Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Welling United 2-1 Lincoln City

Welling United 2-1 Lincoln City  

This was the first time the four of us had got together for an away game this season and although Baz and myself had been to Welling United last season (A crappy 2-0 defeat), this was Felice and Lee’s first trip to the stadium. This was because they took a trip to Italy together to watch Felice’s beloved Inter last year and although they got back into London on the day of the game at Welling, they were too tired to make the game and headed home early. Quite what they were tired from hasn’t been established.  They also missed last season’s home win over Grimsby for the same trip. A shocking state of affairs I am sure everybody reading this will agree with.

But no cock and bull excuses for missing this season’s trip though and at just gone 2.45pm the car was full and we were on our merry way to Welling. The journey was spent impressing my fellow passengers with my recently obtained knowledge of all things German. We are planning a jolly boy’s trip to Berlin next year and I have a sneaky feeling I will be saving Felice’s bacon like I have done on so many occasions in the past; Barnet, the Women’s Champions league final, and Crystal palace to name but three.
We arrived about 6.00pm then headed off to find a kebab shop. We found a pretty good one last year and decided to revisit it. It was standard fare with a large donner coming in at £6. It did the job although it wasn’t quite as nice as I remember from last year. After a quick scoff it was off to the ground.

Welling United’s Park View Road stadium is what I would call a traditional non league top flight ground.  And I say that in a good way. It’s a proper ground in the heart of the town and has a real football feel to it. Yes it may be a little run down here and there and in need of a little TLC but it really does feel like a real football ground and not a plastic out of town stadium with no soul like somewhere like Telford for example.  Sadly as the seasons go by these stadiums will become rarer so make the most of them while you still can.
Actually the stadium is shared by two teams; Welling United and Erith and Belvedere. Now it’s not uncommon in non league football for sides to share stadiums, but what is rare is for different areas of the stadium to be decorated in the colours of the respective teams that play there. This is because normally one side owns the ground and the other rents. This isn’t the case here though as the local council owns the stadium with both clubs paying rent to them (According to the steward outside the ground), He also added that Welling do pay the lions share towards the costs for the ground and this is backed up by the fact that 3 of the 4 sides and a section of terrace on the 4th are painted red.

Erith and Belvedere have recently been relegated to step 5 (The same as Retford United) and normally attract around a 100 or so fans. They play in blue and white and so the remaining side is decked out in blue and white with blue seats in the seated area with blue splashed around the stand for good measure.  I am not sure how much of the stadium is open for Erith and Belvedere games but It wouldn’t surprise me if they only opened the one side of the ground. I highly doubt that I will ever go to an Erith home game as I make it my aim to visit different stadiums and not clubs so I may well never find out. And I can live with that. 

Welling united have a smashing little supporter’s club shop inside the ground as well as the official club shop that is located outside the stadium next to the turnstiles. There is also a very good bar inside the turnstiles that we were going to visit pre game. However we were told that segregation was to be in force for tonight’s game which was a change in policy from last season.  This wasn’t a huge problems as we were told that we could use the bar on the Erith side of the ground. However Lee was disappointed with this news as he had set his heart on visiting the supporters shop to pick up some more programmes (Or junk depending on your point of view). The stewards were thoroughly good eggs though and let him and Del go through and visit the shop to buy as much crap as he could carry. In the end he ended up with a bag full of Portsmouth programmes. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure as they say. 

After Lee had got his random crap highly valuable football memorabilia, we took a gentle stroll over to the blue painted turnstiles and parted with the entrance fee of £15, which is quite reasonable for  this league. Once inside the ground to your right is the Erith and Belvedere club shop which had a selection of programmes, old shirts, and a nice collection of different mugs.  This area of London isn’t really an Arsenal hotbed of support but Felice was happy to see a few Arsenal mugs for sale. However, as he is a long time member of the Gunners (Along with Fulham, West Ham, Manchester City, Juventus amongst many others) He likes to buy his merchandise directly from the club; his (snug) Arsenal jacket being a case in point.  I was quite pleased to pick up a club badge and also tonight’s matchday programme that came in at £3 and was a steady enough issue. Nothing special but I am pretty sure I will read much worse this season. 

