WELWYN GC extended their winless run to four games since clinching the SSML Premier title a fortnight earlier, with this third league defeat of the campaign.
Since beating Wembley to be crowned champions, Adam Fisher’s side have now lost two – to ever-improving Hadley and here to 16th placed Holmer Green and drawn 1-1 with both Harpenden and Tring.
But there were extenuating circumstances to this loss in deepest Buckinghamshire – WGC’s longest away trip of the league season.
Manager Fisher was clearly prioritising the coming big week for the club, with the SML Premier Cup final with Harpenden in midweek and their trophy presentation fixture with Biggleswade FC in their penultimate home game next Saturday.
With those games in mind, he left regular keeper Charlie May at home to play for the club’s Under 25’s and had five of his regulars on the bench at Holmer Green - skipper Danny Payne, Ben Spaul, John McGrandles, Ashley Kersey and Jay Rolfe – all mainstays of his
championship winning team.
Olly Leslie resumed in goal and Under 25 prospect Malvin Prempeh was given his debut at right-back.
WGC made a good start to this fixture. In two minutes, a Charlie Joy corner found the head of Yasin Boodhoo and the central defender planted a firm header against the Holmer Green crossbar.
But the Bucks side, who had won two nights earlier against Edgware, responded quickly and on eight minutes set up a move which saw the ball shifted to Tom Peddle-James, whose low shot was well stopped by the legs of keeper Leslie.
Boodhoo showed his defensive abilities, clearing away an effort from the home side’s Leo Blackman, who had cleverly lobbed the ball over debutant Prempeh, but the young full-back did much better finding Josh Bronti with a good, through ball. The winger crossed and Nick Elliott was inches away of turning in the opening goal in 14 minutes.
Prempeh was again the creator with another smart ball that put Jon Clements away and WGC’s top scorer burst through the home defence to crash a shot past keeper Aaron Brown, only to see it hit the home woodwork for the second time in the game.
Again the home side responded and Kowitca charged down Dave Corran’ s attempted clearance to race clear, but squandered the best opening of the game so far, by driving his effort wide of the post.
As half-time neared, keeper Olly Leslie kept WGC on terms with another sharp save to foil Holmer Green’s Blackman.
The WGC keeper was in action again early in the second-half, spectacularly tipping over a Peddle-James header from in front of goal and moments later his Holmer Green counterpart Brown also made an impressive save with his legs, to block a Clements’ goalbound effort.
Then on 67 minutes came the breakthrough for the home side. Holmer Green skipper Gary Lines threaded through a ball to Pawel Kowitca, who whipped in a low shot that Leslie was able to take the sting out of, but not prevent from creeping over the line behind him.
Manager Fisher replaced the ineffective Dan Bond and Charlie Joy with Kersey and Rolfe for the final 20 minutes, in an attempt to get some reward from the game and with 15 minutes to go, it seemed the ploy had worked.
WGC forced a left-sided corner. Captain for the day Paul Marks rose to meet it with a powerful header. The effort was blocked as was Marks’ follow-up effort, but the ball squirmed sideways for Rolfe, to squeeze it over the line for only his second goal of the campaign and 1-1.
But Holmer Green had other ideas and seven minutes from time, fashioned a winner.
A good move down the right saw Prempeh and Boodhoo combine to clear, but only to home substitute Adam Riley, who from 20 yards out, struck a fine shot past Leslie that struck the far post and rebounded in to give the Bucks side much cause for rejoicing.
WGC: Leslie, Prempeh, Corran, Boodhoo, Sexton, Marks, Elliott, Joy (Rolfe 68), Bronti, Clements, Bond (Kersey 68).