City suffered their first defeat as a Blue Square South side when Welling United scored the only goal of the game with just two minutes remaining in their Park View Road meeting. This late blow came just as both sides looked to have settled for a draw, with City twice denied by the woodwork in the second half and the home side missing the clearest opening of the game in between these two close escapes. A draw would have been the fairest outcome after an even first half but one moment of poor defending cost City that result.
City made two changes from the side that beat Weston Super Mare on Monday, Dave Gilroy recovering from his toe injury to replace Phil Walsh and Paul Keddle coming into the side in place of the injured Mark McKeever. As has been the case in most games so far this season, City started brightly. Lewis Hogg was looking a threat down the right flank, once only being stopped when a defender dragged him to the ground then robbing Coleman with a great tackle and driving in a cross that was headed just wide of his own goal by Ryan. Despite this start City failed to create any clear openings and on 17 minutes uncharacteristic loose defending by Chris Holland and Matt Coupe allowed Coleman the room to fire the ball into the side netting. Minutes later the same player had a free-kick deflected narrowly wide, although Paul Evans appeared to have it covered. Another free-kick for the Kent side was headed straight at Evans by the ever-involved Coleman and nine minutes before the interval a stunning shot by Solomon flew inches wide of the goal. So, having shaded the possession during the first half it was the Wings who had looked the more likely side to break the deadlock.
The second half was a different affair though, as City began to create openings. The first of these came from a long clearance by Evans that Darren Edwards flicked on to Gilroy. He headed it into the path of Scott Rogers, whose first time looping volley was clawed behind for a corner by keeper Masters. On the hour mark a break from deep in their own half, first by Keddle and then Gilroy, gave Edwards a shooting chance, but his effort from the edge of the area struck the foot of the post with Masters well beaten. The game was opening up now and after 64 minutes the Wings should have taken the lead. Coleman’s low cross found Ward just a couple of yards out but, rather than tapping it in with his right foot, he swung wildly with his left and only ended up hitting a double-decker bus on Welling High Street. City then had a strong penalty shout waved away by the referee. Three times Welling had a chance to clear the ball but failed and it dropped toward Edwards and as he was about to shoot he appeared to be bundled over by Smith. The next chance came on 72 minutes. Again it was slack play by Welling, giving the ball away midway in City’s half, which allowed Hogg to burst forward. He cut inside before laying off to Edwards, only this time for his shot to canon back off the bar. The game began to drift after this and, apart from the over-excitable Smith for Welling who seemed determined to dispute every decision the referee made despite his luck over the earlier penalty escape, both sets of players seemed to decide a draw was the likely outcome. However, with two minutes left a clumsy challenge by half-time substitute Gethin Jones – on for flu-victim Holland – gave the home side a free-kick 40 yards out, which Carpenter lifted toward the far post where Sinclair stole in behind Keddle to head home from six yards out. This was too late for City to find a reply and they were left tasting defeat for the first time since April 7.
So, at the sixth time of asking City suffer a Blue Square South defeat. Ironically, it was far from their poorest performance of the season but a failure to take the few chances they created cost them in the end. Hitting the woodwork twice could be considered somewhat unfortunate, although the miss by Welling’s Ward will take some beating this season, so probably makes up for any hard done by feelings over Edwards’ two efforts. The other area of disappointment from the game was another booking for Lewis Hogg, a silly one for kicking the ball away, which is his fifth of the season already and will see him suspended for the Cambridge City trip in two weeks time. The defeat sees City slip down to third place behind early pace-setters Lewes and Eastbourne Borough.