This time last season Welling beat the newly crowned champions Maidstone 3-2 on home soil and they repeated the trick as a Stefan Payne hat-trick handed the wings the spoils in this last Kent derby of the campaign.
Fleet led in the first-half and had the chances to get back in the game but there was plenty of controversy surrounding the handball for Welling’s second goal and a penalty denied to Elliott Romain late on.
For the last away day of the season, Dennis Kutrieb made three changes – Dominic Poleon’s suspension giving Shaq Coulthirst his chance up front, while Haydn Hollis replaced Alex Finney in defence and Billy Clifford came in for Christian N’Guessan.
Fleet got into their groove early after an early anxious moment in defence when Payne almost robbed Mark Cousins of an attempted clearance. Darren McQueen fired two good efforts just across the upright and then thumped another one off target from a closer position after Toby Edser whipped in a pacy cross.
That was inside the first 10 minutes before Welling began to emerge from their shells with Payne and Ade Azeez linking well. The home side claimed a penalty on 18 minutes when Manny Parry tumbled under the attentions of Hollis but nothing was given, the referee setting his stall out early on as far decisions were concerned.
Fleet were straight back on the attack and Kai McKenzie-Lyle fumbled a shot from the byline by Coulthirst before gathering it on his goalline.
The dangerous McQueen’s eye was in, however, and he got his next effort on target on 20 minutes. Josh Wright weighed up a pass from just outside the box and it took the perfect route for McQueen to steam through and fire into the bottom corner.
Two more good opportunities followed quickly on the tail of that goal. Greg Cundle ran through and fired narrowly wide of the post before his cross just caught Wright out in the six-yard box and the Welling goal survived.
Dominant Fleet had been playing some neat, pleasing football, with Wright and Clifford orchestrating the midfield and McQueen always bright but it was Welling who got the next vital score on the board.
That came in the 34th minute, Azeez forcing Solly into a foul and Medy Elito’s free-kick was recycled by Parry, Payne on hand to prod it past Cousins.
The Fleet goalkeeper was in action five minutes later to prevent a second after former Maidstone winger Christie Pattison had robbed Clifford and homed in on goal, getting a shot away that looked goalbound,
It was a frantic period as Coulthirst was then denied in the six-yard box and Cundle’s cut-in from the left needed a Welling foot to steer it away from the line.
The second-half was only four minutes old when Welling took the lead. A free-kick was launched forward and as it bounced in the six-yard box, the visiting defenders were adamant a hand helped the ball on its way from Azeez to Payne for the one-time Fleet loanee to stab home his second of the match.
Welling had their good fortune to thank for staying in front on 56 minutes, McQueen’s ball across causing panic, Clifford and Cundle nearest as the ball glanced off the latter and bounced off the foot of the post where McKenzie-Lyle got a hand to it.
But with that chance, the game slipped away from the Fleet as Payne made it a hat-trick on 65 minutes. Clifford’s stumble in the box allowed James Dunne in and Payne was on hand to take advantage, doing well to finish with the outside of his boot to curl a shot round Cousins.
For a spell Welling had their tails up and threatened a fourth. Fleet introduced N’Guessan and Romain but only had a powerful strike over the bar from Luke O’Neill to summon as a response. And then a flag denied Coulthirst after he converted Romain’s pass from a tight angle with time ticking down.
Parry then missed an open goal at the other end as Welling broke and a cross from the right was the perfect height for the defender to nod into the gaping goal but he sent the wrong side of the post.
Fleet came out fighting again after that and Coulthirst was denied with a run through on goal before Romain’s strength took him in on goal. He would have slotted it home, too, but for the Welling defendee bundling into him from the side and the additional leg in that upended him but again the referee seemed blasé to the notion of a penalty.
The visitors made Welling sweat, however, when Wright drove home a shot in time added on after Coulthirst’s supply to reduce the arrears but it was too late to take a point back down the A2.
EUFC: Cousins, O’Neill, Martin (Romain 64), Solly, Hollis, Clifford (N’Guessan 69), Wright, Cundle (Chapman 86), McQueen, Edser, Coulthirst. Subs: Jombati, Chapman, Finney
WUFC: McKenzie-Lyle, Ezennolim, Parry, Cox (Kassarate 77), Elito, Lyons-Foster, Azeez (Balarabe 83), Payne (Nkrumah 90), Dunne, Sendles-White, Pattison. Subs: Andrews, Gavin
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