WELWYN GC produced a performance of real mettle at the home of the Steelmen, to all but mathematically secure step four football again for next season, with their best display of this campaign.
Dean Barker’s side won away for the first time under their new manager to revenge a thumping 5-2 home defeat by play-off bound, third placed Corby in February and stretch a seven point cushion between them and the Southern League Div 1 Central’s bottom two.
Of that bottom pair, Aylesbury FC, at the foot of the table, are certain to be demoted on facility grounds anyway.
Two of the Citizens’s last three fixtures of the season are against two of the four sides below them, with doomed Aylesbury visiting the BP Mitchell, on the season’s final day.
Manager Barker was delighted with “a great display’’. WGC outplayed their hosts, who are certain to finish third, in all departments.
Barker made changes from the side that picked up a spirited point at North Leigh seven days earlier, preferring the recently signed Reuben Rabstein to Lewis Todd in goal, drafting in Jack Humphrey for suspended Dylan Ebengo and welcoming back skipper Dave Keenleyside in midfield.
Keenleyside was immediately in the action with an early ball intended to put Elliot Bailey in, but home keeper Dan George kicked clear off the WGC forward’s foot.
The visitors continued to impress and again the skipper supplied the ammunition that saw Eoin McKeown, later a two goal hero, volley over the Corby bar in 10 minutes.
Rabstein, who had a nervous and unhappy debut a fortnight before in the defeat by Kempston, did much better to block an early Carta effort then on 18 minutes WGC were deservedly ahead.
They were awarded a free-kick when Matty Campbell-Mhlope, another of the afternoon’s stars, was brought down. Keenleyside took the kick and his effort, taking a deflection, was good enough to beat George low down for a 1-0 lead.
Moments later, Rabstein made a fine save, as dangerous Corby winger Jordan Crawford shook off Jack Mace’s attentions and raced clear, but the WGC keeper pulled off a fine save, pushing the effort away at full length.
WGC’s defence was disrupted when they lost Mace with a nose injury on the half-hour, Dan Carr coming on, but as an outstanding half moved into stoppage time, the Citizens fashioned the goal of the afternoon.
Jay Rolfe played a ball out from the back, Campbell-Mhlope collected, slipped a couple of challenges and played a fine pass into the path of McKeown, who raced clear to fire wide to George’s left and double the WGC interval lead.
If Corby were shell-shocked by the first-half reversal, they were even more in awe, within three minutes of the re-start.
Eusebio Da Silva picked up a loose ball 25 yards out and hit a fierce effort. Keeper George took the sting out of the effort, but couldn’t prevent it rolling over the line behind him for a third WGC goal.
The near 400 home crowd began to get at their own side as Barker’s boys continued to dominate them, further fine work by Campbell-Mhlope, with another run and clever chip, saw McKeown rise above the home defence, but clip the crossbar with his header.
Just before the hour, the home team and crowd seemed to sense a glimmer of hope, when they netted their 100th goal of the season to reduce the deficit, Joe Carta escaping the marking to head a Crawford corner past Rabstein from a couple of yards.
But WGC went straight up the other end, Henry Ochieng collected a lay-back from Jack Humphrey to hit a tremendous 25 yarder that twanged the crossbar again, in another Corby let-off.
A Welwyn fourth wasn’t long in coming and from a corner, Bailey flashed a near post header in under the bar. Again keeper George took a lot of power off the effort, but couldn’t hold and McKeown added his second of the afternoon, squeezing in the rebound.
McKeown had a glorious chance of a hat-trick when played in by Ochieng, but got his angles all wrong at the vital moment and screwed the effort.
The game ended on sour note, just as it had at North Leigh seven days earlier, Da Silva again being the victim of a reckless, over-the-top challenge, this time from Corby midfielder Connor Kennedy, which earned a straight red card from referee Saunby.
Fortunately, the popular WGC forward recovered after extensive treatment.
WGC: Rabstein, Mace (Carr 30), Rolfe, Humphrey, Sexton, Ochieng, Keenleyside (Walklin 84), Campbell-Mhlope, McKeown, Da Silva (McGreevy 90), Bailey.