Welwyn Garden City hit four but win over Kempston is not as comfortable as it should be

PUBLISHED: 21:50 18 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:59 19 February 2020

Dave Keenleyside scored twice in the first-half for WGC against Kempston Rovers. Picture: DANNY LOO

Dave Keenleyside scored twice in the first-half for WGC against Kempston Rovers. Picture: DANNY LOO

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Welwyn Garden City kept their play-off hopes well and truly alive with a 4-2 home win over Kempston Rovers – but they made it far harder than it needed to be.

It hadn't looked that way in the first period as Dave Keenleyside scored twice to give them a 2-0 half-time lead but after the break it was a different story.

Twice Kempston narrowed the gap to one before Welwyn scored again.

But despite all the troubles of the second period, Callum Stead and debutant Hani Berchiche secured the victory that keeps them safely in fourth in the Southern League Division One Central table.

The game was in doubt after a heavy downpour three hours before kick-off left the pitch even more sodden than it had been.

Hard work by officials of both clubs to fork some of the excess water away worked wonders and allowed the game to kick, albeit eight minutes late.

And the pitch held up well in the first-half as Welwyn took control.

They had spurned numerous chances to shoot at Michael Hudson's goal when Jordan Watson, playing as a makeshift striker because of the club's injury problems, broke through the middle only to be tugged back as he moved into the box.

After much delay, and a booking for Max Marsh, Keenleyside hit the penalty with precision into Hudson's right-hand corner.

It was a good job it was placed so well too as the keeper's full-length dive almost kept it out.

There was plenty of precision for his second as well although this one though left the Kempston keeper rooted to the spot.

It was a fantastic finish, side-footed from about 25 yards after good work from Stead and bouncing in off the post.

The skipper could have had a hat-trick too but his first-time following more fine wing play from Stead struck the other side of the same post and went wide.

There were other chances too as the Citizens made light work of the conditions, playing some good passing football.

Dylan Ebengo hooked his shot wide and Watson forced Hudson into a good stop at the near post.

Marco Tavares, recalled to the City starting line-up, was forced to make a good save from Sam Johnson in first-half stoppage time but it was a rare foray from the visiting Walnutboys.

But while it may have been the first real attempt on goal for the away side it was one that Welwyn should have heeded as they conceded two minutes after the restart.

There were shouts of offside from both pitch and stand but Johnson's close-range shot on the far post was allowed to stand.

Fortunately before Kempston had a chance to press home their new-found momentum, Welwyn restored their two-goal lead when Stead stabbed in a cross from six yards.

And that should have been that, except it wasn't.

City continued to make hard work of it and after allowing Johnson to get clear down the right, his deflected cross was turned in by Ben Baker.

Bookings had littered the game and continued to do so before Welwyn again made it a two-goal game.

Persistent play by Charlie Payne, back in the squad after injury, allowed him to dink a cross to Berchiche 12 yards out and he guided his header beyond the dive of Hudson.

WGC should have added to their tally, most notably when Stead squandered a three-on-two break but they got to full-time with no further problems.

And as long as they keep winning fans will not be too bothered.

Welwyn Garden City: Tavares, Ebengo (Matthews 73), Sexton (Taylor 66), Close, Njie, Rolfe, Rolfe, Stead, Payne, Watson, Keenleyside, Opoku (Berchiche 53).

Subs (not used): Smaldone, Pant.

Goals: Keenleyside (pen) 19, 31, Stead 50, Berchiche 71

Booked: Payne 64, Close 88

Kempston Rovers: Hudson, Marsh, Hyde, Wright, Bailey, Nicholls, Johnson, Goodman, Phillips, Dahie (Stratton 73), Baker.

Subs (not used): Birch, Shortt, Hunt.

Goals: Johnson 47, Baker 62

Booked: Marsh 19, Goodman 24, Johnson 53, Nicholls 56, Wright 80

HT: Welwyn Garden City 2 Kempston Rovers 0

Attendance 52

Referee: Luigi Lungarella

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