Westleigh Park, Havant
Just as our mood had dipped again, with disappointment and apathy brought about by the situation looking unlikely to change, another slice of home win was cut from a league programme pie mostly snaffled by our hungry Conference South rivals thus far this season.
The first half saw a committed and adroit performance and, unlike our previous few games, we managed to cling on through the nailed-on certainty of a second half lull. Welling came to West Leigh Park still in contention for the play-offs, and had beaten us at Park View Road almost exactly a month prior to. As such, I expected little or less.
However we started well and controlled the first half. That has been the case on several occasions though, where we haven’t capitalised with a goal and then fallen behind to a sucker punch. Tonight the punch came from us and what a blow it was. First Shaun Wilkinson delivered a roundhouse sighter that just missed the tip of the Welling schnoz (or in less pugilistic terms, his long range shot just curved off the outside of his boot and away from the far top corner).
A couple of minutes later we had a free kick outside the box, and we knocked it around to the sound of our chum Chris behind the goal letting out a vaguely panicked cry of “Give it to Wilko, give it to Wilko.” Jamie Collins gave it to Wilko and he unleashed a strike so fierce we had to sedate it with a tranquilizer dart then cage it.
Welling keeper Charlie Mitten (who, with that name, sounds like he supplements his football income by working as a cockney spiv in Trumpton) was stuck in a kind of shocked rigor mortis, eventually creaking his neck around to see the ball smouldering in the bottom corner inside his near post.
If only we had played all our games on Monday nights, this might have been the season we’d originally hoped for. As it is Saturdays unfortunately remained popular with our opposition and thus we found ourselves cast as April fools, the “big budget” boys still unsafe in relegation terms going into the final month.
Now, we have four games to play and Thurrock have five. We are eleven points ahead of them with the relegated, and possibly soon to be liquidated, Fisher Athletic turning up at West Leigh Park this coming Saturday, a game you’d hope would bring three of the five points we will need if we genuinely believe Thurrock can win all of their remaining games.
We then play Basingstoke away on Easter Monday, having hammered them 5-1 at home back in August. Not a place we’ve done that well at over the years but quite how that’s ever relevant I’m not sure. Besides it’s on a Monday so we’ll be fine. Assuming we get loads of 3pm cloud cover and can convince the Stoke-ites to turn on the floodlights anyway.