An impressive attendance of 1401 saw an action packed Boxing Day local derby at Park View Road between Welling United and Dartford. Both teams lined up in a 4-4-2 formation with Mills again preferred to Alfie Pavey in attack for the Darts and Welling choosing to attack from the wings and playing Monakana and Nanetti instead of Harry Phipps or Jack Jebb. Joe Healy once again missed out through suspension.
The Wings had what is becoming a consistent slow start and were behind after three minutes when Andy Pugh side-footed home a Ryan Hayes cross. That duo again combined a few minutes later but this time Pugh headed wide. It took a while for Welling to wake up but when they did they created a few chances. Goldberg and Durojaiye both went close before a deflected Nanetti effort clipped the post. There was then a penalty shout after Nanetti went down when challenged but he has a reputation for going down softly and the referee, probably correctly, waved this one away. The first half was soon over and it was Dartford that had the lead.
A slight strain led to Bradley Goldberg coming off and Tom Bradbrook taking his place. The tall striker is a former Dart and with the added spice of being up against his brother Elliot, Tom was sure to want to do well. It nearly started very well for him as in the first few minutes he broke through only to have his shot saved by Deren Ibrahim. He was not the only player coming up against his old team. Andy Pugh is a former Wing but showed absolutely no Christmas spirit towards his old team when he grabbed his second of the game on 55 minutes. It was a similar goal to his first and surely that would be good enough to win the game? Not that easy! Welling don’t start playing until they are 2-0 down for some reason and it was no different here. Danny Mills should have scored but his lob hit the woodwork before the chance of the game so far for the home team. A Callum Driver shot was spilled by Ibrahim and Ian Gayle hit the rebound into Danson Park when only five yards from goal. It was easier to score but he didn’t and his side were still two behind. The error by Deren Ibrahim when spilling the original shot gave the home fans the ammunition they needed to get on the back of the keeper. Just minutes earlier he was saying ‘You should sack your Manager’ to the home faithful as his side looked like they were striding towards a comfortable win. From then onwards his every move was heavily judged by those assembled behind his goal.
By now Welling were continually pushing forward and on 77 minutes Nanetti was brought down on the edge of the box. Callum Driver begged to take it as he had scored from a similar range in a friendly the week before at Phoenix Sports. Fortunately he got his way and dipped it over the wall and into the corner past Ibrahim. 2-1 and game on!
Elliot Bradbrook had committed that foul for the free-kick and with a few minutes left on the clock worse was to come from him as he connected with his brother Tom, who fell to the ground in the area leaving Referee Packman no choice but to point to the spot. Monakana stepped up and as Ibrahim advanced along way off his line he slid it past him into the corner. 2-2 and the comeback was complete. Surely the game would finish level now?
Up step Alfie Pavey. The former Millwall man was at Park View Road at the start of the season. Frustrated with his lack of game time he agreed to sign for Dartford and has since been a revelation scoring 12 times this season so far. Add to that the fact he works alongside Welling coach and centre-back Jack Parkinson on a daily basis with Phoenix Academy meaning he would clearly love to get one over on his ex-employers. Boy did he do that. With the game into added time he flew through the air to hit a volley from the edge of the area into the far corner. Cue scenes of pandemonium in the away end as the players headed towards them to celebrate. It was a goal worthy of winning any game, let alone a tightly fought Kent Derby. A special goal from a player with something to prove. Well Done.
There was enough time left for Ibrahim to receive a booking for a dirty time wasting trick before Welling almost got an equaliser with the last touch of the game when Dymond and Parkinson bundled onto a high ball into the box only to see it hit the post and drift wide. Game over.
Dartford had won it, possibly deservedly for their play in the first hour. It wasn’t spectacular play, just effective enough to beat a slow starting Welling side missing some key players. I have seen some better sides than Dartford this season but what they do works and it may just be good enough for them to get promotion this term.
From a Welling point of view, well it was much better than the Chelmsford game. Much much better. Coyle needs to come in for Gayle for the return game on Monday. Healy should come back into a midfield place and Bradbrook will probably start instead of Goldberg. Callum Driver looks like a great signing to me, as does Elliot Romain who battled away for all 90 minutes in this game. A majority of home fans are getting restless due to this current bad run but they need to calm down. As I have written before, long gone are the days when this club could demand a National League place. With a playing budget and attendances in-line with their current mid-table position they are simply performing as should be expected. Dartford have the highest average attendance in the League, Dartford are top, simple. Expectations grew when the team went on an impressive run just a few months ago leaving many to dream of higher leagues. Unfortunately that good run ended and so could this bad run, and maybe it could just end on Monday at Princes Park.
Keep the faith.