Sometimes in life you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a princess. Wings fans have had more than their share of disappointment in recent years when facing old foes, Dartford, but were rewarded yesterday with a swashbuckling second-half performance and a richly deserved victory that puts them in the hat for Monday's F A Cup draw.
On what was my first visit to Princes Park, I was pleasantly surprised. A tidy little stadium with modern facilities and a pitch that was so good it looked as attractive as the swimming pool when you first arrive at your villa on holiday. The sun was blazing too and there was a healthy following of Wings who made up c 400 of the 1031 gate.
News an hour before kick-off was that the Wings had signed a much-needed striker in Tristan Abrahams from Gillingham. What became clear from the whistle was just what a big side Dartford are. One of the central defenders must by 6' 8" and they have another four or five players who are well over six foot. As if to emphasis the point Welling began by playing their way down the flanks and hitting crosses which were like like throwing buns to an elephant.
Tanga tested the home keeper early on but he was equal to it and it took a good save from Ben Winterbottom to keep Dartford out from a corner. Abrahams showed what he might bring after 15 minutes when he raced in to meet a lovely ball in from Tanga on the right but was inches away from the touch needed. That stung the home team and from their next attack they scored. A raid down the Wings right flank drew the defence across towards the ball and Manor was left unmarked at the back post.
Huff an puff after that until just before the break when Welling won a free-kick 20 yards out from the goal that their fans were massed behind. By this time I was in the lounge with a half-time pint but from the curtains I had a great view of Antony Papadopoulos as he rifled in a low shot that Dartford's huge keeper couldn't get down to quickly enough.
Five minutes into the second-half and Welling switched off. A long punt from Beeney was allowed to bounce twice and Manor latched on to it and slammed a cross-shot beyond Winterburn for 2-1. I feared the worst at this point but Welling settled and began to knock the ball around on the deck which reduced the Darts to a chasing game they aren't best suited to. Welling were reward just after the hour. A fine run from deep saw Green slip a ball towards Abrahams but a stretching defender got a touch but only managed to divert it into to the path of Papadopoulos and he leathered home the equaliser.
The Wings were in their pomp now and had the bit well and truly between their teeth. White and Tanga give Welling options and threats from the flanks and if Abrahams finds his feet (as looks very likely), Welling could quickly move up the table. The ref waved away a decent handball penalty shout but Welling continued to press and were rewarded after 76 minutes with a superb team goal. I will have to see it again but it looked like about five or six players were involved as Welling swept out of their half and moved it quickly first-time across the pitch and forward. Orient loanee Tanga played the killer ball into the centre and The Pap-father was waiting eagerly to drive home the hat-trick and secure a place in the next round.
Ben Whittaker deserves a special mention for a fantastic stretching save at his far post to keep out what looked very like a late and undeserved equaliser.
Meanwhile at the Lamex, I was surprised and pleased to see that, not only had we avoided falling further behind to their first-half goal but we managed a late late penalty which Blackett-Taylor converted to secure an opening draw for Michael Appleton. Disappointing news that Alfie May missed the match with concussion and that we didn't manage a chance in the opening half but Chuks Aneke made a welcome cameo and survived intact after a spell of chaos in the home defence.