Late heartbreak but a battling draw with Sutton Coldfield Town has Welwyn Garden City supporters positive for the future
PUBLISHED: 22:35 15 January 2019
The Dean Barker reign at Welwyn Garden City came within two minutes of starting with a victory in their Southern League Division One Central clash with Sutton Coldfield Town.
But the hastily assembled squad can still be delighted with their performance in the 1-1 draw at Herns Lane.
The heart-breaking equaliser, scored after 88 minutes by Francis Amartey came after the claret shirts had faced a second half onslaught.
It came from a set-piece, a particular thorn in the Welwyn side, and saw the number twist and shoot home from six yards.
It was no less than Sutton deserved in all honesty but there was a definite pang of regret that Welwyn’s work hadn’t brought all three points from a lead earned five minutes from half-time through an own goal.
It was always going to be interesting to see Barker’s first WGC team and when it was announced it showed only three players who remained from the Adam Fisher era.
Jon Sexton, Jay Rolfe and Dave Keenleyside were the trio with the latter taking the captain’s armband.
Taishan Griffith was the other familiar face to Citizens’ supporters, the wide man returning after spells at Biggleswade Town and Hendon.
Sutton had their own selection problems with regular keeper Lewis Gwilliams delayed on the journey down and meaning Phil Male was required to don the gloves for the opening 13 minutes.
Mind the opening goal was a further nightmare on an already difficult day for Gwilliams.
He was all at sea as Jon Sexton lofted a ball under his crossbar from the left side of the box and when he failed to catch it cleanly, he could only watch as it apologetically fell behind the line.
The game itself had the feel of a pre-season game with so many new faces and it was absolutely no surprise that the west midlands side started the brighter.
But with WGC being driven forward by the three ‘old’ Welwyn players, the rest of the squad slowly started to pull together.
Lewis Todd had brought an appreciative round of applause from the home fans after a number of saves in the first period.
The first saw him beat out a snapshot while a double save denied Ryan Nesbitt.
In front of him Ashley Smith brought his many years of experience at the higher level to bear with a fine tackle as Sutton broke into the area and Dylan Ebengo showed plenty of strength alongside Rolfe in the middle of the back four.
James Mays had moments where he rivalled midfield partner Keenleyside with his range of passing and the two wide men of Griffith and Romelle Alumenu were busy and willing workers.
Up front Ned Clarke showed for most balls and Jordan Edwards, a tall rangy striker, showed plenty of strength too as he battled toe to toe with the Sutton centre-backs.
He was the one who went closest to opening the scoring in the first half before the goal arrived with a break from midfield and a shot from the edge of the area that beat Gwilliams and rebounded off the post.
The second half needed every man jack to be a defender as the Royals piled forward.
Todd continued to build a fine first impression with a number of fine saves while Rolfe and Ebengo flung themselves at most things to deny a yellow goal.
There were even some late attacks that brought the belief that the Citizens could pull off a massive victory.
But football is a cruel mistress although the loud applause at the end of the game from the supporters suggested they were pleased with their new charges.
WGC: Todd, Smith, Sexton, Mays, Ebengo, Rolfe, Griffith, Keenleyside, Edwards (Port 71), Clarke (Andic 77), Alomenu (Carrington 84).
Subs (not used): Bannon, Anderos.
Goal: Gwilliams (og) 40
Booked: Sexton 33
Sutton Coldfield Town: Male (Gwilliams 13), George (Mutton 46), Curtis, Hurst, Clarke, Beresford, Letford, Palmer, Amartey, Nesbitt, McNulty.
Subs (not used): Delaney.
Goal: Amartey 88
HT: Welwyn Garden City 0 Sutton Coldfield Town 0
Referee: Tom Cook (London)