Nine-man Welling United earned a heroic point at unbeaten league-leaders Ebbsfleet United on Saturday afternoon.
The Wings had enjoyed the better of the game in the first half, taking the lead through Yaser Kasim’s goal on his full debut, but were given an uphill task when Stefan Payne was shown a straight red card before half-time.
The hosts restored parity before the break, but could not break down Welling in the second half, even when James Dunne was given his marching orders with seven minutes remaining.
And with the game clocking up double digits of injury-time, it looked as if the home side would claim the points from the spot with a penalty awarded at the death, but keeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle was having none of it, keeping Rakish Bingham’s effort out to claim a memorable point and become just the second team to take any point off Ebbsfleet this season.
The first opportunity of the afternoon came the way of the visitors when Manny Parry got his head on the end of a free-kick into the box and forced Mark Cousins into a good save to tip it over.
Come the 20th minute, the Wings got themselves into a deserved lead. Having nicked the ball off the Fleet defence in the final third, Welling remained patient, knocking the ball around wonderfully before it was finally laid off to Kasim in the box and the Iraq international powered home a brilliant finish to put his side in front.
The Wings continued to take control in the first period and continued to threaten, with Jamie Sendles-White sending a shot over from distance after more good build-up. But the balance of play would change six minutes before the break when Payne was shown a straight red card. After asking for a foul and being denied, the forward was dismissed by the referee for the apparent use of bad language.
This gave the unbeaten hosts, who had been second to Welling throughout the opening 40 minutes, a boost as they began to push forwards.
Toby Edser hit the post with an effort from the edge of the box shortly after, before Fleet bagged their leveller five minutes into first-half time injury-time through Craig Tanner, who found the bottom right-hand corner with a placed effort inside the box.
The second half proved to be a frustrating one as a huge amount of stoppages and bookings conspired to prevent a game of football taking place.
As the half wore on into the latter stages, Ebbsfleet began to add some pressure to the tired legs of the 10 men with Dominic Pollen firing narrowly wide, but the Welling defence continued to stand firm.
On 83 minutes, Welling’s task became even bigger when they were reduced to nine men after skipper Dunne was controversially given his marching orders for a second-bookable offence, apparently after running into the referee while tracking back.
And so, Warren Feeney’s men would have to dig extremely deep and they did so heroically standing up to everything the league leaders had to throw at them.
Bodies were thrown on the line quite brilliantly until, in the ninth minute of time added on, the home side were awarded a penalty when Jamie Sendles-White was adjudged to have handled in the box.
It looked for all the world that the Wings’ heroics would count for nothing and it would be up to McKenzie-Lyle to maintain some justice.
Lo and behold, he would do just that, diving at full stretch to keep out Rakish Bingham to spark wild scenes of celebration on the terraces and touchline from those representing the Wings.
In truth, it was no more than Welling had deserved from an excellent performance in which they had everything go against them and it’s another point on the board for Feeney’s men who will patch themselves up for Tuesday’s trip to Braintree Town.
Welling United: McKenzie-Lyle, Cox, Parry, Nelson (Dickens 86), Sendles-White, Ezennolim, Kasim, Dunne, Elito (Kassarate 64), Payne, Azeez (Papadopoulos 76).
Subs (not used): Pitterson, Aransibia.
Booked: Sendles-White 40 (dissent), Dunne 43 (foul on Tanner), Elito 44 (obstruction), Cox 55 (foul), Ezennolim 88 (time wasting) Parry 90+7 (time wasting).
Sent off: Payne 39 (foul and abusive language), Dunne 83 (second-bookable offence)
Goal: Kasim 20
Ebbsfleet United: Cousins, O’Neill (Jombati 89),, Solly, Hollis, Cundle, Sterling-James (McQueen 79), N’Guessan (Coulthirst 64), Edser, Tanner, Poleon, Bingham.
Subs (not used): Firth, Chapman.
Booked: Bingham 15 (dissent)
Goal: Tanner 45+5
Referee: Ben Atkinson