9:00am Monday 14th May 2012
By Mark Doig
LEE Noble’s brilliant third minute strike proved decisive as Dartford edged out Welling United 1-0 in the Conference South play-off final to win promotion to the Conference.
There was little to choose between the teams in the first period but Dartford claimed the early goal and after a spell of late first half pressure, nullified anything Welling attempted and ultimately deserved their victory.
Noble’s early goal gave Welling keeper Craig Holloway no chance and presented the Darts with just the start they wanted.
In an attempt to make a quick response Ben Martin saw an effort blocked fearlessly by Luke Wilkinson.
Joe Healy then hit a curler from 25 yards which was claimed by Dartford custodian Louis Wells.
At the other end, Tom Champion’s free-kick was palmed away by Holloway at the expense of a corner as Dartford threatened to increase their lead.
After failing to make the most of a good spell of possession, including three corners, Dartford allowed Welling back into the game and Healy and Luis Cumbers combined to give Loick Pires a chance which was charged down by Tom Bonner.
Cumbers then beat the offside trap and having got to the byline, pulled a pass back to Healy whose shot from the edge of the area flew just over the bar.
Noble was cautioned for a bad tackle on Lee Clarke before a ferocious goal-bound shot from Healy was headed away bravely by Wilkinson, which caused him to struggle to stay on his feet for a couple of minutes.
Having regrouped at half time, Dartford controlled the second half and looked the more likely to score again.
Elliot Bradbrook saw a header palmed away by Holloway and Danny Harris’ effort was blocked by Martin at the expense of another corner.
Noble’s shot was then deflected past the post by Jack Obersteller before a theatrical tumble by Harris when tackled by Loui Fazakerley resulted in Dartford’s second booking.
Dean Cracknell and Clarke then made blocks on the edge of their own penalty area before Holloway saved a long distance Adam Green shot.
After taking a long time to tie his boot lace, referee Paul Rees asked Noble to leave the field of play.
And when the Darts goal scorer re-entered the field without permission, Mr Rees showed leniency rather than applying the letter of the law by booking him for a second time.
As Noble awaited permission to come on again, Wings player-boss Jamie Day had a free-kick gathered by Wells before the injured Jack Parkinson was replaced by Anthony Acheampong.
Harry Baker came on for Cracknell but Welling did not threaten again.
As the game went into injury time, Jacob Erskine was booked for kicking the ball away and was substituted promptly with Tony Garrod coming on.
Mr Rees’ final whistle was a signal for Dartford to start their celebrations as Welling watched on considering what might have been.
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Dartford: Wells, Burns, Green, Bonner, Wilkinson, Champion, Noble, Rogers, Erskine (Garrod 90), Bradbrook, Harris. Unused substitutes: Hayes, Goodacre, Graham, Young.
Welling United: Holloway, Fazakerley, Obersteller, Day, Martin, Parkinson (Acheampong 69), Cracknell (Baker 74), Clarke, Cumbers, Healy, Pires. Unused substitutes Sambrook, Kinch, Turner.
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