WELWYN GC have now drawn three times in three games under Dean Barker’s management, but this point at high flying Berkhamsted, was undoubtedly the best of the trio and one of the Citizens’ best performances of the season.
They were roundly cheered off the field again – a practice that is becoming commonplace at WGC FC games at the moment – after twice coming back from behind and playing the last 40 minutes of the game with 10 men.
That was because new central midfielder Jesse Walklin, who impressed in the time he was on the field, was sent off by referee Jim Paterson five minutes into the second-half for two yellow cards.
Walklin, who has moved to London area after starring for Southampton’s Sholing FC, was booked 20 minutes into the game for a heavy challenge on Berkhamsted’s Connor Toomey.
When he transgressed again early in the second-half, the official had little option but to brandish the red card and spoil the midfielder’s debut.
Two minutes before, WGC had fallen behind for a second time in the game, when Berko’s top scorer Matt Batemen - quite often a thorn in WGC’s side in SSML football - headed in his second of the game.
It looked bleak for Barker’s side. But the new found never-say-die spirit and a magnificent goal from inspirational skipper Dave Keenleyside, absolutely relishing the responsibilities of captaincy, saw WGC not only fight back for a second time in the game, but come within an ace of winning it.
The club’s end of season presentation is four months away, but it would be a short-price bet that Keenleyside’s 73rd minute equaliser could win the club’s ‘goal of the season’ award.
He collected just over half-way, shrugged off two home challenges, went on beat another couple of Berko players and unleashed a low effort that beat home keeper Comas-Leon into the bottom corner to leave the 168 strong crowd stunned, before being engulfed by his teammates.
Five minutes later, WGC almost got the decisive fifth goal of a thrilling game, when substitute Romelle Alomenu slipped down the left and squared for the outstanding Jordan Edwards to strike what could have been the winner, but for an outstanding, goal-saving block from Berkhamsted’s Murphy in front of goal.
WGC gave an outstanding defensive display with the central partnership of Jay Rolfe and work experience youngster Ivan Agyaawah at the heart of it.
Edwards worked tirelessly up front alongside new loan signing Sydney Ibie, who joined on a month’s arrangement from Hemel Hempstead the day before, while Keenleyside literally ran the game.
The game had a fairly sedate start in comparison to it’s closing stages and the only concerns for the Citizens were Walklin’s early booking and one for MK Dons’ loanee Charlie Pattison, who launched into home full-back Karl Stevenson, who eventually had to leave the field with a chest injury.
Then just past the half-hour Berkhamsted took the lead with a fine swinging ball from Elliott Godfrey finding the dangerous Bateman unmarked, to loop a header over WGC keeper Lewis Todd.
WGC were behind just three minutes. They were awarded a free-kick that saw Keenleyside whip in an excellent effort, Pattison just getting a headed touch on it to beat Comas-Leon and bring the visitors back on terms.
Berko restored their lead five minutes after the restart, tricky winger Vasilou picking out the dangerous Bateman with a high ball to the back post and the big target man made another header count for 2-1.
Walklin’s dismissal followed almost immediately, but all that signaled was the start of a magnificent Welwyn Garden recovery and another precious point.
WGC: Todd, Griffith, Agyaawah, Rolfe, Sexton, Ebelebe (Alomenu 61 mins), Walklin, Pattison, Keenleyside, Ibie (Batney 89 mins), Edwards (Ardic 85 mins).