WELWYN GC brought the curtain down on another Herns Lane season with their first victory in six games, as they overcame one of their main contenders for this season’s SSML Premier crown by the odd goal in five.
It ended a dismal recent run by Adam Fisher’s side since clinching their second SSML Premier title a month ago, in which they had lost four of their last six games and gone five matches without a win.
But this was something of a return to the form by the title and promotion-winning Citizens, as they just finished with their noses in front of an exciting game, in which their Beds opposition hit back twice from 2-0 down in an hour.
Victory was achieved with a depleted WGC squad – that was minus Ben Spaul, Jon Sexton, Ashley Kersey, Tyler Hatherly and Josh Bronti – all unavailable for differing reasons.
Manager Fisher plugged the gaps in his squad by including three of the club’s Under 25 side – Jack Francis, Malvin Prempeh and Oladayo Dixon – on the bench, with two of them getting outings in the last 15 minutes.
The game improved as it went on. There was a slow, sluggish start to the final SSML home game at Herns Lane for sometime, or so the 130 plus crowd hoped, looking forward to Isthmian or Southern League football next season.
Yasin Boodhoo rose well to Jay Rolfe’s left-wing corner in 13 minutes. But his downward header was blocked in the goalmouth and skipper Danny Payne couldn’t force the ball home.
Rolfe was called upon to make a goalsaving block from Leighton’s Boland 10 minutes later, but generally the fayre was poor.
Then on 26 minutes, WGC changed the complexion of the game with a fine individual goal from top scorer Jon Clements.
Having been quiet to this point, Clements pulled down a long ball from the back expertly and raced clear of a couple of Leighton defenders to trim an accurate low shot past visiting keeper Tom Wyant into the bottom corner.
Moments later Clements latched onto a miskick from Leighton defender Hall and looked about to race clear again before being taken down by Leighton skipper Tom Guiney, but referee Mr David waved aside all WGC appeals for a penalty, or even a free-kick.
Charlie Joy failed to control the ball when presented with the next home chance created by a fine Rolfe ball and cross from Dan Bond on the right, but two minutes from the break, WGC survived a scare.
From a right-wing corner, Guiney headed powerfully goalward past WGC keeper Charlie May, only for skipper Payne to rescue his side by hacking the effort off the line to preserve the lead at half-time.
The Citizens seemed to survive a penalty appeal themselves six minutes after the restart when keeper May appeared to knock over the dangerous Dom Marsala when he raced into the box, but again Mr David only awarded a corner to the visitors.
Then a minute short of an hour’s play, WGC doubled their lead with another fine individual effort. This time midfielder Nick Elliott, having one of his best games in a claret shirt since joining in mid-season, collected 20 yards out, slipped a challenge and drove in the side’s second goal, again into the bottom corner, leaving Wyant with no hope.
The two goal advantage lasted just a couple of minutes. Leighton pulled one back when Boland’s right-wing cross saw Rolfe misdirect his header back into his own area and straight to Marsala, who picked his spot with a low shot wide of May for 2-1.
WGC tried to restore the two goal deficit quickly, Guiney at full stretch to cut out a fine Bond cross destined for the waiting Clements and then the top scorer met another Bond centre with a flying header that just cleared the crossbar.
But with 15 minutes remaining, Leighton got on terms, Again, it came from a WGC mistake, central defender John McGrandles misplacing a pass, as he broke out of defence.
Boland crossed it in and Leighton substitutes James Hatch struck it goalward. That effort was blocked, but bounced up nicely for striker Ty Deacon, who emphatically struck the leveller past May.
WGC needed a quick response and got it inside two minutes. Elliott produced a peach of a pass to put Bond racing through. He got in his shot, just as a couple of challenges came in and the effort took a deflection to beat Wyant and put the Citizens’ ahead again.
The Herns Lane side managed to hang onto the lead this time, due in no short measure to an excellent tip-over save at full length by keeper Charlie May just three minutes from time, denying Marsala a second goal and Leighton a point from an exciting second-half.
WGC: May, Rolfe, Boodhoo, McGrandles, Corran, Marks (Francis 77),
Elliott, Payne, Bond (Prempeh 81), Clements, Joy (Ironton 62),