot into an open goal from 15-yards.

Manning said: “Again, it’s very, very similar to the first goal. We identified their weaknesses. We played on it very well in the first half and Casey was unplayable in the first half.  He’s got two goals and an assist in the first half and that’s testament to him.  The play leading up to him was very good from Emmanuel and Dennis as well. It was a good team goal.”

Sian added: “I wasn’t too happy with Max because I think he made a big mistake on Saturday (2-1 win at Erith Town) – and the same thing today.

“Steve should’ve just dealt with it, we’re 25 yards out and why come out? There was no need for it, so I’m not sure what happened to Max today, he looked a bit off. It was a horrible mistake and we got punished.”

It should have been 3-1 on the half-hour mark when Monsheju released Nolan-Samuels in behind the two centre-halves and he easily cut across the advancing keeper but he was forced wide.  He held his composure on the left-hand side of the penalty area and crossed towards the near post but 13-goal Sotoyinbo ghosted in to poke his shot past the near post while under pressure from Barry.

Dominant Welling Town created another decent chance within a couple of minutes when Okunja fed Sotoyinbo, who played Monsheji in behind right-back Dominic Vincent but Ovenden came out on the angle to narrow the angle at his near post and made a vital block.

Gleed drilled a left-footed free-kick from 30-yards around the four-man wall but his effort flashed past the right-hand post as Welling Town created another chance in the 34th minute.

Punjab United weathered the storm, however, and missed a decent chance four minutes later.

Probets hit a long 60-yard pass down the line to release left-winger Joe Jarvis through on goal but he lacked composure when he only had Laurence Wymark to beat and poked his right-footed shot past the near post from 15-yards.

Sian said: “I don’t know if that was a shot or a pass or what at the end?  The goalkeeper’s on the floor, just put it to the side and it’s in and maybe that could’ve given us a little bit of a lift first half but we missed it and we got what we deserved first half.”

There was a hint of controversy when Welling Town scored their third goal of the night with 43 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.

A big kick down the middle of the pitch from Whymark saw Punjab centre-half Ratcliff fall to the deck as the ball was flicked on, over towards the left-flank.

Punjab’s right-back Vincent nudged Singh and sent the Welling Town man to the deck so there were now two players down on the ground.

Vincent’s back-header left the two centre-halves flat-footed and Nolan-Samuels nipped in to drill his right-footed shot into the net from 18-yards.

Manning said: “I thought all three goals were very, very similar weren’t they.  It’s no coincidence they were like that because it was exactly how we planned and that’s why it’s even more frustrating what’s happened in the second half to let them back in, which was very, very frustrating.

“First half I thought we were brilliant, we were absolutely outstanding in the first half. It was probably the most complete 45 minutes that we’ve played, apart from the goal. I was a little bit disappointed with how we conceded the goal but it was a very, very good first half.

“I thought going forward we were frightening and we backed it up by beating clinical by scoring three goals.”

Sian added: “I don’t know what that was. We were waiting for the ref to pull it back.  There were a couple of people on the floor.  I haven’t got a clue. It was a bit of a blur that moment.  I thought it was a very poor header from Dom in the first place.  We had it right back in the middle of our centre-halves and they were flat-footed for some reason. It was a bit of a weird goal to be honest but they took advantage of somebody that we were lacking.”

Words were certainly said in the Punjab United dressing room at the interval.

Manning said: “I said ‘don’t change, don’t get bored of doing the right things,’ because what they were doing, was the right things.  We neglected the real fundamentals of our game and in that second half when you do that you get punished, it was as simple as that and we got punished tonight by some sloppy goals.”

Switching central midfielder Campbell into left-back and pushing Probets further forward until being replaced by Harry Main in the 64th minute proved to be a master stroke from Sian as Punjab United bossed the entire second half.

Sian said: “It wasn’t nice words to be honest.  I was actually fuming so a few F words were thrown around the changing room and I said how they’ve played well up to now (before tonight) to let themselves go and they’ve left themselves down with a very poor first half.

