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Welling United 1-1 Bath City
STIFLING heat greeted the teams as Welling United were forced to settle for an opening day home draw for the third consecutive season.
Player-manager Jamie Day’s suspension meant he was the only squad player unavailable but he will have been delighted with the way his team started.
Ross Lafayette, one of four players making their Wings league debut, almost made a dream start when his fierce volley produced a wonderful save from Glyn Garner who was then up quickly to smother the ball before Luis Cumbers could pounce.
New captain, Lee Clarke, shot over before Bath had their first opportunity but Adie Harris was unable to keep his long shot down.
The Romans took the lead in the 20th minute when a long shot from Aaron Brown caught Welling goalkeeper Sam Mott by surprise and he was only able to palm the ball into the back of his own net.
Harry Baker curled a shot that Garner saved but Bath had a great opportunity to double their lead.
Charlie Griffin was allowed a free run across goal to meet a corner unopposed at the near post but his header just missed the angle of post and crossbar.
Garner did well again when claiming from Cumbers after an excellent first touch from Jack Obersteller’s long pass had almost taken it round him, and then Joe Healy saw his header saved from Baker’s free kick.
Theo Fairweather-Johnson had the last chance of the half when he burst through but his shot went beyond the far post.
Fraser Franks, Clarke and Loui Fazakerley combined well to give Cumbers a shooting opportunity that was blocked for Clarke to follow up with an effort that flew over.
Lafayette then set up another opportunity for Clarke to fire at goal but this time a deflection from Gethin Jones took the sting out of the attempt and Garner was able to gather.
Franks was cautioned for handball before Welling levelled the scores.
Baker’s deep cross was knocked back across goal by Cumbers and Lafayette was on hand to finish from close range.
Bath responded by introducing new signing Kurtis Guthrie, who had represented Welling in their first pre-season friendly, in place of Kerry Morgan, whilst an injury to Fazakerley meant Welling had to change things slightly with Franks moving to right back and substitute Ben Martin taking his place alongside the excellent Anthony Acheampong.
Failing to react quickly to a short corner, Welling were indebted to Obersteller who cleared Guthrie’s header off the line with his left knee.
Mott claimed another long shot from Brown but it was Welling who finished the strongest and they came desperately close in the final minute.
Healy’s long cross was headed back by Martin for Scott Kinch to head at goal but Garner’s full length dive enabled him to tip the ball onto the post and away.
Although Baker cut in once more his shot was deflected away for a corner and the Wings’ last chance was gone.
Welling United: Mott, Fazakerley (Martin 70), Obersteller, Healy, Franks, Acheampong, Fairweather-Johnson (Kinch 65), Clarke, Cumbers, Lafayette (Main 75), Baker. Unused substitutes Turner, Hughes-Mason.