Wallington 2 Forest Hall 3
By Kyle Reardon
A FINAL-day defeat for Wallington could not extinguish what has been a tremendous season that has lit up the Alliance Division One.
Trailing 2-0 with half-an-hour to go last Wednesday, Forest Hall staged a dramatic comeback to secure their league status and, with it, inflict only the second home defeat on The Greens all year.
Ben Fenwick opened the scoring with a rasping drive from 30 yards that swerved more times than the road up to Scot’s Gap.
The midfielder then turned provider in the second half as his jinking run from the halfway line took him into the penalty area. Shaping to pull the trigger again, he conned the defender before coolly playing in Gilmartin, who slotted home into the corner for his ninth of the campaign.
The goal capped a terrific season for the pocket-sized frontman, who, on top of his Sunday League commitments, will have played close to 50 games this year. The fact that he was still going strong in May was a testament to himself as he started the season as Wallington’s best player, scoring four goals and a handful of assists by the end of October.
He was one of seven players to have played more than 30 games for The Greens this season amid the squad rotation that has been necessary with so many matches to manage. Captain Alex Slack, who has returned after almost the whole of last season out injured, Kyle Reardon, Jake Walton, Sam Walton, Jordan Nellis and Justin Millican complete the other six, with the latter the only one to have played and started every single match.
Converted into a centre-half this year, Millican has been a rock of consistency and has can certainly been a major factor in a season that has returned 11 clean sheets.
A further factor is, without doubt, the growing influence of Chris Wood in goal, whose cat-like reflexes and constant communication has oozed confidence throughout the side. For the first half of the year, though, the experienced Woodsa was just as happy off the pitch as on it, as he took exceptional new signing Matty Lees under his wing, before injury cut short his season.
The pressures of being chased at the top have been a new experience for many in the squad this year.
The youthful vigour within the team has been a breath of fresh air at times but the experience littered throughout has been an invaluable quality that has provided the backbone to complement the younger players.
Trevor Baston, Chris Moffit and Mark Jewitt have all played just under 30 games, the former in a number of positions along the back-four, while up-top, David Featherstone continued his impeccable goal-scoring record by scoring in his 19th consecutive season in a Greens shirt.
Stevie Warwick returned to add creativity into the middle while the evergreen Nick McClughin, who is also the team’s coach, has continued to prove his doubters (if there are any) wrong by featuring in almost 20 games this term in his 39th year.
Another player who has enjoyed a terrific season is John Paxton who has excelled in front of goal, scoring 17 while laying 14 on for his team-mates. Despite this sizeable tally though, Paxton was third in the goal-scoring stakes, outshone by the young duo of Nellis and S Walton, who racked up an astonishing 59 goals between them.
Also keen to hog the limelight off the field, the two Morpeth lads certainly hogged it on with a season full of spellbinding performances that included 13 man-of-the-matches, seven for Walton, and eight hat-tricks, seven for Nellis who also finished as the league’s top marksman for a second consecutive season.
The 20 and 21-year-olds have matured tenfold this season and that devastating sight of them running at defences will be a one that everyone with a Wallington interest can look forward to seeing in the Premier Division from August.
l Wallington FC host their end-of-season presentation night on June 14, at Morpeth Riverside Lodge. Ex-players and anybody with an affinity with the club are welcome Tickets are available by calling 07798 610 166 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org