WELWYN GC reached their second semi-final of the campaign so far, in sensational fashion, when they scored twice deep into six minutes of stoppage time, to break the hearts of Luton’s Crawley Green.
The Citizens were facing the exit door of the Dudley Latham Premier Cup, as referee Mr Fletcher punished the visitors for their delaying tactics in the final half-hour after Crawley Green had forward Sean Odusanyo sent off for two yellow cards, following a poor challenge on WGC’s Dave Corran.
WGC were trailing 3-2 at that stage, having had their depleted back-line cruelly exposed by the power and pace of a much improved visiting side, buoyed by a new manager and an influx of new players.
Crawley Green’s outstanding goalkeeper Dean Bull, made save after save to repel WGC throughout the game. And the late turn-around was scant justice on his excellent display.
WGC got the boost of a second minute goal, when the recalled George Ironton, having had a first minute effort just clear the bar, burrowed through to fire the Citizens ahead. Bull took all the sting out of the shot, with a fine block, but the ball still rolled in.
The Herns Lane side looked comfortable for the opening 20 minutes, until their defence, resting three regulars – Yasin Boodhoo, Jay Rolfe and John McGrandles – left Green’s Sam Willett unmarked to head his side level with a powerful header on 21 minutes.
Seven minutes later, WGC had restored their lead. Jon Clements got over a good cross from the right, Daniel Bond’s header was turned onto the bar by Bull and Green defender Kevin McManus trying to turn it behind, only succeeded in putting it past his own keeper!
But within three minutes it was 2-2. The dangerous Charlie Clayton chased an overhit ball out on the left, retrieved it to set up Aaron Browne to crash an unstoppable 20 yarder past Charlie May.
WGC’s exposed back-line was opened up a third time, two minutes from the break. Clayton played strike partner Browne clean through and he waltzed around May to roll his second into an unguarded net.
Crawley Green’s attacking policy changed with the dismissal of Odusanyo 10 minutes after the restart and WGC pressed relentlessly for the remainder of the game.
Manager Adam Fisher introduced a trio of substitutes in Josh Bronti, Ashley Kersey and Sean Brettell for the final 25 minutes.
Bull made a couple of tremendous saves thwarting Ironton and then Charlie Rome, who was one of WGC’s more impressive performers on the night.
In addition, Bronti and Clements put acceptable openings wide and an exit from the competition loomed large, as the game went into stoppage time.
Then just when WGC’s fate seemed sealed, Clements made a deep run into their box from the left. He got in his shot, but Bull saved. Brettell latched onto the rebound and fired in, but again Bull kept it out. It was only when the ball was returned into the area a third time, that Paul Marks squeezed it in for 3-3.
A penalty shoot-out now looked inevitable. But even that was denied Crawley Green as Rome fired a high ball deep into the area. A tremendous melee ensued and Clements got the final touch over the line for the winner, despite Bull’s heroics efforts to even keep that one out.
WGC: May, Marks, Payne, Budge (Kersey 63), Corran, Rome, Long (Brettell 63), Spaul, Ironton, Clements, Bond (Bronti 56).