WELWYN GC’s opening pre-season fixture was a bumper occasion.
Now only was it watched by a record crowd, but Luton filled a season-long obligation to field a full strength team to the delight of their legion of supporters among the 825 paying customers packed into the BP Mitchell Stadium, Herns Lane.
For the Hatters; fans there was the excitement of watching their team play a first fixture under new manager Graeme Jones, as he ran his eye over last season’s EFL League 1 champions.
From the Citizens’ viewpoint, there was equal interest in seeing the new man in charge at Herns Lane, Nick Ironton take his first game as WGC’s new boss.
And both managers roused their new teams into producing a fine spectacle that resulted in a 3-1 win for the Hatters, but also a very creditable and encouraging performance from their hosts.
“I was delighted with every player in a WGC shirt,’’ said Ironton after the game. They all gave everything against the slickest team they will meet all season. I couldn’t be more pleased.’’
Luton scored twice through James Collins in the 15th and 26th minutes, the first a neat, stooping header, the second a mere tap-in, but not until after new WGC keeper Connor Sansom had made an excellent point-blank save to deny the Luton top scorer in the first five minutes.
Two minutes from the interval, WGC shocked their visitors with a spectacular goal to reduce the arrears, guest player Ian Rees hit a thumping 20 yard volley past keeper Harry Isted.
Sadly for WGC supporters, Rees, a former Luton and Hemel Hempstead player, is only home for the holidays from the USA and returns to the States shortly.
The Kenilworth Road club fielded an entirely different XI for the second 45 minutes, but still a very strong side. All four of Luton’s close season signings, Callum McManaman, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Martin Crainie and Brendan Galloway, all got 45 minutes apiece.
For WGC, there were impressive debuts for full-back Connor Clarke and Ollie Carey upfront, while in the second-half, other new signings George Naismith, Matt Crook and Will McClelland, all got outings.
Danny Hylton added a Luton third late in the game, after WGC keeper Charlie Jones made a spectacular tip-over save earlier in the half.
The third goal added a little gloss to the result for the visitors, but it didn’t detract from a fine day all round for Welwyn GC FC,
WGC: Sansom (Jones 45), Clarke (Crook 62), Ebengo (McClelland 55), Mensah, Rolfe (Harris 77), Close (Dimmock 55), Rees, Keenleyside (Naismith 67), Ironton (Alomenu 62), Carrington (Hull 77), Carey (A trialist 67).