Blue Square Bet
Published 21st August 2012
....season on Monday night, but manager Glenn Pennyfather held his hands up and paid tribute to Welling United as the better side on the night, admitting it would have been “a point that we didn’t deserve.”
The Clarets moved in front through Craig Calver though the game swung in United’s favour thanks to a Ross Lafayette wonder goal and Luis Cumbers’ tap in. Fraser Franks saw his deflected free kick give Jamie Day’s men a cushion after the break until Craig Parker pulled one back on 93 minutes. Jamie Slabber then found the net even later, only to see the assistant referee’s flag raised for offside.
Nevertheless, Pennyfather felt justice was done on this occasion, explaining: “We got the second and could possibly have got a third but, in all fairness, it probably would have been a point that we didn’t deserve. They looked physically stronger than us and we’re missing some big players. That was too much for us.”
Pennyfather’s team selection was severely hampered by a range of injuries, including skipper Adam Tann, Player of the Year Kenny Clark and new signing Nicholas Bondon in the heart of defence. David Bridges was missing from the centre of midfield, as was Max Cornhill who picked up an injury at Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday.
David Rainford, therefore, entered the team in place of Cornhill while there was a momentous first league start for Anthony Cook on the right wing following his long path back from injury. As a result, Jordan Parkes shifted inside to a more central playmaker role as Parker reverted to the substitutes’ bench.
The Clarets enjoyed their best spell of the game at the very beginning and crafted a deserved lead in the 18th minute. Slabber spotted an opportunity to keep a stray ball in play to the right of the goal before cutting it back to strike partner Calver, who calmly side-footed into the bottom corner for his first City goal.
It could have been much better literally seconds later when a wayward backpass caught out goalkeeper Sam Mott and almost crept over the line. But Mott’s opposite number, Stuart Searle, excelled at the other end shortly afterwards when Scott Kinch hooked at goal from a couple of yards and the Clarets stopper got down to save.
Midway through the half Aiden Palmer’s swerving free kick dipped as it drifted towards the target and Mott had to guide it over the crossbar, but the glory point in the game arrived on 25 minutes through Lafayette. Play was worked from one end to the other and he teed himself up on the edge of the box before rifling an unstoppable drive into the top corner, prompting applause from home and away supporters alike.
Within 7 minutes, Welling turned the game on its head. A floated cross from the right caused confusion in the Chelmsford defence, resulting in an attacker’s header onto the crossbar. Players from both teams furiously attempted to adjust their position and deal with the rebound but it was former City youth teamer Cumbers who found the net at the clubhouse end for the third consecutive year.
That was a crucial moment, said Pennyfather: “For the first 15 minutes we started brightly and got ourselves in front. We had another opportunity to go 2-0 up but suddenly games turn on goals and they went 2-1 up inside a few minutes. It was a super finish for their first, which you can’t do anything about, then the second was a comedy of errors.”
The visitors had entered their purple patch, with Harry Baker drilling a dead ball inches wide and Kinch volleying over a simple chance. It was, therefore, no surprise when they added a third the other side of the interval. Franks’ goalbound, 58th-minute free kick took a wicked deflection off a defender on its way into the back of the net.
Pennyfather recalled: “When they go 2-1 up it’s difficult against a side like Welling as one of the sides who, without a doubt, will be vying for promotion and winning this league. In the second half we huffed and puffed and went a little bit quiet. We seemed to lack the things we’d worked extremely hard on in pre-season.”
City’s attacking threat was severely limited in the second period to the extent that substitute Joel Ledgister’s meek effort from distance 10 minutes from the end was their first attempt since half time. On 87 minutes, though, Ledgister’s chipped, far post cross from the left found Slabber, who knocked back just out of Parker’s reach.
Parker fared better in the 3rd minute of injury-time, getting on the end of a Cook assist to poke into the bottom corner and hand Pennyfather’s team a potential lifeline. Then, in the fourth of four minutes of added time, Slabber arrived to put away a loose ball in front of goal, but an offside flag quelled any early jubilation.
“We’ve got lots of things to work on,” Pennyfather concluded, with another home game against Bromley coming up on Saturday. “We’ve had a hard start. Looking at both teams we’ve played so far - Havant and Welling - they’re both going to be aiming for those top five or six spots this year, and we need to do better.”