WELWYN GC had to be satisfied with a point from a bruising encounter with a Hoddesdon team level on points, but just heading them in fifth place in the table with a better goal difference.
Adam Fisher’s side have two games in hand on the East Herts side, but it will be the home club that will be happier with the point here, having played the final 65 minutes of this highly competitive clash with 10 men.
That’s because they had striker Leigh Rose dismissed by referee James Killen on 26 minutes for kicking out at WGC’s combative midfielder George Brinkman, having been fouled by him.
Brinkman, whose addition to the Citizens’ squad has brought a bite and steel to their midfield, that has been lacking since Daryl Smith’s retirement at the end of last season, was the victim of constant rough treatment by the entire Hoddesdon team, almost every time he was on the ball.
Booked inside 10 minutes himself, for a hefty challenge on Hoddesdon’s Charlie Edwards, Brinkman showed commendable restraint in not rising to the severe provocation he endured throughout the game.
The Citizens felt they should have edged it, having a Josh Bronti effort disallowed seven minutes from time and an appeal for a penalty for handball turned down.
With a central defensive crisis, with Yasin Boodhoo (calf) and Jason Coughlan (hamstring) both injured, they had the makeshift pairing of striker Ashley Kersey and Danny Payne, usually in midfield, continuing in the roles they filled in the second-half of the midweek win over Berkhamsted.
WGC had the first decent opening of the game 15 minutes in. A long goal-kick from Jack Metcalfe was headed out to Sean Brettell, who cleverly made space for himself, but then pulled his final shot across the face of goal and wide, inches away from the incoming Josh Bronti on the far post.
On 25 minutes, Danny Payne pulled away from a left-wing Brinkman corner to meet it with a solid header. It looked goalbound, until scrambled away by the combined efforts of home keeper Smart and full-back Russell.
Rose was dismissed in the next minute and Ben Long picked up WGC’s second caution for his part in the incident.
Metcalfe got in trouble delaying a clearance kick and it was charged down by Hoddesdon’s Jordan Watson. The rebound went to midfielder Tom Cowell, who took aim at an unguarded net, but fortunately for WGC, it was off target.
WGC began to make the man advantage count at the start of the second-half. A good run by Bronti down the right, saw him pull it back for Marcus Campbell, but he mishit his effort over the bar.
On 52 minutes, a Brinkman through ball played Campbell in. He switched it to Brettell coming in from the left, but the midfielder’s shot was straight at keeper Smart.
Then just when the Herns Lane side looked to be getting on top, Hoddesdon struck in 56 minutes, somewhat against the run of play. Cowell slotted through a good ball and home skipper Louis Rose, brother of the dismissed striker, stepped inside a challenge to loft an unstoppable, rising shot over Metcalfe and into the top rigging.
Moments later, the lead could been doubled. Watson’s header put Rose in again. His powerful shot was turned away by keeper Metcalfe and Payne got in a fine, vital challenge to block the follow-up attempt.
Back came WGC, Bronti’s cross from the right found Brettell on the far post. He crashed a shot goalward that struck Hoddesdon defender Kardan Campbell on the arm. The Citizens screamed for a penalty, but Killen clearly felt it accidental and waved play on.
Three minutes later the Citizens were on level terms. Again Bronti was provider, put away down the right by Long’s good pass. He cut back his cross to Campbell, who controlled it and swivelled, to dispatch a low shot past Smart for 1-1.
Manager Fisher introduced striker Daril Ngwala for the final 15 minutes and seconds later Brinkman was just off target with a tremendous effort from 40 yards, that was more a clearance than a shot, but still had Hoddesdon hearts in mouths, as it flew over Smart’s crossbar.
Then with seven minutes to go and WGC having just survived a possible penalty appeal with Ashley Kersey’s clumsy challenge on Watson inside the area, they broke half the length of the field. Long and Bronti exchanged passes for 60 yards before Bronti was played in to slam it past Smart.
Referee Killen ruled the effort offside, the assistant having initially flagged and then put his flag down.
Again it caused WGC protests, but the effort was chalked off and Adam Fisher’s side, now unbeaten in five, had to settle for the point.
WGC: Metcalfe, Griffith, Kersey, Payne, Morris, Brinkman, Long, Brettell, Bronti, Campbell, Robins (Ngwala 75).