Laird pleased despite heavy defeat

Ben Kirk.

Ben Kirk. - Credit: Archant

WESTON’S play-off hopes have been dented after a 4-1 defeat at champions-elect Welling United.

The result, coupled with wins for their promotion rivals, has knocked the Seagulls out of the play-off places with just two games to play.

Welling forward Kurtis Guthrie’s 18-minute first-half hat-trick – his first goals for the club in 25 appearances – did the damage on Saturday.

Manger Craig Laird said it was a ‘disappointing defeat’ and that while Welling deserved to win, the difference between the two sides was not as great as the scoreline suggested.

He said: “We could have gone one up or pulled it back to 2-1 but the ball didn’t bobble our way. I thought we played really well. They took their chances and they were better in both boxes.

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“I didn’t think there was a massive gulf between the sides but taking our chance has been our Achilles heel.”

Any realistic hopes of Weston repeating their 2-0 home success over Welling in February were extinguished before half-time. On-loan goalkeeper Lewis Carey twice came to Weston’s rescue with smart stops, before Guthrie opened the scoring midway through the first period.

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The teenage forward headed past the Bristol City loanee from eight-yards after being picked out by team-mate Ross Lafayette.

The home side continued to press and Weston found themselves further behind just four minutes later, when Guthrie cut in from the left and beat Carey from close range at his near post.

Ross Stearn and Brett Trowbridge both went close to pulling one back but Welling’s dominance was confirmed five minutes before half-time.

Another close range header from Guthrie sealed his hat-trick, despite protests from Weston players that Carey had prevented the ball from crossing the line.

The Seagulls improved after the break but conceded a fourth with a quarter of an hour to play.

Lafayette was again the architect as he helped set up Jake Reid to tap in from close range, leaving Welling just a point shy of clinching the title.

Weston’s persistence paid off though with a very late consolation as substitute Pete Monks reduced the deficit in the second minute of injury time, with the Seagulls’ only shot on target.

Wins for Eastleigh, Boreham Wood and Chelmsford City this week have seen Weston slip to sixth in the Blue Square South table and out of the play-offs.

The Seagulls have played a game more and go into Saturday’s game at home to Billericay knowing a win is essential, if they are realistically going to have a chance of making the play-offs.

Despite slipping down two places, Laird said he has a ‘sneaky feeling’ Weston will record a top-five finish and clinch a play-off place.

He said: “If we win our two remaining games then we have done all we can and I will be pleased.”

Two wins would take Weston to 70 points, one fewer than was enough to secure a top-five finish last year.

Billericay however have plenty to play for themselves, as anything less than three points could see them relegated.

Laird said: “We’d probably prefer playing a side comfortable in mid-table. But we have to be good enough to overcome them. If not then we aren’t good enough for the play-offs.”

The Seagulls will hold a presentation evening at the social club after the game, with a buffet at 6.15pm. Tickets, priced £12 for adults, are still available from the club.

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