Ten-man Welwyn Garden City stage amazing turnaround to lift Spartan South Midlands League Challenge Trophy
PUBLISHED: 00:22 21 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:54 22 April 2016
Ten-man Welwyn Garden City pulled off one of the great cup final turnarounds as they came from 2-1 down to beat fellow Premier Division side Berkhamsted 4-3 and lift the Spartan South Midlands League Challenge Trophy tonight (Wednesday).
Welwyn Garden City v Berkhamsted
Welwyn Garden City team shot from the League Challenge Trophy final
Ashley Kersey (out of shot) nets Welwyn Garden City's first-half equaliser
Welwyn Garden City celebrate one of three second half strikes
Welwyn Garden City captain Daryl Smith (left) and manager Adam Fisher with the League Challenge Trophy
Welwyn Garden City manager Adam Fisher with his mum, Karen
While reversing a deficit with a one-man disadvantage is not so uncommon, their situation was made more undesirable by the fact that the player dismissed was keeper Joe Croft for a last man challenge on two-goal hero Josh Chamberlain three minutes after the break.
With no substitute custodian at Adam Fisher’s disposal, centre-back Yasin Boodhoo was charged with guarding the goal for the remainder of this pulsating encounter at Harefield United’s Preston Park ground.
Boodhoo’s first duty was to pick Tom Carter’s free-kick, afforded them following the sending-off of Croft, out of his net. Being slightly critical, the stand-in keeper, who has deputised in goal for WGC before, should have done better having got both hands to the ball.
That goal gave Berko a 2-1 lead and at that stage, they had one hand on the trophy.
Nevertheless, just beyond the hour mark Adam Fisher’s men amazingly led.
First, the quiet Danny Payne swung a terrific ball onto the forehead of giant defender John McGrandles who gratefully nodded beyond Carl Tasker for 2-2.
With their tails up and Citizens supporters vehemently prompting them forward, they struck again.
Jay Lovell’s throw was nodded on by Ashley Kersey, who had netted WGC’s first-half leveller, and Dave Parkinson got the final touch to squeeze the ball past the shellshocked keeper.
No-one could quite believe what they were seeing but it was to get even better nine minutes later.
Dodgy Comrades defending failed to fully clear the ball after Parkinson and Josh Bronti had headers blocked and under pressure from a WGC man, James Baldry diverted the ball into his own net.
Despite their two-goal cushion there was still enough time for another twist in the tale and when Chamberlain buried a 74th minute shot past the helpless Boodhoo for 4-3 you felt the tide may be turning.
However, former Watford forward Alex Campana’s cross-shot that ricocheted off the crossbar with 10 minutes to play was as close as Berko came to forcing a cup-deciding penalty shoot-out.
This encounter was everything WGC’s previous final - a 1-0 SSML Premier Division Cup loss to Hoddesdon Town - exactly two weeks prior hadn’t been. Goals, red cards and incidents galore.
A tentative first half could not have prepared the sizeable crowd for what was to unfold in the second.
Parkinson had WGC’s best chance in the opening 20 minutes of the game, steering a 20-yard free-kick onto the base of Tasker’s right-hand post.
From the follow-up Kersey could only divert the loose ball onto the same upright and behind.
That let-off allowed Berkhamsted to settle and they took the lead in the 32nd minute.
Sam Perrin’s weak header sent the ball invitingly onto Chamberlain’s left peg and he crashed a shot past Croft.
The Herns Lane outfit were only behind for three minutes though as great wingwork from Parkinson saw his cross parried to the feet of Kersey and he couldn’t miss from five yards out.
Both sides would have fancied their chances at the interval but it was WGC who eventually took the spoils in the most dramatic of circumstances.
A second successive season of silverware for last year’s league and cup double winners. Another historic night for the Citizens.
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