By Gerry PrewettHaving beaten Welling United just one week ago, Bristol Rovers complete the return fixture in Kent having secured a 2-0 victory and a 0-0 draw at Wrexham in mid-week. That Wrexham result had a major impact on Rovers’ season as Steve Mildenhall suffered a medial ligament injury whilst denying the Welsh team’s striker Andy Bishop a strike on goal.
Rovers are now on a run of 9 wins and 8 draws in their last 18 games Welling, in the second season of Conference Premier football have struggled having won just 6 from their 23 games however prior to their visit to the Mem they had won two games in a row, a 2-1 home victory over Halifax and a 1-0 away win at Braintree, where Rovers hit their nadir for the season.
In the game in Bristol, Rovers’ opener arrived on 53 minutes when half-time substitute Nathan Blissett latched onto a nicely-weighted pass from fellow sub Angelo Balanta before lofting the ball over Wings keeper Beni Buechel.
Things got tougher for Welling when skipper Jake Gallagher received a straight red from a lunging challenge on Lee Mansell shortly after the hour mark. The clincher arrived 17 minutes from time when Matty Taylor was brought down in the area by Zach Fagan but duly got up to fire high into the net and all but end the game as a contest.
Speaking after the game Darrell Clarke said, "It was a tough old game to be fair, Welling were disciplined and got nine men behind the ball at the majority of the time which was a little bit frustrating first half. I said to the players it's just about being patient at times. We changed things around at half time just because I thought it was the right thing to do.”
"We went to a 3-4-1-2 just to try and get us a bit more impetus in the game and once we got the goal we went back to a 4-4-2 and that's the beauty of it, the flexibility of the squad. We work on the systems and they can comfortably adapt to it. I thought it was important before the game to freshen things up a little bit."
Meanwhile his Welling equivalent player-manager Jamie Day believed his young Welling United side could leave the Mem with their heads held high, "I thought we played well in the first half. We shuffled across well and restricted Bristol Rovers to very few chances. We lacked a bit in the final third but we had one or two half-chances. I think they got a bit lucky with the opening goal and it was always going to be difficult from there.”
"We did very well considering we had a young team playing in front of 6,000 people. I'm disappointed that we lost the game but a lot of our younger players emerged from it with a lot of credit. I think we have played well in the majority of games this season, but we have not won enough of them. We want to be higher in the table and I'd like to have a few more points on the board, but we have some good young players who are learning all the time."
Day will have to miss the game after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season. Welling lodged an appeal with the Football Association following Gallagher’s red card but it was turned down and he now faces a 4 game ban after his third red of the season.
Welling are Rovers juniors by 80 years being founded in 1963. The club began as a youth team playing in local league football on a park pitch, which gradually expanded and began playing Saturday football in the London Spartan League. By 1987 they found themselves playing in the Conference. They managed to stay in the Conference until 2000 when they dropped back to the Southern League. In 2012/13 they finished top of the Conference South to win automatic Promotion. Last season they finished 16th and seem to have found their level.
Some former players who spent some of their career at Welling include Any Townsend, Danny Dichio, Terry Skiverton and Paul Barron.
Before last weeks game the clubs had met just once before in the FA Cup in 1998/99 when Rovers ran out 3-0 winners with a Jason Roberts Hat-trick. It was the start of a run that took Rovers to a 5th Round tie at Barnsley.