WELWYN GC turned on a powerful second-half performance in this opening round League Trophy tie against Southern League St Neots’ reserve side, with hotshot striker Jon Clements netting four, all in the second-half.
The Saints’ second string, who play in the SSML first division, made it very hard for the Citizens in the first 45 minutes and no one more than their keeper Alex Vitue, who had an outstanding game.
The keeper made save after save to foil Adam Fisher’s eager side, blocking efforts from Clements and Ben Spaul in the opening minutes.
WGC missed a gilt-edge chance in 10 minutes, when Manny Melford-Rowe failed to score with a follow-up attempt, after Vitue had half saved another Clements snapshot and there was a poor finish from skipper Danny Payne on the half-hour, when he looked well placed to open the scoring.
At the other end, the visitors looked lively early on and it took one outstanding block from Jay Rolfe to prevent them taking a 25th minute lead.
But that was staving off the inevitable and moments later the underdogs were in front, when a fast raid down the right saw the ball pulled back for Amala, whose fierce shot was excellently blocked by Olly Leslie in the WGC goal. The ball came out and Neots’ Shane Humphrey lashed in the rebound.
WGC trailed for eight minutes before an overlapping Rolfe put over an excellent cross that Vitue couldn’t reach and Spaul came in on the back post to slide home to bring the sides level again at the interval.
But six minutes into the half, the Saints gifted WGC a second and Clements his first goal of four. Visiting skipper Kevin Ashby underplayed a back pass to Vitue and Clements anticipated well to reach it first and stab past the keeper for 2-1.
From that point, WGC took the game over. Vitue made an outstanding double save, blocking a Clements effort and then doing brilliantly to deflect Melford-Rowe’s rising rebound effort onto the crossbar and over.
But on 64 minutes, the Citizens made it safe with a third. Ben Long and Payne switched passes to play Clements in. His low first effort struck the foot of the post and bounced out, but the eager striker buried the rebound for 3-1.
The fourth in 77 minutes was the goal of the game. WGC forced a left-wing corner. Long won the header in a goalmouth melee and when it dropped, Clements despatched an unstoppable, ferocious volley for his hat-trick past Vitue, who never stood a chance of stopping it.
Two minutes later he had four. Substitute Taishan Griffith put over a good cross from the right, Payne set it up and Clements drove confidently home to complete the scoring.
WGC: Leslie, Rolfe, McGrandles, Corran, Sexton, Spaul, Payne (Marks 80), Long, Melford-Rowe (Griffith 65), Clements, Carney (Bronti 46)