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Wickens scores added time winner as Newbury maintain title charge with dramatic victory over Woodley

Player-manager Ben Wickens scored a 93rd minute winner as Newbury came from behind to beat bottom side Woodley United Development in dramatic circumstances on Saturday.

Wickens, who has been in fine goalscoring form of late, felt his side’s character and strength-in-depth made the difference as Newbury won 3-2 for the fifth time this term.

Woodley, who had won just one league game in 12 prior to kick off, gave the Thames Valley Division One promotion-chasers an almighty scare with a committed, hardworking performance that saw them lead twice in the match.

The visitors opened the scoring after 17 minutes through Deshawn Whittaker but Newbury were back on terms in the 33rd minute when good work from George Mowat down the right found Wickens at the back post and he laid the ball off to skipper Luke Polding to fire home the equaliser from the edge of the box.

Skipper Luke Polding scored Newbury’s opener
Skipper Luke Polding scored Newbury’s opener

Despite Woodley’s determination Newbury were dominant but were unable to take their chances and were punished when Whittaker restored the visitors’ lead with his second goal 20 minutes into the second half. The goal was not without controversy as the linesman raised his flag to signal offside only for the referee to overrule his assistant and allow the goal to stand.

However Newbury equalised for a second time 10 minutes later. This time Polding turned provider as he set up Aaron Voller to draw the home side level once again.

Newbury pressed for a winner but the ball simply would not go in and as the game headed for added time it looked as though Woodley were on course for just their fourth point of the season and a result which would have dealt the home side’s title challenge a serious blow.

However Wickens, who is doing so much to help the club return to its former glory – both on and off the pitch – had other ideas. In the 93rd minute a cross was flicked on by Dean Stockwell and Wickens somehow managed to turn the ball through a crowd of desperate defenders and in to win the game for Newbury, just their second victory in seven games in all competitions.

And match-winner Wickens was full of praise for the character shown by his side to win another game late on.

“It’s not the first time we’ve come from behind to win,” he said.

“These lads won’t give up and will work hard until the final whistle.

“Once again having a strong squad of 16 has proven key, with all five subs coming on in the second half and giving us the energy we needed to stay on top and keep creating chances.”

While league leaders Binfield Development put seven past Burghfield to maintain their three point gap over Newbury, Reading YMCA Rapids slipped up at second bottom Hambleden and are level with Newbury having played a game more.

The title race could hardly be more in the balance – if Newbury win their game in hand, they’d move level on points with the leaders.

Newbury host eighth-placed Goring this weekend at Henwick, 2pm kick-off.

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