THE best that could be said of this Welwyn GC performance was that their damage limitation exercise in the second-half was a successful one.
For the first 45 minutes of WGC’s penultimate home game of their first Southern League Div 1 campaign, they were totally outgunned and out-performed by visitors still chasing a near certain play-off place, but fearful that their poorish goals per game ratio, might KO their promotion bid.
Certainly, any worries Bedford had on that score, didn’t show as they took total control of a WGC side that didn’t show any of the qualities that had so surprised fellow play-off contenders Corby, a week earlier.
Manager Dean Barker admitted afterwards: “Sometimes you play against opposition that is better than you. We made defensive mistakes and had a goalkeeping error that didn’t help, but we were beaten by the far better team today.’’
So the Citizens still need a couple of points to ensure Southern League status for next season in their final two games, happily against the division’s current bottom two – Dunstable Town and Aylesbury FC.
This game started brightly enough for the Clarets, Matty Campbell-Mhlope, WGC’s brightest performer on a day when he didn’t have a lot of opposition, twice making space for himself to fire in decent efforts but both straight at Bedford keeper Jones.
The visitors took the lead in nine minutes, when WGC fell asleep at a free-kick. Bedford full-back Ben Ford was left unattended and the kick
was switched to him. He delivered a pinpoint cross was that was headed back across goal, where striker Jack Vasey slammed it home.
Restored keeper Reuben Rabstein had a let-off when he mishandled, going in from a crossfield pass with Bedford’s Leon Lobjoit, the ball bounced off the pair of them to hit the far post.
Campbell-Mhlope had another on-target effort as he presented WGC’s only threat.
Rabstein foiled a Lobjoit effort after the Bedford man threaded his way through several home challenges to fire goalwards, but the keeper did less well with Bedford’s second goal on 28 minutes.
A Bedford passing movement ended with full-back Luke Kirkpatrick joining the attack. He hit a strong 25 yarder that was straight at the home keeper, who took the pace off the effort, but then fumbled it and turned it over his own line.
That second reverse seemed to knock the heart of WGC’s young side. Although Eusebio Da Silva and skipper Dave Keenleyside both had efforts clear the Bedford bar, it was the visitors who looked eager for more.
WGC were struck a further blow in first-half stoppage time. Central defender Jack Humphrey had to be helped off with an ankle injury and while the home bench were making the change, Bedford added a third with a second from Vasey – a flicked header wide of the keeper, from a free-kick.
Isaac Ebelebe replaced Humphrey for the second-half as the home team re-organised.
There was a bizarre moment 20 minutes into the half, when WGC might have thought they had reduced the deficit, a Keenleyside free-kick, on the near post, fumbled over his own line by Bedford keeper Ashlee Jones.
But dazed full-back Jon Sexton hadn’t fully left the field to be substituted by Jesse Walklin and referee Cheek ordered the kick to be taken again.
This time WGC managed to knock it back across the Bedford goal, where Eoin McKeown, two goal hero from the previous week, forced it wide from only a couple of yards out.
It was to prove the home side’s only worthwhile attack of the second-half, while Bedford might have had a fourth 10 minutes from time.
The dangerous Vasey charged down a clearance from WGC’s third substitute of the afternoon, Charlie Pattison, brushed his way past Ebelebe and Rabstein, partly atoned with a good stop, deflecting the effort away with a save for a corner.
But in general, it was a game to forget for Dean Barker’s side in front of the Southern League Div 1 Central’s biggest attendance of the afternoon.
WGC: Rabstein, Mace, Rolfe, Humphrey (Ebelebe 45), Sexton (Walklin 65), Ochieng, Keenleyside, Camnpbell-Mhlope, McKeown, Da Silva, Bailey (Pattison 72).