Welling United returned to winning ways with a Boxing Day victory at Tonbridge Angels on Monday afternoon.
The Wings capped off their Christmas with a well-earned three points at the Halcyon Wealth Longmead Stadium and it was all thanks to Ade Azeez’s second-half strike which was enough to thrust his side back into the top half of the Vanarama National League South table.
Warren Feeney made three changes to his side for the Kent derby as Myles Roberts returned in goal, while festive loan signings Avan Jones and Aaron Powell both made their debuts at right-back and left-back respectively.
It was the Wings who carved out the first opening of the afternoon as Ade Azeez sent in a low ball for the waiting Stefan Payne, only for a Tonbridge defender’s foot to divert it inches past the upright for a corner which would fall to Manny Parry, who fired over from a good position.
18 minutes were on the clock by the time the hosts made their first foray forward and it produced some fine goalkeeping from Roberts.
First, he pushed away a dangerous, low cross before getting on his feet to keep out the powerful follow-up in the box.
Just before the half-hour mark, former Wing Devonte Aransibia nearly came back to haunt his former side when he sent a header goal wards. It took a vitally-important head from a red shirt to nod it up and over the bar to prevent what would have been a certain goal.
The Angels were growing into the game as the half wore on and they forced Roberts into action again when he got behind Sonny Miles’ drive inside the box.
On the stroke of half-time, the home side screamed for a penalty when Jordan Greenidge knocked the ball past the on-rushing Roberts before falling to the ground – the referee, however, showed no hesitation in reaching for his pocket to show the Angels forward a yellow card for an apparent dive.
The action continued at speed after the restart with Jack Wood’s driven effort whistling narrowly wide early in the second half for the hosts, before the Wings finally broke the deadlock on 55 minutes in some style.
A brilliant, swift and free-flowing move forward saw Welling move it from back to front, resulting in Daniel Nkrumah providing a pinpoint cross for Azeez, who calmly cushioned a volley home into the back of the net.
Tonbridge looked for an immediate response with Lewis Collins firing just wide moments later, while Roberts made another superb save as he dived to his right to keep out Greenidge’s header.
On 68 minutes, Aransibia came even closer for the home side when he crashed a shot back off the crossbar from just outside the box, while the visitors hit the woodwork themselves at the other end from a gilt-edged opportunity.
Azeez’s through-ball and a slip by an Angels defender allowed Payne to race through with just the keeper to beat.
With Jonathan Henly having rushed to the edge of his box, Payne placed his shot past him which came agonisingly back off the left-hand upright.
Tonbridge rallied late on as they desperately went in search for an equaliser and there was very nearly some late drama with keeper Henly coming up for a set-piece deep in injury time.
First, the shot-stopper saw an effort well blocked on the edge of the box, before he had the final chance of the game when his header was tipped over by his fellow custodian Roberts.
Welling’s astute defending was well worthy of their eventual victory and Warren Feeney’s men can now celebrate a first league victory on the road since September as they prepare to take on the Angels once again in the return fixture at Park View Road on New Year’s Day.
Tonbridge Angels: Henly, Fielding, Braham-Barrett, Miles, Swift, Gard (Turner 74), Greenidge, Collins (Fagg 82), Wood, Aransibia, Wagstaff.
Subs (not used): Parkinson, Hinds, Golding.
Booked: Wagstaff 45+1 (foul on Nkrumah), Greenidge 45+5 (simulation), Swift 66 (foul on Maloney), Powell 89 (foul)
Welling United: Roberts, Jones, Parry, Sendles-White, Powell, Dunne, Kassarate, Maloney, Nkrumah (Elito 67), Payne (Curran 84), Azeez (Barnes 90+1).
Subs (not used): McKenzie-Lyle, Andrews.
Booked: Kassarate 43 (foul on Swift), Azeez 40+3 (unsporting behaviour), Payne 84 (time wasting)
Goal: Azeez 55
Referee: Jack Packman