Southern League Division One Central: Welwyn Garden City start life at the higher level with a fabulous win over Didcot Town
PUBLISHED: 16:59 18 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:03 18 August 2018
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If this is what life is going to be like in the Southern League then Herns Lane may be the place to go this season.
Welwyn Garden City started their first ever season at step four with a 2-1 win over Didcot Town in a match that was jam-packed full of entertainment.
Adam Hunt went into the history book as the Citizens first goalscorer at the higher level but it was Jay Rolfe’s header on the stroke of half-time that proved the match winner.
The game started superbly for Welwyn and for debutant Hunt although he might have a job convincing people his attempt was actually a shot at goal.
The ball was played out to the right for the full-back to cross but his effort looped high and towards goal, leaving Didcot keeper Leigh Bedwell stranded.
And despite a desperate back pedal from the Oxfordshire stopper, the ball found the top corner.
And the explosive start to the game continued with the visitors drawing level just four minutes later.
A free-kick awarded for a clash between Jay Lovell and Felipe Barcelos, a flare-up that saw both men booked, was delivered high from the right towards the far post.
Dan Green came for it but never got there and Didcot skipper Adam Learoyd headed it back into the empty net.
That opening 10 minutes was just a glimpse of the high entertainment that was to follow.
And for 10 minutes especially midway through the half, the Citizens were in sparkling form.
They crafted numerous chances, the vast majority of which came from some scintillating football.
Hunt and Rolfe seem to be at the heart of most although Dan Bond, George Ironton, Ben Spaul and Jon Clements weren’t far behind.
Clements forced Bedwell into a reflex stop and a great turn while a Rolfe cross was inches ahead of Bond.
The Welwyn number 10 then couldn’t guide a Spaul cross on target while Rolfe headed one wide on the stretch.
Didcot had a couple of chances in the last five minutes of the half, Green saving well from Seth Humphries and Barcelos, as they reminded the hosts that they were still very much in the game.
And Welwyn took that reminder to heart, taking the lead with a stunning goal.
Hunt was the provider this time with a deep cross to the far post but Rolfe’s connection was the textbook definition of a bullet header.
Planting his feet, the midfield man tensed the neck muscles before thumping the ball back across Bedwell into the far corner.
It was always going to be a big ask for the second-half to live up to its predecessor but while chances were not as frequent, the action was no less enthralling for the big crowd inside Herns Lane.
Free-kicks had looked the most likely for Didcot with Matt Woodley’s delivery a constant menace.
One effort just evaded a blue shirt at the back post while minutes later Humphries replaced him to fire one low but inches wide.
Luke Carnell had a header from a hanging Sam Barder cross straight at Green but Didcot’s hopes of getting anything out of the game took a hit when Barcelos picked up a second yellow card for diving, one that was instantly followed by a red.
City still had to endure a nervy end to the game, Green punching clear another dangerous Woodley set-piece moments after denying Leaburn a second.
Didcot even had the ball in the net but the linesman’s flag was up early and to loud cheers at the final whistle, the Citizens held on for the three points.
Welwyn Garden City: Green, Hunt, Sexton, Payne (Close 59), Lovell, Corran, Rolfe, Spaul, Clements, Bond (Bronti 80), Ironton (O’Connor 66).
Subs (not used): T.Williams, Holmes.
Goals: Hunt 6, Rolfe 44
Booked: Lovell 9, Bronti 90+2
Didcot Town: Bedwell, Markham (L.Williams 58), Woodley, Carnell, Cattell, Learoyd, Barder, McNish, Barcelos, Humphries (Ballard 80), Thomas (Hayden 71).
Subs (not used): McNeill, Gardner.
Goal: Learoyd 10
Booked: Barcelos 9, 78, Thomas 19
Sent-off: Barcelos 78
HT: Welwyn Garden City 2 Didcot Town 1
Referee: Jeff Aldous (Bedford)