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Welwyn Garden City

Home of the "Citizens" - Established 1921


Herns Way, Panshanger, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL7 1TA

THIS was a very hard home baptism for WGC, pitted against last season's Spartan South Midlands Premier runners-up, a London Colney side that hadn't been beaten in SSML action since December 2014.


And to add to Adam Fisher's worries, he had to face the test with five members of his squad - four of them defenders - all away.


There was also a debut for teenage full-back Drew Cardines, signed on loan from Southern League Royston Town.


It meant a re-jigged side from the one that opened their Premier programme with the resounding 6-0 away success at London Tigers four days earlier and a side that frankly couldn't cope with the slick, hard-tackling opposition, who dominated from the start.


Watched by a crowd of 148 - the largest of any in the first two rounds of SSML fixtures - WGC also got a harsh lesson that showed if you make mistakes at this level, they get severely punished.


Their first error came in just six minutes, emergency central defender Jay Welsh failing to cut out Colney skipper Fitzgerald's through ball and the visitors' top scorer Lee Armitt crashed it past Joe Croft, back in the WGC goal, from a couple of yards.


Some strong Colney defending prevented the Citizens making much of a response, although Josh Bronti's pace down the right, seemed to be WGC's best weapon.


Bronti even had the best effort in reply, a rather tame header from a Danny Payne free-kick, that was straight at Colney keeper May.


But on the half-hour mark, just when the Herns Lane side were beginning to dispute matters equally with their visitors, Juan Cifuentes dwelt on the ball just outside his own area, searching for a pass. The visitors' Lee Close tackled him, left him grounded and strode through to strike a solid shot past Croft to double the lead.


Aaron Cato replaced Cifuentes after the break to give WGC more width, but was given little opportunity by the well-drilled opposition and seven minutes after the restart, the Citizens were struck another severe blow, when the industrious Payne went down after stretching in a tackle, clearly having damaged his hamstring.


After several minutes treatment he was helped off with the injury that is likely to keep him out several weeks.


New signing Abel Mudimu replaced Payne and shortly afterwards Craig Arnott was introduced for young full-back Cardines, who had made an impressive debut in a somewhat beleagured defence.


Arnott immediately created WGC's best opening of the evening, dropping a free-kick behind the London Colney defence for giant central defender Carl Mensah - WGC's best player on the night - to give in behind, but to loft his effort just over the bar.


With 10 minutes to go, WGC conceded a poor third, when keeper Croft came to catch a dipping Fitzgerald free-kick under pressure from visiting defender Robertson and both missed it, allowing the kick to clear them both and bounce in over the line.


There was still more to come, Colney substitute Russell Gallagher picking up 20 yards out in a sharp attack, to drive low past Croft for 4-0.


As the game entered stoppage time, the Citizens got on the scoresheet with a finely crafted goal.


Bronti worked his way cross-field before finding Cato out wide, the winger put over a pinpoint cross and Arnott came in to bury a powerful header from short range, to give Fisher's side a little consolation, but not much in a game in which they were always second best.


WGC: Croft, Perrin, Mensah, Welsh, Cardines (Arnott 69), Cifuentes (Cato 45), Payne (Mudimu 53), Smith, Bronti, Kersey, Caswell.

Welwyn Garden City FC 1 - 4 London Colney FC