Effiong strike dents Welling promotion push

Relegated Saints upset the odds against high-flying Welling

Blue Square Bet South

St Albans City 1 Welling United 0

IF YOU needed proof that football is a funny old game then this was it.

St Albans City, already relegated and fielding a host of inexperienced college players, beat Welling United, a team gunning for promotion and who had an excellent record against the league’s leading sides in recent weeks. This would have been an away banker on betting slips but football isn’t played on paper and City proved they will be no pushovers in the closing weeks.

Maybe Welling were guilty of thinking all they had to do was turn up but they came up against a City side that was determined to fight until the death and when Inih Effiong swivelled to smash home a superb volley a little over 10 minutes from time it signalled a remarkable upset.

As if City boss Steve Castle did not have enough selection issues on his hands he was dealt a further blow with both Pete Smith and captain Adam Everitt laid low through illness and with influential midfielder Ollie Kelly attending a prior engagement the other side of the Atlantic ocean it meant the Saints manager had to hand starts to James Fraser, Mark Campbell and Spyros Mentis with striker Tony Battersby lining up in the backline.

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While City were pinning their hopes on teenagers eager to make a name for themselves Welling were able to call upon a squad of experienced Conference South campaigners including former Saints’ favourites Lee Clarke and Ben Martin.

It looked like being a long afternoon for the Saints when Loick Pires and Clarke both had efforts on goal inside the opening minutes.

Debutant Fraser’s first telling contribution in a City shirt was a goal saving clearance off the line after Luis Cumbers had diverted Louis Fazakerley’s corner towards the corner of the goal with his head.

Fazakerley then curled a free kick wide of Aiden Kelly’s post as the Wings upped the pressure on City before Welling had the first of three ‘goals’ during the game disallowed when Fazakerley nodded Pires’ cross home only to see it chalked off because the midfielder had a large chunk of Fraser’s shirt in his grasp.

The traffic was almost one way and you could only see one winner but as Welling continued to pass up chances City’s confidence grew and they came into the game.

Albanian Mentis gave a full hearted performance throughout and from one of his well executed tackles the Saints created their first sight of goal. The Oaklands youngster won the ball back in the City half before quickly sending Nick Chrysanthou on his way. The midfielder closed in on goal but Martin came across and managed to block his shot.

Fazakerley was having a major say on proceedings from his position on the wing and he went close to giving the visitors the lead when he flashed a fierce shot inches wide after the Saints had stood off of him 25 yards out.

Campbell produced a great saving tackle to deny Andy Pugh after the Gillingham man had found himself some space on the edge of the box but the Saints could quite easily have found themselves ahead in first half injury time after a great solo run from Petrucci.

Mentis again was the provider sliding the ball into Petrucci on the left flank. The forward beat Jamie Coyle for pace and got into the Welling box but instead of cutting the ball back to Effiong the City striker went for goal and was denied by a good save from John Whitehouse low down.

Welling’s management team clearly had words at half time as the Wings came out after the break and bombarded the City defence with teasing crosses from both open play and set pieces.

Despite this pressure City could easily have scored when Chrysanthou’s corner was cleared to Rob Magwood who took one touch on his thigh before unleashing a dipping volley that just cleared the bar.

The second of Welling’s disallowed goals came when ex-City captain Martin headed home at the far post from a corner but referee Ian Parsons deemed the big defender to have impeded his man and the scoreline remained blank.

Pires was not having much luck either seeing his goalbound shot cleared off the line after Kelly had missed a corner before turning provider for Jack Parkinson only to see the Welling captain drag his shot wide of the target. Pires thought he had given the visitors the lead when he was left unmarked to head home Jack Obersteller’s cross at the far post but the linesman’s flag put a premature end to the Welling striker’s celebrations.

In the end the away side were made to pay for their profligacy as Effiong hammered home his 14th goal of the campaign. The chance appeared to have vanished for City when Sean Shields saw his shot parried by Whitehouse but the ball was only cleared as far as Effiong and he made no mistake volleying home from the edge of the box to send the Saints’ fans wild.

With Welling desperate not to see their push for promotion dented they began to pile even more high balls into the City box but the makeshift centre-half partnership of Mark Peters and Tony Battersby stood firm and the Saints held on for a shock three points.

City: A Kelly; Battersby, Peters, Campbell (Shields), Chaves; Fraser (Kweme), Magwood, Mentis, Chrysanthou; Effiong, Petrucci.

Subs not used: Addai, Abdulai.

Welling United: Whitehouse; Coyle, Andrews, Martin, Obersteller; Fazakerley, Parkinson �, Clarke, Cumbers; Pugh, Pires.

Subs not used: Bellamy, Day, Sambrook, Johnson, Heffernan.

Referee: Ian Parsons (Bristol).

Att: 337.