WELWYN GC opened the 2017-18 campaign by clinching a place in the last eight of the Herts Charity Shield.
They won’t play their last eight tie at home to last season’s SSML champions London Colney now until early November, as only the first round clashes serve as a pipe-opener to the new season.
Manager Adam Fisher won’t be totally satisfied with this performance against a Baldock side that only failed to join WGC in the SSML Premier this season by a single point last campaign - as they just fell short in the Div 1 promotion race.
In the opening half, the North Herts opposition more than matched a new look WGC starting line-up that included seven new faces, while two more were introduced as subs.
The Citizens began impressively enough and forced a save from Baldock’s outstanding keeper Jack Farmer in the first attack of the game. An Ashley Kersey back-header put top scoring Jon Clements through, but the man who has notched two hat-tricks in pre-season, had his effort blocked.
It was to prove a theme for the game as Clements was thwarted constantly by the Baldock keeper on at least half-a-dozen occasions.
It took WGC nine minutes to go ahead and it was a couple of WGC’s ‘old guard’ who created and scored the goal. A fine long ball down the right from Yasin Boodhoo set Kersey free. He outpaced Baldock’s Lewis Barker and drove a low shot past Farmer on his near post.
But the Herns Lane side had little time to celebrate. Baldock were level in two minutes.
Their raiding right-back Josh Furness burst through new full-back Dave Corran’s attempted tackle, crossed in from the right for Mitch Foley to hit the crossbar with his headed effort. Before WGC could re-group to clear the rebound, Baldock winger Zach Decker struck a low effort that deflected off Paul Marks to beat Olly Leslie into the far corner
This goal really lifted Baldock and if anything, they dominated the middle of the half, without having many clear-cut chances on Leslie’s goal.
Just past the half-hour mark WGC began to re-enforce their dominance. From a corner, George Ironton produced a spectacular overhead kick effort that crashed back off Farmer’s crossbar, before the home side restored their lead 10 minutes from the break.
A through ball from Ironton set up Clements with a shooting chance. His effort was blocked as was Taishan Griffith’s follow-up, cleared off the line by full-back Alex Coppin. When the second rebound came out to newcomer Charlie Joy, he drove through a crowded area into the net for 2-1.
Three minutes from the break, Kersey again rose well to head on and find Clements. He slipped through the entire Baldock defence and fired past keeper Farmer, but past the post from a couple of yards out!!
WGC keeper Olly Leslie was forced to make a sharp save from Baldock winger Brooks in the opening minutes of the second-half to keep the Citizens ahead, but from that point and for the remainder of the game, it was the home side who dominated.
Farmer made his umpteenth save, blocking a Taishan Griffith effort close in as the rebound was put over, while WGC’s stranglehold was increased with the introduction of triple player-of-the-year Ben Long for the final half-hour.
Long, through an arm injury and his summer involvement in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, hadn’t played in any of WGC’s warm-up games, but he bestrode this final half-hour in outstanding fashion, linking attack and defence and there’s no doubt that the Herns Lane side looked a lot better for his return.
Manager Fisher also introduced Ben L’Honore and Brandon Carney for the closing stages and it was L’Honore who made the tie safe with a third, seven minutes from time.
Fellow sub Carney made a break down the left, got over a cross that reached L’Honore, who slipped inside his man and despatched a powerful effort past Farmer from outside the area to ensure WGC’s quarter-final place.
WGC: Leslie, Boodhoo (Long 60), Marks, Corran, Griffith, Rolfe, Ironton, Spaul, Joy ( L’Honore 68), Clements, Kersey (Carney 78).