Hullbridge Sports 2-2 Welling Town
Pre-season friendly – 8th August 2020
Match Report from Hullbridge Sports
After finally welcoming the return of football on Tuesday to dust off the cobwebs, Hullbridge hosted Welling Town in their second game of pre-season; a game where rust was once again a prominent feature in the home side’s performance.
Naturally, the aforementioned cobwebs began to wear away to create a game of two halves. The first 45 began similarly to Tuesday’s game against Dunmow Town; scrappy, competitive, and not all too action-packed. Yet, as the clock struck 10, Caleb Afoke and Welling Town were wheeling away in celebration. With 10 minutes gone, Darren Manning’s side were worryingly on the back foot.
The goal, tapped home from a corner, failed to give Hullbridge a wake-up call; they continued to struggle and sit on the back foot. The warning signs were there for the first goal: yet they went unanswered by Hullbridge, and the warning signs were once again prevalent as Welling searched for a second; a second goal that would have arrived but for a superbly saved penalty by Tom O’Reilly in between the Hullbridge sticks.
The young goalkeeper guessed correctly to dive towards his right-hand side and keep Hullbridge in the game. The save, both crucial and perfectly executed, signalled a return of the Hullbridge we are used to seeing, too, as the home side began stepping onto the front foot. And just five minutes after the penalty save, a Dan Walker rocket levelled the game.
The forward picked the ball up outside the box before rifling an unstoppable effort into the back of the net. The Welling keeper was left rooted to the spot; Walker was left celebrating; most importantly, Hullbridge were back level.
One thing was for certain heading into halftime: more goals were to come after a dramatic first half in the second game of pre-season.
Performance levels instantly increased in the second period; a venture into the Hullbridge half became a rarity for Welling Town despite causing problems in the first half. In contrast to the first half, Hullbridge asserted dominance; created chances and took set-piece after set-piece, each one cleared by the towering Welling defence.
Yet, in the face of unrelenting Hullbridge pressure, it was Welling Town who eventually took the lead. Such is the way of the beautiful, though in this instance harsh on the home side, reality of football, Welling Town, after rarely getting a consistent foot on the ball, took the lead.
Again, it was from a corner, as Rob Gillman played the role of goalscorer to tap home with 6 minutes to play. With the goal coming so late, too, one would think a Hullbridge reply was near impossible. Well, think again.
In truly dramatic fashion, in what turned out to be the last kick of the game, the referee pointed to the spot for a Hullbridge penalty. Kieran Bishop said that Hullbridge are ‘flying like unicorns’ in pre-season last week. Well, a week later, and the forward himself was flying away in unicorn-like style after converting the equalising penalty in the last kick of the game.
Though left disappointed by another draw, Darren Manning will be pleased with his side’s resilient nature as they continue to prepare for the FA Cup tie in three weeks time.