WGC’s effectively took on SSML Div 1’s first-team in this fixture at Rothamsted Park, in midweek.
The home club, who hadn’t played at first-team level since February 21, due to a combination of waterlogged pitches and a quirk of the fixture system, fielded seven of the side that beat Div 1 leaders Biggleswade FC in a promotion six-pointer three weeks ago and had another three of that squad, on the bench.
In contrast, Russ Giblin’s WGC side contained only returning keeper Olly Leslie, out for four months with a serious knee injury, from the Herns Lane first-team squad.
And for the opening quarter of the game, that disparity in strength and experience clearly told as Harpenden strode into a three goal lead in the first 15 minutes, with a double from the impressive Alex Yearwood and a flashing unstoppable header from the vastly experienced Dave Keenleyside.
But from that point, WGC’s youngsters, ably led by player-coach Sav Caliskan and with several outstanding defensive performances, including their teenage centre-back pairing of Will McClelland, just 16 and 18-year-old Robbie Steedman and Tom Grey and Mitchell Popham, impressive in midfield, not only frustrated the home side, but took the game to them.
Caliskan fashioned and scored a fine goal five minutes from the break, winning a vital tackle, playing winger Owain Page in and racing on to take the return to slot into the far corner, to make it 3-1 at the interval.
In the second-half, as Harpenden, thinking the game won, made changes, the Herns Lane youngsters began to force the pace and the home side had a real let-off when their keeper Connor Samson, handled a Nathan Isherwood effort outside his area, but escaped with a yellow card!
Substitute Jordan Brooks skied over WGC’s best second-half chance and at the other end, keeper Leslie showed his recovery is well on track making two outstanding late saves to foil Kyle McLeish and then an on-target Keenleyside free-kick.
So it was scant justice on an outstanding WGC performance in the last 75 minutes of the fixture, when McLeish added a fourth from close in, deep into stoppage time, to stretch the winning margin to three goals.
WGC U-25’s: Leslie, Rose, McClelland, Steedman, Evans, Popham, Caliskan, Grey, Page, Dimmock, Isherwood. Subs:-Mahrouche, Brooks, Rchardson, White (all used).