Welling United fell to a 4-2 defeat to Dulwich Hamlet at Park View Road on Saturday afternoon in what was a fiery encounter in DA16.
Aaron Barnes’ opener was cancelled out on the stroke of half-time before the visitors went ahead inside the first minute of the second half.
Ade Azeez’s 13th goal of the season just 11 minutes from the end appeared to have earned a point for the Wings, but two Hamlet goals at the death condemned them to a first home defeat of 2023.
The news pre-match saw the disappointment that Daniel Nkrumah had been recalled from his loan spell by Leyton Orient, bringing an end to his impressive stint with the Wings, but that was followed by the news of Dylan Gavin’s loan arrival from Charlton Athletic – and the forward went straight into the starting XI alongside Ade Azeez up top.
A blood and thunder first-half started with John Powell coming close for the visitors with a shot wide of the post as the sliding tackled started flying in on the muddy surface.
On 21 minutes, a glorious opportunity came and went for the home side when Azeez failed to capitalise on an error from Hamlet stopper Charlie Grainger, who kicked air when trying to clear a routine ball upfield, leaving Azeez with the task to simply lift a shot into an empty net, only to fire straight into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Five minutes later, however, Welling would take the lead, albeit in seemingly fortuitous circumstances.
Barnes’ deep cross from the right flank caught out Grainger and flew straight into the corner of the net to make the right-back the most unlikely of goalscoring heroes.
Indeed, his muted celebration was all that was needed to confirm that he perhaps did not mean for it to end up in the back of the net!
Moments later, the hosts threatened again, this time with a very purposeful effort on goal from debutant Gavin who sent a swerving drive towards the top corner which was kept out by a good Grainger stop.
It looked as if Welling would take their narrow lead back to the dressing rooms at the break, but Dulwich had other ideas, clawing back an equaliser in controversial fashion deep in first-half injury time.
A free-kick right on the edge of the box was fired straight into the wall, but the ball ricocheted to the left and into the path of Will Wood, who looked to be standing in an offside position. The Hamlet left-back duly finished low to equalise and the Wings’ protests aimed at the linesman on the far side fell on deaf ears.
The hosts were slow out of the traps as the second half restarted and Dulwich, suddenly, found themselves in front less than 60 seconds after the restart.
Former Charlton man Johl Powell dragged the Wings defence and rolled an effort into the bottom left-hand corner to make it 2-1 and give the home side a hill to climb.
The next half hour was played out in frustrating fashion with the game broken up by plenty of stoppages as Welling struggled to find a flow in the game.
But that all changed in the 79th minute when Warren Feeney’s men bagged a leveller with their first real opening of the half.
Maloney’s free-kick into the box bounced straight through to Amadou Kassarate, whose poked effort was met by Grainger’s hand, but Azeez was on hand on the line to tap in and ensure the ball would cross the line.
The goal gave the home side a real lift in the last 10 as they pushed for a winner.
Sub Antony Papadopoulos sent a volley just wide following a corner as the Wings began to look more likely, but in the last minute of regulation time, Dulwich got the goal that mattered.
A controversial free-kick awarded on the left-hand side was swung in and Jack Holland was there to head in.
And as tempers began to flare, the visitor added another moments later to put the seal on it, with Daniel Smith’s low shot from the edge of the box nestling in the bottom corner.
The Wings will now have to dust themselves off for Tuesday’s trip to Chippenham Town.
Welling United: McKenzie-Lyle, Barnes, Parry, Sendles-White, Powell, Kassarate, Dunne (Elito 76), Maloney, Ezennolim, Gavin, Azeez.
Subs (not used): Howard, Papadopoulos, Jones, Andrews.
Booked: Maloney 69 (foul on Porter), Elito 88 (foul on Felix)
Goals: Barnes 26, Azeez 79
Dulwich Hamlet: Grainger, Wood (Taylor 65), Holland, Raymond, Mills, Owes, Porter (Smith 72), Felix, Powell, Vint, Krasniqi.
Subs (not used): Jones, Comley, Hibbert.
Booked: Wood 62 (foul on Barnes), Mills 69 (foul on Powell), Raymond 82 (foul on Gavin).
Goals: Wood 45+3, Powell 46, Holland 89, Smith 90+2
Referee: Aaron Farmer