A TROPHY that has eluded Welwyn GC for 31 years, was denied them again by an eager, committed Colney Heath side in the Herts Charity Shield final, watched by a 250 plus crowd at Hemel Hempstead in midweek.
Colney Heath, beaten twice in the league by champions-elect WGC, including in thrilling, stoppage time away victory back in November, were deserved winners of the first silverware available to Adam Fisher’s side in this outstanding season.
They hustled and harried a jaded, flat looking WGC side for the most part, who were clearly suffering from their four league wins in seven days spell just completed and without top scorer Jon Clements, beginning the first of a three match ban for his red card at London Colney, a week earlier.
To add insult to injury, it was former WGC striker Joel Norris, who added Colney Heath’s clinching second goal just before the hour mark. Norris moved to the village side just days before the original date for this final, scheduled for late February. Before it became one of many weather postponements at the time.
Colney Heath were straight at the Citizens from the early minutes. There was little goalmouth incidence of consequence in the opening 20 minutes, although Heath’s physical forward Jimmy Hill did have the ball in the WGC net on the 20 minute mark, but had clearly flattened keeper Charlie May in the build-up.
WGC’s best were a stab goalward by central defender John McGrandles, that Colney Heath keeper Steve Cunningham – later to have an
outstanding end to the game – held easily and a Dan Bond volley, way off the mark.
Skipper Danny Payne came onto a Jay Rolfe head back from a corner, but volleyed well over before the villagers stunned an out-of-sorts WGC with an opening goal on 35 minutes.
There looked little danger as Heath full-back Harry Lewis picked up a loose ball 30 yards out.
He survived a handball appeal to come forward and hit a long-range effort that seemed to take May by surprise, strike the far post and rebound behind the keeper into the net.
The Citizens tried an immediate response, but Cunningham was rapidly off his line to snatch a through ball off Nick Elliott’s toes.
Then on the stroke of the interval, WGC had their clearest opening of a poor 45 minutes by their standards, a corner dropping to Ashley Kersey, almost on the goalline, but the big forward mis-kicked with the golden chance of an undeserved equaliser.
There was a real let-off within 10 minutes of the restart for the Clarets, as Norris headed a corner against their woodwork.
It was only a prelude to a second Colney Heath goal.
Danny May, brother of the WGC keeper, but playing on the opposing side, won the ball and played in a long cross that caused confusion in the Herns Lane defence. They scorned several chances to clear it and ex-teammate Norris made them pay, squeezing the ball over the line for a2-0 lead.
It was hard to see a way back for WGC, facing their first defeat since mid-January and following 12 consecutive league victories.
Manager Fisher introduced Tyler Hatherly and George Ironton and switched to a 3-5-2 system and it improved matters immediately.
Ironton put over a good cross shortly after coming on, but Kersey couldn’t force his header past an increasingly outstanding Cunningham.
Colney Heath hit the Citizens on the counter and teenage winger Newton, looking an outstanding prospect, hit a spectacular, swerving cross-shot that thumped May’s crossbar, the villagers striking the WGC woodwork a second time.
Charlie Joy became WGC’s third substitution and immediately delivered a fine free-kick that Kersey met with a much better header, but Cunningham denied them even a consolation, with a fine tip-over save.
In the closing minutes – in their best spell of a very disappointing display – WGC laid siege to the Colney Heath goal and closed the game with a powerful, deflected effort from Hatherly that looked destined, at least, to put them on the scoresheet.
Cunningham, in a man of the match performance, foiled them with a truly spectacular save in the bottom corner, to deny them even that, on what clearly was Colney Heath’s night.
WGC: May, Rolfe, Corran, McGrandles, Sexton (Ironton 60), Payne, Spaul, Elliott (Joy 82), Bronti (Hatherly 60), Kersey, Bond.