As we still had time to kill we headed into the club bar and I must say it was the total opposite to the bar on the Welling United side of the ground. The walls were all decked out with scarves from a wide range of teams and also many half and half matchday scarves, with the standout one for me being one from the Women’s Olympic final at the London Olympics between Japan and the United States, Or the USWNT as they like to be known as.  It was a shame they didn’t have a 1993 FA Cup final half and half between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal so Lee and Felice could make them an offer to buy it, as the rumour is they intend to go to the league cup tie between the Oinkers and the Gunners in the next couple of weeks.  The entertainment however left a lot to be desired with the Wales v Andorra game on the radio and Eastenders on the television.
At the start of the game the Imps fans were all segregated on one side of the ground. But after about 10 minutes of the game the segregation was lifted allowing all supporters access to all areas of the stadium. Quite why we had to go through the pointless exercise of segregating for 10 minutes was a bit of a mystery.  The only reason I can think of is so that Erith and Belvedere got the bar and food takings from the Imps fans pre game because had we all gone in through the Welling turnstiles then everybody would have headed to the Welling United bar. If that was the reason then I can’t say I had a problem with it. On balance the Erith bar had a better football feel to it. 

Lincoln City are currently enjoying their best season since being relegated to the conference (Yes I know that’s not really saying much but still...), and are on the outskirts of the playoffs.  It’s far too early to say whether this form will be maintained but for now I am enjoying it while it lasts. Lincoln went into this game having won their past 3 away games and from the way they started this one it looked like they could be on for a 4th on the trot.  Lincoln knocked the ball around quickly and it looked like it was only a matter of time before the scored.  Welling to their credit got better as the game went on but were still second best to the Imps for the entire first half.

However after having so much of the ball for the first half The Imps got hit with a sucker punch just before halftime when yet again this season they failed to deal with a ball in the air allowing Welling to score from close range.  At HT we ambled around to the end of the ground that Lincoln were to attack second half.  We were in a prime position to see Liam Hearn draw City level when he turned in a close range effort and from then on City took the game to their hosts. However in typical Lincoln style they shot themselves in the foot. Bradley Wood has been one of Lincoln’s most consistent players this season but tonight wasn’t his night as he received his marching orders for two yellow cards. Fair enough these things happen in football and this was the Imps first red card of the season.  However seeing as there was about 7 minutes left to play the sensible thing to do would have been to employ an effective game managing strategy and settle for a well earned point.

Alas Alan Power had other ideas and attempted to launch a cross field pass and launch a City counter attack after Welling had lost the ball. The pass however failed to reach its intended target as it went straight to a Welling player which was a gift as the hosts had plenty of players up the field from the original attack and a few seconds later the hosts went 2-1 up and there was no way back for the Imps.  It was very harsh on City but this is what happens if you dominate a match but fail to capitalise on your dominance. 
Sometimes in sport you get patterns of results between teams that just cannot be explained. Over the years I have known Lincoln go through phases when they just couldn’t get results against certain sides. For example between 1999 and about 2009 the Imps just couldn’t beat Darlington for love nor money. In the 90’s Chester always seemed to be the side that held a jinx over City. It does of course work the other way too. Under the late, great Keith Alexander the Imps always did well against Shrewsbury, especially away from home.  In more recent times Braintree Town seem to be the side that no matter what the league positions of the two sides always seemed nice enough to lose to the Imps. However to counter that Welling seem to be the team that always have the upper edge on Lincoln as this was their 5th win on the spin.

Last season the Imps were dreadful in both games v the Wings but that most certainly wasn’t the case this time around. For most of the game City took the game to the hosts who very rarely looked like causing them any real problems at the other end.  It does have to be said though that although the Imps had plenty of the ball, they didn’t really make the Welling keeper work too hard. In fact he only really had a couple of saves to make.  
The journey back home was pretty uneventful with the highlight being a debate on which flavour McDonalds milkshake is the best. At the time I was far too tired to offer an educated opinion but on reflection I would have to say I am firmly in the strawberry camp.

Result aside though it was a decent night out with great company.  Long distance night matches are always special regardless of the result. And the good news? We get to do it all again in a full weeks time at Aldershot!

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