WELWYN GC fell victim to a late season double at the hands of Wembley, when they were beaten by the odd goal in five at Herns Lane in midweek.
Ten days earlier, the Lions had thrashed Adam Fisher’s side 4-0 on their own Vale Farm ground, but this was a much more valiant performance from the Herns Lane side – deprived by a combination of injury, suspension and unavailability of six of their regular starting line-up.
Wembley, who look set to pip the Citizens and a trio of other clubs to the coverted fourth spot in the SSML Premier and with it exemptions into the early rounds of next season’s FA Vase, looked a very useful, well drilled side on this evidence, but were given a real match by WGC’s depleted line-up.
Without regular starters – Boodhoo, Brinkman, Kersey, Robins, Brettell and Griffith – WGC looked up against it from the early minutes, the returned Jay Welsh doing well to block a Joe Wright early effort, while visiting skipper Fehmi-Gill flashed another effort wide.
Ben Long struck a long range effort just wide for the Citizens in reply and teenager Charlie Rome, brought in for his debut to cover the depletions, hit another fine effort that forced Wembley keeper Christie to a sharp save.
WGC keeper Jack Metcalfe was brought into action with a fine tip-away save from Wembley’s dangerous Sabti on 25 minutes and from the resulting corner, Metcalfe was again needed to push away a close-in header from defender Walters.
Welsh made a second timely interception to keep the scoreline blank, foiling Wright again, when WGC’s defence was split by a long ball from the back. But although it was the north Londoners dominating, it was the Citizens who snatched the lead four minutes from the break.
Having waited 77 games for his first goal for the club, skipper Danny Payne notched his second in as many games, when he stole up on the back post to reach a long cross from the right and place his header wide of keeper Christie and in by the far post.
Wembley immediately re-asserted t pressure and it took an excellent goalline clearance from teenage newcomer Rome, in first-half stoppage time, to preserve the lead at the break.
Metcalfe made a second fine save on the hour, blocking a Wright effort cleverly set up by Sabti’s trickery, but generally WGC’s defence were coping well in the early stages of the second-half.
And the Herns Lane side created chances of their own. Marcus Campbell’s square ball created a chance for Charlie Rome, but he lifted his effort over the top, before Josh Bronti set up Reggie Ross, but he delayed and was blocked out.
Yasir Rashid replaced Ross soon afterwards and immediately brought a sharp save from Christie with his first-time effort.
But just when WGC seemed to have ridden the Wembley storm, they conceded a contentious penalty with 17 minutes remaining.
Danny Payne, who had impeccable in his defending all night, was ajudged by referee Jessup to have handled as he leaned into a clearance. WGC players felt it was Wembley forward Wright who handled and protested, but the award stood and Fehmi-Gill slotted in the spot-kick to level the scores.
It gave Wembley an immediate boost. Within six minutes they were ahead. Teenage defender Will McClelland did wonderfully well to keep out Sabti at the first attempt, as he made a run for the box, but the winger retrieved the ball, cut back inside and this time struck a low effort past Metcalfe, with the aid of a deflection, for a 2-1 Wembley lead.
That quickly became 3-1 inside another four minutes, substitute Jermaine Heron getting away down the right to give Metcalfe no chance with a crashing shot into the far corner.
The scoreline was rough justice on a battling WGC performance and still they didn’t give up.
Four minutes from time, a right-wing cross from Bronti was flicked on by Jay Welsh’s heel to young defender McClelland, who squeezed his first senior goal over the line, to reduce the lead to 3-2.
WGC pressed until the end but couldn’t make any further impression on the final scoreline, as their chances of a top four finish receeded still further, despite this very game display.
WGC: Metcalfe, McClelland, Welsh, Payne, Morris, Coughlan (Arnott 87), Long, Rome, Bronti, Campbell, Ross (Rashid 73).