“That was terrible.  I’m not taking anything away from Welling. I thought they were very good, they were spot on and they took the game to us but because we were so flat.

“When you’re playing one or two players and not doing too well you probably cover them and when all 11 play that bad, you can’t cover that, so I weren’t happy.”

Punjab United were agonisingly close to pulling a goal back just 105 seconds into the second half when Probets whipped a trademark left-footed free-kick into the side-netting from 25-yards after Agbudume bundled over Kasai just outside the corner of the Welling Town penalty area.

Sian said: “I think they got the gist of what I was saying. They knew I wasn’t happy at them and I just walked out of there saying ‘show me what you are, show me the passion, what are you doing for yourselves really and for the club.  You don’t want to go through this run and then lose it all here!’

“I said to them if you don’t get set-up they will bury you four or five because they will because they were on top then but the moment we started we were on fire to be honest.

“I thought that (free-kick) was in. We all jumped on the sideline but it just hit the side-netting.”

Manning added: “We saw the warning signs early on and five minutes in they had a little bit of joy.  My assistant said to me if we play 90 minutes through there we probably win six or seven one but the half-time break killed us and it give them real impetus after the break.”

Welling Town hit Punjab United on the counter-attack in the 51st minute when Gleed pressed Hysi in the middle of the park and drilled a long ball up to Monsheju, who cut the ball onto his right-boot and drove in a shot towards goal, which was blocked by Ovenden’s boot, which looped up and over the crossbar.

“We just needed one more of them to kill it off. We needed that fourth goal because that’s the type of team we are.  We need something to get us going sometimes in the second half and it didn’t happen there and that’s testament to Punjab,” added Manning.

“The half time whistle killed us. If we played the whole game straight through, it’s probably six or seven-one because they were at sixes and sevens in the first half.  They couldn’t deal with Casey, their left-back was in all sorts of trouble, couldn’t get near him and the half-time break allowed them to gather and regroup themselves and that’s testament to Chipie for re-organising them.

“But I don’t think it was anything they did that combated us in the second half.  I think it was our wrong doing that allowed them back in and that is most frustrating.

“If a team comes out and does something completely wild and different and throws you off to get on top then fair enough but we weren’t just at it that second half and that’s why we are where we are and why we’re so inconsistent.”

Sian added: “We were going for it so I made them step-up higher to the half-way line and play higher.  We know they’ve got a bit of pace but I was not worried about that. I just said we’ve got to go for it and we left a few gaps but it was an easy save for Max in the end.”

Sian made a tactical switch when he brought on Phillips for the ineffective Jarvis in the 53rd minute and went with three at the back (Campbell, Ratcliff and Barry) and pushed Phillips in the number 10 role behind 13-goal striker Paul Vines.

Punjab United deservedly pulled a goal back with 18 minutes and 58 seconds on the clock.

Vines was bumped to the ground by Welling Town’s centre-half Ishmed Turay and Hysi drilled the free-kick into the wall from 30-yards.  The ball came out to Campbell, who clipped the ball back into the box, Vines’ sold a dummy which played in Phillips, who clinically placed his right-footed half-volley across the keeper to find the bottom right-hand corner from four-yards out.

Sian said: “Danny does what he does best. He’s brilliant on the ball and no one can take it off him but Danny’s recovering from a hamstring so I don’t want to stretch him.

“That was a beautiful finish, the weight, the composure, bottom corner. It was a great finish.”

Manning added: “I’ll be honest, I thought it was miles offside.  Everyone thought it was a mile offside but obviously from our angle it was very hard to tell but I thought he was a long way offside.  Everyone stopped apart from him.  That tells me it’s offside and that’s poor defending.  We should never let him go and we should never stopped so there’s two things wrong there.”

Midfield playmaker Hysi played the ball inside to Kasai, who unleashed a right-footed drive towards the bottom left-hand corner from 35-yards, which Whymark stepped to his right and dropped to his knees to gather like a wicket keeper in cricket.

