THIS was a win at a heavy cost, as WGC close in on the SSML Premier title.
Five minutes from the end of the Herns Lane side’s 10th successive SSML Premier victory, they had top striker Jon Clements, scorer of 33 goals in the Citizens’ outstanding campaign, given a straight red card by referee Colman O’Meara, for kicking out at a London Colney opponent.
The dismissal was mired in controversy, as WGC believed they were going to be awarded a free-kick for handball against Colney full-back Joe Mace.
Mr O’Meara’s assistant clearly flagged, but the referee overruled him, awarded a free-kick to the home team instead and in the build-up to another free-kick given to London Colney on the edge, Clements was shown a straight red, for an off-the-ball incident.
It will mean that WGC’s striker-in-chief will miss next week’s Herts Charity Shield final v Colney Heath, a tough away trip to third placed Leighton Town and a home fixture against Wembley.
But despite that disappointment of losing one of the stalwarts of the side over a crucial period, Adam Fisher’s side still battled to another vital victory, as they maintained their four point advantage at the top, still with a quartet of games in hand over nearest rivals Berkhamsted.
It was a poorish game, in which London Colney’s Cotslandwick pitch cut up badly, as the game progressed.
The constantly dangerous Clements made a first minute run past several home defenders only to be forced out for a corner at the last, while Dan
Bond, recalled to the side, put over a good cross from the left, that Ben Spaul missed completely, in the opening exchanges.
In 11 minutes, George Ironton went closest with a shot that beat home keeper Jack Metcalfe, one of three ex-WGC players in the Colney side, only to see home skipper Bobby Armstrong hack the effort off the line.
It proved the prelude to the opening goal on 12 minutes, Tyler Hatherly did well getting over a cross, Clements flicked on and Bond came in on the back post to stab home.
Home substitute Margillo caught the WGC defence napping when he got clean through on 25 minutes, but hesitated fatally and allowed WGC’s Jon Sexton to get in a telling challenge.
Approaching the half-hour WGC almost had a second. A good ball from Sexton set up Ironton to hit a fierce, swerving effort, but keeper Metcalfe turned it away in fine style.
Moments later it was current WGC keeper Charlie May’s turn to make a fine save. The dangerous Loren Maxwell cut in from the left and hit a powerful effort that May turned away well for a corner.
But from the flag kick, London Colney equalised, central defender Zac Holding rising above the WGC defence to glance a fine header beyond May into the far corner for 1-1.
The Citizens almost had a spectacular second five minutes after the restart. Further good work by Hatherly ended with a dropping ball to the back post, which Bond met with a fearsome volley, that was just inches wide.
Ashley Kersey was called on early in the half, for full-back Jay Rolfe, suffering from an eye injury and it was the big foward, who found the net, a dozen minutes after being introduced, to secure the win.
The lively Clements made a fine run past several home defenders, down the left and cut back a fine ball into the path of the oncoming Kersey, who crashed a powerful effort past Metcalfe, into the corner.
Clements turned provider again four minutes later, setting up Hatherly for a rasping, rising effort, that Metcalfe thrust over in fine style and WGC seemed to have matters firmly under control, until the furore of the last five minutes.
How much Clements’ untimely absence affects the side’s currently unbeatable progress, remains to be seen.
WGC: May, Rolfe (Kersey 52), Corran, McGrandles, Sexton, Payne, Spaul, Ironton (Mensah 75), Bond (Bronti 64), Clements, Hatherly.