WELWYN GC’s third meeting of the Southern League campaign this season with Barton Rovers, produced their first defeat by the Beds’ side, and the Citizens were left wondering how they had lost this Boxing Day fixture.
The previous two – one early season league meeting and the other in the second round of the CCS League Cup – had produced single goal victories for Adam Fisher’s side, 1-0 and 2-1 and although this third meeting was close again, WGC were left bemoaning a hatful of missed chances, particularly in the first-half.
It was 45 minutes the visitors dominated and could and probably should, have turned around at least a couple of goals to the good.
Goal-a-game striker Stuart Zanone missed out here to preserve his impressive record, but not for the lack of chances.
The powerfully built striker had around half-a-dozen chances to have made his mark on this game.
The first came as early as the eighth minute, when Dan Bond, in for the suspended Jon Clements, found Zanone with a slick through ball. The striker fired past Barton keeper George Malone only to see his effort rebound off the foot of the post to safety.
A through ball from Nick Elliott gave Zanone his second chance, just three minutes later, but slightly off balance, the striker miscued wide.
The worst miss came on 17 minutes, when skipper Danny Payne played Bond down the right. He got over a good, low cross that found Zanone
in the centre of the area, just yards from the Barton goal, but he skied his effort way over the top!.
And so it continued, Barton rarely presenting a threat to Dan Green’s goal, other than a Victor Osobu effort that rose over the visitors’ cross bar 10 minutes from the interval.
WGC closed a half they had dominated, with a couple of more misses. Dave Keenleyside’s defence-splitting pass put Bond in again, he drilled it across goal, but Zanone failed to control it this time.
The striker did better with a powerful cross-shot from the right, that keeper Malone managed to fingertip away with a one-handed save. Home skipper Paul Andrews cleared away the danger.
Then on the stroke of the interval, the marauding Lee Close flashed a powerful header goalward from a Charlie Smith corner. The effort was blocked on the line and Bond just couldn’t turn it home from short range.
The second-half wasn’t anywhere as good for the Herns Lane side.
Once Elliott had blazed two early efforts over and wide, in the half’s opening minutes, Barton began to come into the game and WGC’s goal led a bit of charmed life.
Home forward Drew Phillips struck a fine opening wide as the Beds side began to impose themselves on the game, for really the first time.
On 62 minutes, they had the ball in the net, Syd Ibie bundling in a rebound, after the dangerous Osobu had his 25 yard free-kick excellently tipped onto a post by the diving Green, but Ibie was rightly judged offside.
It was only a momentary let-off for WGC. In the very next minute and raid, the ball was played into their area. Close got a block on Osobu, but the rebound was kind for the Barton man, who put his effort away at the second attempt.
Manager Fisher threw on Ashley Kersey for Smith, but the WGC manager’s options were strictly limited by the fact that his other substitutes – May, Dada and newcomer Cassidy-Sinclair – hadn’t arrived, having been held up in heavy traffic.
In truth, once behind, Fisher’s side looked unlikely to be able to forge an equaliser, the notable exception being a late header from Zanone from a Keenleyside corner, that unfortunately had a similar fate as all the striker’s first-half chances.
WGC: Green, Rolfe, Close, Payne, Sexton, Spaul, Elliott, Keenleyside, Smith (Kersey 67), Zanone, Bond.