Punjab United kept knocking on the door and Main was to be denied at the near-post inside the final 20 minutes.

Hysi found a pocket of space and played the ball into Ratcliff, who found himself on the edge of the Welling Town box.  The centre-half played an intelligent pass to an unmarked Main, whose first touch inside the box was poor but his second one saw him steer his low shot towards the bottom near corner but Whymark narrowed the angle to make the save.

“I thought Harry took that little touch in which he got in but he couldn’t open his legs a bit more and he was unlucky,” added Sian.

“We knew (the equaliser) was coming. The drums were getting harder and louder encouraging the players on. I thought it was coming, we was on top.”

Campbell and Kasai linked up well inside the Welling Town half before Main took a touch before unleashing a right-footed drive from 20-yards, which was comfortably saved by the Welling Town goalkeeper.

Whymark produced an outstanding save to palm away a stinging volley from Vines from the edge of the box after good build-up play involving Phillips and Kasai.

Sian said: “We all jumped up, we all thought he had scored. There was just a deflection over the top but we were dominant and that’s not being horrible to them, we were dominant second half.  I thought they backed off straight away and they couldn’t get out of their half at times apart from free-kicks and I think the third goal was coming.”

Manning said: “He’s made two good saves there to get us a point in the end because there was one point I turned round to my assistant and said ‘weve gone here, we’ve absolutely gone,’ so it was very frustrating that we allowed them the joy and the space to play, it’s very, very frustrating.”

Punjab United finally made the breakthrough and deservedly equalised with 30 minutes and 32 seconds on the clock, following a second phase from a set-piece.

Winning the corner-count 4-3, Hysi’s corner from the left was cleared back out to him and he put the ball back into the box and lurking unmarked on the edge was Ratcliff, who hooked a sublime volley into the top right-hand corner.

Sian said: “I think it was a really good finish to the game.  You could see from my celebration. I jumped on to the pitch. Listen, it was coming, no matter what, we would’ve scored that equaliser.  While we were on top, we went for it, trying to get the fourth trying to win the game.

“It petered out in the end, a few long free-kicks from them in the end and game over.”

Manning added: “He was never going to score that again in a million years, is he?  He's looking to put that back in the area. He’s never going to do that again but before that it’s a clear foul on our fella. If he doesn’t push him in the back, we clear it but he’s pushed him in the back and it’s gone for a corner and they’ve capitalised on it.

“Again, we’ve not reacted to the second phase and most corners and most set-piece goals are from a second phase so we need to be switched on to that and we wasn’t and that just sums up our second half performance.”

Welling Town almost snatched the winner inside the final four minutes following a set-piece of their own.

Murphy launched a deep free-kick from the half-way line, which was knocked back from close to the by-line by Turay and substitute striker Jack Harewood’s first touch on his debut saw him hit a half-volley bouncing into Ovenden’s hands for a comfortable save from 15-yards.

Manning said: “That would’ve been an absolute dream if he scored with his first touch in this level of football.  He’s a young lad making his debut and he was superb when he came on. He ran at them, gave us a lot of energy and won us a couple of free-kicks up the pitch. It wasn’t a chance. It was a half-chance. You’ve got to be a top, top player to score that with your first touch when you come into a game.”

Sian added: “We played into their hands in the last 10 minutes.  They were falling on the floor, they got a few free-kicks and they took our stride out of the game, which I think the boys were tired by them because they battled themselves out for 40 minutes.  I think it was a fair result. First half was theirs, second half was ours but it was a good game.”

Welling Town return to Lowfield Street in Dartford to play 12th placed Holmesdale on Saturday, before completing their campaign against Rusthall (Monday 4 April, at Chatham Town), Canterbury City (Monday 11 April, at Chatham Town), before going to Punjab United (Monday 18 April) before returning to Dartford to play Tunbridge Wells on the final day of the season (Saturday 23 April).

Manning said: “You can’t knock the facilities at Chatham Town can you? The facilities are outstanding and we just thank them for allowing us to get these three games in here this year due to the issues at Kent Football United with the floodlights there so I just thank them to allow us to finish the season her and get those midweek games in.”

