Southern League: Lee helps Welwyn Garden City Close out important win at Kempston Rovers
PUBLISHED: 17:02 01 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:03 01 December 2018
Relief was the watchword as Welwyn Garden City captured all three points at 10-man Kempston Rovers with a 3-2 success.
Too often Welwyn have let leads slip, most recently at home to Coleshill Town, and after coming back to lead 2-1 at Hillgrounds, they would have angered and frustrated to let their hosts, burdened by having Ieuan Riley sent-off on 24 minutes, equalise with 18 minutes to go.
But Lee Close’s header ensured that the new-look Citizens returned south with the victory.
It had been a tough battle throughout and there is no doubt that the sending off changed the whole of the game.
But it began with Kempston firmly on the front foot.
The Walnutboys had a number of players making their debut with one being a familiar face to many.
And if Welwyn thought Izale McLeod had lost any of his ability, they were given a quick reminder that this wasn’t the case.
Twice in the opening four minutes the former Milton Keynes, Barnet and Derby County striker had a sight of goal.
The first saw him pull it back into the middle, forcing Dan Green into a smart save, while the second went beyond the WGC keeper but off the outside of the post.
Green was by far the busier of the two stoppers as the Citizens started slowly and had to make an excellent double save 20 minutes in.
That stopped a deflection from Lee Close going in while the second was at the expense of the corner.
But it was from that resulting set-piece where the hosts took the lead.
Welwyn’s defence went missing, allowing the unmarked Alfie Powell to guide a header back into the far corner of the net.
It was nothing more than they deserved for their start but all their good work was undone just three minutes later.
Riley lunged in with a tackle he didn’t have to make and caught not only Dave Corran but one of his own players as well.
The referee produced the red card, which stood after a consultation with the linesman.
It gave City the boost they needed and a fine passing move brought them level on the half-hour.
Zanone got it with a shot from the right-hand side of the box that looped up and over Thomas Wyant and into the far corner of the net.
There was some doubt as to whether he meant it but it was a deserved outcome to a lovely flowing move.
Dave Keenleyside got into the act with a fabulous ball delivered with the outside of his boot to Zanone but Mason Spence’s long leg diverted it away from Nick Elliot.
You got the feeling that City were growing into the game and manager Adam Fisher’s team talk would have been an interesting one in the away dressing room.
Whatever was said, it seemed to have been heard loud and clear.
Zanone had already forced Wyant into a fantastic point-blank save, not that it would have counted mind as the offside flag was up.
But the linesman kept it down shortly after as Welwyn took the lead.
The ball through to Keenleyside was one the former St Albans City and Harpenden Town man would have been proud of.
As it was he was on the end of it, breaking the offside trap and clipping the ball over the advancing Wyant.
Zanone hit the side netting and Elliot forced the keeper to push a curling shot round the post.
It was all one-way traffic as Green was forced to dive full-length and turn a Evan Beldon shot round the post.
But it still looked like it was heading to an away win until Mason Spence unleashed a wicked swerving and dipping drive from around 25 yards that flew over Green’s head and into the net.
It lifted the voices of the already-raucous home support and when Spence charged through the middle, Welwyn hearts were in their collective mouths.
It was perhaps no surprise then to see Welwyn celebrate wildly when Close rose highest to nod home a corner 10 minutes from time.
And this time they closed out the game in relative comfort.
WGC: Green, Rolfe, Smith, Payne, Close, Corran, Elliot, Spaul (May 87), Zanone (Kersey 84), Keenleyside (Bond 68), Clements.
Sub (not used): Sexton, Iwediuno.
Goals: Zanone 30, Keenleyside 53, Close 80
Booked: Elliott 45+2, Spaul 63, Smith 65, Clements 75
Kempston: Wyant, Sambu, Spence, Akubine, Powell, Riley, Acquaye (Joseph 87), Shepherd, McLeod, Tshikuna, Andrews (Beldon 46).
Subs (not used): Ronayne
Goals: Powell 21, Spence 72
Booked: Beldon 55, Spence 75
Sent-off: Riley 24
HT: Kempston Rovers 1 Welwyn Garden City 1
Referee: Wayne Chalmers (Northampton)