THIS was a fine advert for the second meeting of these two sides in the SSML Premier Division Cup final next week - a full blooded, no quarter given encounter at Harpenden’s Rothamsted Park.
The final result of the points shared was about the right outcome for the Citizens in one of their stiffest away fixtures of this title-winning campaign.
Harpenden, themselves fourth in the table after promotion last season, were stern opposition here and will be so again for Adam Fisher’s side at Colney Heath in the final this coming week.
Charlie May was back in goal and John McGrandles in defence, after both being unavailable the previous Saturday, as Fisher again rotated his squad.
There was a real let-off for the home side within six minutes of the start. Ashley Kersey did very well to rob home central defender Jack Cartwright and bore down on goal to bring a fine save from home keeper
Connor Samson, who beat the effort away. Jon Clements latched onto the rebound, but had his effort blocked, before Charlie Joy had a third attempt, this time defender Tom Collin
hacking that off the line.
Harpenden’s first effort saw winger Steve O’Reilly cross and forward Mark Hitchcock have a goalbound effort deflected behind by an alert Jon Sexton.
Joy tried his luck with a near 40 yard free-kick, after a foul on Nick Elliott and was only just over the bar with his effort.
The Harps’ Kyle McLeish reprieved WGC when he struck a good opening straight at keeper May, but five minutes from the break, the Citizens missed a golden opportunity of taking the lead and the culprit was top scorer Jon Clements.
He was sent clear by Ben Spaul’s fine ball and raced ahead of the home defence to leave himself with just Samson to beat, but put his effort wide of the keeper and the post from just a couple of yards!
It wasn’t to prove an expensive miss. Within a minute of the restart, WGC were ahead. Kersey flicked on a header that rebounded back to him, before taking aim with his second attempt, driving a fine effort into the far, bottom corner of the net.
As the game got increasingly heated, bookings mounted with the home side picking up six of the nine handed out by referee Fletcher.
Josh Bronti and George Ironton were introduced for WGC, replacing Joy and Elliott but on 72 minutes, keeper May kept his side in front with a fine save at McLeish’s feet. But the reprieve was very temporary. Three minutes later Harpenden were on terms, when defender Cartwright cleverly peeled away to the back post from a short corner routine and beat May with a powerful, downward header to tie the scores at 1-1.
Harpenden were reduced to 10 men after the final whistle, when onetime WGC forward James Ewington was sent off by Mr Fletcher for dissent, having been prievously booked for simulation.
WGC: May, Rolfe, McGrandles, Payne, Sexton, Marks, Spaul, Gilbert, (Ironton 71), Clements (Bond 87), Kersey, Joy (Bronti 65).