WELWYN GC saved the best for almost the very last. In their penultimate away game of the season – at likely SSML Premier runners-up Hertford Town – the Citizens produced an outstanding, battling performance to snatch all three points in stoppage time.
There were three minutes of injury time already played on referee O’Meara’s watch, when substitute Craig Arnott lofted a high ball forward. The returned Ashley Kersey won it in the air and knocked it into the area, where Josh Bronti reached it just before ex-WGC keeper Jamie Jackson and stabbed home.
The WGC contingent in a huge, Bank Holiday crowd of 353 crammed into Hertingfordbury Park went crazy and it took a little time to restore order and re-start the game for a further two minutes.
During that time, Hertford pressed forward. Another ex-WGC man Jay Lovell crossed in from the right by-line, substitute Dan Ferrigno got in a goalbound header that Herns Lane hero Bronti had to clear off the line, seconds before the final whistle sounded.
It had been a closely contested, cut and thrust contest throughout and probably for the neutral a share of the points would have been a fair outcome.
WGC began on the back foot as the home side tried to force the early pace. Teenage full-back Will McClelland who went on to have another outstanding game, sliced a clearance just wide of his own goal in the opening minutes, before Jay Welsh came to the rescue blocking a Phil Lowen volley 12 minutes in.
The Citizens’ first dangerous foray saw Marcus Campbell find eventual hero Bronti with a fine pass. The pair attempted a link-up, but the final pass was overhit and Jackson saved at the winger’s feet.
On 20 minutes, WGC keeper Jack Metcalfe made a truly outstanding save to keep the visitors on terms. Home winger Tyler Hatherly cut along the by-line and pulled his cross back into the path of Tommy Wade, whose shot looked a certain goal, until Metcalfe made a marvellous block with his body on the line. The Hertford forward held his head in his hands!
Just 15 minutes later, it was matched by ex-WGC man Jackson in the home goal, as Campbell drifted down the Hertford left, cut inside and hit a 20 yarder that looked bound for the top corner. Jackson flew across his goal to just tip it away at the last!
The Citizens finished a good half with Campbell having another effort blocked, it rebounded fortuously, but Kersey was slow to react and keeper Jackson got there first, while Charlie Rome, WGC’s other impressive teenager in midfield, whipped in a low effort that was held at the second attempt.
The second-half’s early stages didn’t match the furious pace of the first 45 minutes, although Hertford’s Matt Thomson lifted a free-kick just over Metcalfe’s bar.
There was a spate of cautions on both sides as Hertford lifted the pace in the final quarter to try and find a winner. The dangerous Wade shot across the face of goal when well placed and then did better in a goalmouth scramble, skipper Danny Payne, again immaculate at the back for WGC, rescuing his side by clearing off the line.
Manager Adam Fisher gave Craig Arnott the last seven minutes to try and fashion a winner and almost immediately, the one-time Colchester pro found Jason Coughlan with a low free-kick. He struck it goalward, only for it to hit teammate Kersey and deflect to safety.
There were just two minutes left at that stage and it looked like a very hard won point would have to be WGC’s reward, but match-winner Bronti had other ideas.
WGC: Metcalfe, McClelland, Welsh, Payne, Morris, Coughlan, Long, Rome (Arnott 83), Bronti, Kersey, Campbell.
*Meanwhile, back at Herns Lane, WGC’s Under 25’s impressive finish to the season continued with their fifth win in succession, a 3-1 victory over Risborough Rangers.
Nathan Isherwood bagged two more goals with a third from substitute Ives Luhasu to further cement the young Citizens’ fourth place in the SSML U-25’s division