WELWYN GC’s players gave manager Adam Fisher and their large contingent of supporters in a 200 strong crowd at Leighton Buzzard on Thursday night, the response they wanted, after the shock Herts Charity Shield final defeat at Hemel Hempstead, two nights earlier.
Fisher’s side scored what will be regarded as a pivotal win in their first meeting with Leighton this season, securing three points that almost certainly secures the club promotion from the SSML Premier.
Mathematically it isn’t certain yet. The victory pegs back a Leighton side that can now only attain 91 points if they win all seven of their remaining games. WGC already have 89 and have a game more than their Beds rivals to play.
Victory in Saturday’s home game with Wembley would secure the Citizens promotion for sure. A midweek win at Hadley next week would see them champions, as their other major rivals Berkhamsted can only reach 93 points and have played three games more.
Even from the early moments, WGC gave notice of a much better display in this game than in their Charity final defeat by Colney Heath.
Their revamped line-up that saw George Ironton, Charlie Joy and Paul Marks all start, while John McGrandles, Jon Sexton and Nick Elliott were consigned to the bench.
The visitors had the ball in the Leighton net in seven minutes through Paul Marks, but referee Stewart had blown earlier for a clear foul on home keeper Tom Wyant.
Wyant was soon in action turning around an Ashley Kersey effort for a corner, after Dan Bond had found the big forward with a fine ball down the touchline.
Kersey didn’t have to wait long for a goal. From the resulting Joy corner, he rose above the entire Leighton defence to head a fine opener into the bottom corner.
Leighton tried a quick response and Fuller was played cleverly through, but his weak, final effort didn’t cause WGC keeper Charlie May any trouble.
Then five minutes after taking the lead, WGC doubled their advantage. They built up down the right and set Ironton up with a clear shooting chance. Keeper Wyant saved, but couldn’t hold onto the ball. Kersey had a second effort blocked, the rebound falling to Joy who netted the third attempt from very close in.
It could have been 3-0 before the interval. Ironton was played in again and this time hit a fierce effort that looked certain to count, until turned away by an outstanding Wyant save.
Leighton had something of a revival in the second 45 minutes, after the Citizens had made a bright start to the half.
The home side began to pile on the pressure. Their skipper Tom Guiney missed a fine chance of bringing his side back into the game, heading over when left unmarked on the back post.
Home forwards Marsala and McBride both hit tremendously powerful drives just past Charlie May’s post in the search of an elusive goal to turn the tide.
But towards full-time, WGC had chances of their own. Dan Bond swerved a fine effort just wide of the far post that would have ended the Leighton comeback and substitute Josh Bronti was sent clear after a fine Jay Rolfe run, but keeper Wyant saved at the WGC forward’s feet.
WGC racked up the bookings – six in all – as they defended their lead. But it was a small price to pay for what surely will prove to be a pivotal victory.
WGC: May, Rolfe, Corran, Payne, Hatherly, Marks, Spaul, Ironton (Elliott 62), Bond, Kersey (Bronti 72), Joy (Sexton 75).