Welwyn Garden City into their second cup final with pulsating win over Berkhamsted
PUBLISHED: 11:28 01 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:28 01 February 2018
The much anticipated meeting of the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division’s top two didn’t disappoint as Welwyn Garden City reached the Herts Charity Shield final after a thrilling 4-3 win over Berkhamsted.
It was a pulsating cup tie and the second final of the campaign for Adam Fisher’s men with the Dudley Latham Memorial Trophy also in their future.
The WGC manager opted to rest three key players in Jay Rolfe, Jon Clements and Ben Spaul, putting them on the bench, but all three came on in the second-half to devastating effect.
And their presence helped the Citizens come back after twice trailing their promotion rivals.
WGC were also without unavailable forwards Dan Bond and Joel Norris.
Keeper Charlie May was called into action in six minutes to make a fine save, tipping away an Ashley Morrissey effort, while the recalled Josh Bronti spurned WGC’s best early chance, heading a pinpoint Jon Sexton cross straight at visiting keeper Carl Tasker.
On 25 minutes Berko took the lead through the dangerous Morrissey.
The visitors attacked down the right and found the little winger in the centre of the area. He struck his shot past an unprotected May.
A minute later, Berko’s Jones tried an ambitious 40-yard effort that dropped just wide of the goal with May stranded.
But three minutes after falling behind, WGC were level.
New boy Nick Elliott got over a fine cross from the right and Charlie Joy coming in at the back post beat Tasker with a downward header.
Tasker kept the West Herts side level with a good save to push away Ashley Kersey’s glancing header from another Sexton cross, before Morrissey whipped in another snapshot that struck the foot of the post at the other end.
Three minutes from the break, the visitors re-took the lead and again Morrissey was involved.
He found Adam Mead in a central position and his strong shot was half-stopped by May but not enough to keep it out.
WGC began the second-half on the attack and Kersey and Josh Bronti both spurned chances before manager Fisher introduced Rolfe for the tormented Carl Mensah.
First choice full-back Rolfe immediately subdued the threat of Morrissey with a trio of fine challenges and the winger was soon replaced.
Clements was the second change coming on for Bronti and he brought a spark to the WGC frontline that had been previously missing.
And within two minutes of the change, the Citizens were level.
Newcomer Elliott broke through on the left and his goalbound effort took a mighty deflection off a Berko defender and flew over Tasker and in.
Kersey missed WGC’s best chance of winning it in normal time when Rolfe’s fine cross-field ball found him, but the big forward stabbed his effort straight at Tasker.
WGC made their third substitution on 82 minutes, Spaul replacing George Ironton and six minutes into the extra period, the midfielder produced the pass of the match to send fellow sub Clements racing clear.
The visiting defence tried to hold him up, but Clements rounded Tasker and held off two defenders to crash in WGC’s third home amid wild celebrations.
But those celebrations were cut short inside two minutes, when John McGrandles badly miskicked Mead’s cross from the right, straight into the path of Ashton Campbell who promptly despatched it past May for 3-3.
On the stroke of half-time in extra time WGC got their noses back in front for what turned out to be the last time.
A Joy corner was cleared back to the winger. He delivered a better cross and although Kersey’s effort was blocked, the rebound came out to Paul Marks who gleefully crashed the rebound home.
The start of the second period of extra time saw two astonishing misses by WGC that would have made the result safe.
Clements burst clear of a now stretched Berkhamsted defence to set up Spaul with a chance two yards out, but with the goal gaping the midfield man inexplicably hit the bar.
Two minutes later, history repeated. Again Clements’ pace got him free and this time he found Joy almost on the Berko goal-line, but the winger blazed his effort across the face of goal, instead of into it, from a couple of yards out.
Despite dominating the extra period, WGC just couldn’t put the ‘result to bed’ and in the game’s final attack had a real let-off.
A a left-wing cross from the dangerous Campbell hit the home crossbar. It bounced back down to him but his second effort was straight at May.