“Holmesdale is a big game, every game now. We’ve got a points target. We’ve dropped two points here tonight and we need a reaction from that second half on Saturday.

“The boys know my thoughts. I was very true and to the mark in the huddle after the game. I’m a firm believer in honesty, as you probably know. I will not sit here and sugar coat things. If you weren’t good enough, I’ll tell you straight. We need to be better than that on Saturday and we need to get it right and get it going.

“There’s a little mini-league that I’d like to finish top off. I said my job was to keep us up and we’ve done that. I also said judge me at Christmas and since Christmas our form has been good.  There’s a lot of work to do. I’m a perfectionist unless it’s a perfect performance I’m never happy.  The players will tell you that. 

“We need to improve a lot to get to where we want to be and that’s the challenge for the rest of this season and going into pre-season.

“We’ve got five games to go so we’ll just try to get to our points target and get to where we want to go and prepare for next year.  We’ve started planning for next season about three weeks ago and we’ve got fine plans in place and I just can’t wait to try to execute them in the summer.”

Thirteenth-placed Punjab United have collected 35 points from their 31 games, while fourteenth-placed Welling Town have the same number of points but with a game in hand.

Punjab United welcome leaders Chatham Town to Elite Venue on Saturday, before travelling to Hollands & Blair on Tuesday 5 April and basement side Tower Hamlets on Saturday 9 April.

Sian then takes his side to Deal Town (Saturday 16 April), before hosting Welling Town before completing their campaign with a trip to Canterbury City on the last day.

“We wanted the momentum to keep going, so we won’t give Chatham an easy game on Saturday,” insisted Sian.

“I think we’re the only team that gives them a proper game so we’re going to go for it on Saturday, we have no fear.

“We get on really well with Chatham and don’t get me wrong both Chatham and Sheppey to go up will be fantastic for the league and we’re pleased to have them both here but we’re also pleased to get them out of here if that makes sense?

“It will be a great occasion, they bring a great fanbase and some of their fans were here tonight, which is great. Saturday will be a good game, no matter what happens, we might pull off an upset, you never know.”

On Punjab’s league position, Sian replied: “I’m really proud of that. I think we were struggling from that pre-season tournament. We lost a lot of players, injuries and I think up until Christmas I had sleepless nights because we were in the bottom three and four. It was terrible. It was horrible watching our boys play that way and it was upsetting because we know that the boys have got character and they’ve got a lot more to come out but it just didn’t click.

“We want to finish the highest we can, why not? Why not? If we can get top 10 then why not? We wanted to win tonight to catch Holmesdale (in 12th place on 42 points) but they’ve done really well this season.  For us to finish midtable is fantastic.”

Welling Town: Laurence Whymark, Damilola Oni, Dennis Agbudume, Ross Gleed, Ishmed Turay, Vinny Murphy, Adebola Sotoyinbo (Callum Thompson 81), Terlochan Singh, Timothy Monsheju (Jack Harewood 85), Emmanuel Okunja, Casey Nolan-Samuels.
Subs: Andrew Appiah-Anderson, Alex Nelson

Goals: Timothy Monsheju 3, Casey Nolan-Samuels 27, 44

Booked: Ishmed Turay 57, Terlochan Singh 68

Punjab United: Max Ovenden, Dominic Vincent, Ashley Probets (Harry Main 64), Arun Suman, Jack Barry, Stephen Ratcliff (Aaron Clarke 90), Chandler Kasai, Jordan Campbell, Paul Vines, Emiliano Hysi, Joe Jarvis (Danny Phillips 53).
Subs: Hugh Samuels, Maximus Gayle

Goals: Chandler Kasai 9, Danny Phillips 64, Stephen Ratcliff 76

Booked: Dominic Vincent 81, Chandler Kasai 84, Arun Suman 90

Attendance: 74
Referee: Mr William Donnelly
Assistants: Mr Jordan Rant & Mr Adam Back