THE most tumultuous week in Welwyn GC’s recent history ended well.
Dean Barker’s hastily assembled side almost pulled off a remarkable victory over high-flying Sutton Coldfield, in a show of real spirit and endeavour by a team that hadn’t trained together and some of whose members hadn’t met until before kick-off.
New boss Barker, in charge at the BP Mitchell Stadium for just four days, had managed to persuade a trio of former boss Adam Fisher’s squad to stay at the club. Jay Rolfe, Jon Sexton and Dave Keenleyside, who skippered the side, took up their usual places.
There was also a returnee in the popular Taishan Griffith, back in claret after spells away with Biggleswade Town and Hendon.
The rest of the line-up were new faces to a 138 crowd, but will soon become firm favourites with the Herns Lane faithful if they show this desire on a regular basis.
Young goalkeeper Lewis Todd showed real technique and no little bravery with a series of fine stops, particularly in the second-half when Sutton Coldfield pressed relentlessly for an equaliser.
That came just three minutes from time, when Mitchell Piggon hooked a loose ball in the box past Todd for an equaliser that the Midlanders’ pressure deserved, though it was scant reward for WGC’s tremendous resilence.
Sutton Coldfield faced team selection problems of their own, when regular keeper Lewis Gwilliams was delayed by traffic. Assistant boss Phil Male went between the posts for the opening 13 minutes, but had few alarms.
Todd was called into action when Piggon hooked a 13th minute effort straight at him and there were big appeals for a home penalty, when WGC forwards were convinced that Sutton’s James Beresford handled a Griffith cross with 20 minutes gone. Referee Mr Cooke waved away the appeals.
Three minutes later, the Citizens came within an ace of taking the lead. Griffith made an impressive run past two men, threaded his pass through to fellow winger Romelle Alomenu, whose low shot beat Gwilliams, but thumped the foot of the post.
Todd proved equal to a glancing header from Ryan Nesbitt at the other end before WGC went ahead five minutes from the break with a bizarre goal and an unlikely scorer.
Full-back Sexton overlapped well down the left put in a high cross under the bar which Gwilliams fumbled and dropped behind him over the line, to give the defender his first goal of the season and the Citizens a 1-0 interval lead.
The second-half was one of fairly unremitting Sutton Coldfield pressure.
The visitors were constantly repelled by Todd’s agility and the power and force of the defending of WGC’s back-line, in which Rolfe and new central defender Dylan Ebengo were truly outstanding.
WGC’s best effort of the second period came 10 minutes from time, when an astute through ball by skipper Keenleyside put substitute Harry Andic in, but his well struck shot was just wide of the post.
An unlikely WGC victory was denied by Piggon’s late leveller – no more than Sutton Coldfield deserved – but the ovation that his team got at the final whistle, will be sweet music to new boss Barker, as a new era at the BP Mitchell, begins.
WGC: Todd, Smith, Ebengo, Rolfe, Sexton, Griffith, Keenleyside, Mays, Alomenu (Carrington 80), Edwards (Port 66), Clarke (Ardic 73).