Welwyn resume giant-killing reputation by beating Merstham in FA Trophy

Lee Close, and Jay Rolfe in the background, were two of the scorers in Welwyn Garden City's FA Trophy win at Merstham.

Lee Close, and Jay Rolfe in the background, were two of the scorers in Welwyn Garden City's FA Trophy win at Merstham. - Credit: PETER SHORT

Welwyn Garden City are back on the giant-killing trail in the FA Trophy after seeing off Merstham in the third qualifying round.

Last season they dumped Hednesford Town and Horsham, both from the step above the Citizens, out of the competition on their way to the last 32 and a meeting with National League Aldershot Town.

This year has already seen them dispose of similarly-ranked Hythe Town and Ashford Town (Middx) but the 3-1 defeat of the Isthmian League Premier Division Moatsiders takes their run to the next level and into the first round.

Jay Rolfe put them ahead in the first half before Lee Close made it two and although Merstham pulled one back, George Ironton wrapped things up in stoppage time.

They had began in lively fashion with Greg Adinna blazing a chance in the first minute over the top and then Cyrus Babaie being denied by keeper Toby Bull after breaking through two defenders.

Babaie then spurned an even better chance, putting a header from close range over the top, while Jordan Watson was also stopped by Bull.

They finally got the breakthrough on 24 minutes, Jon Sexton providing the delivery for Rolfe to head home.

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Babaie then knocked one inches past the post before Merstham finally tested Charlie Crowley with a good save from Calvin Ekpiteta.

The hosts picked up the pace after the interval and John Ufuah was inches away from reaching a low cross across the face of the WGC goal in the opening minutes.

Their hopes of revival were dented when Close buried a powerful downward header into the back of the net for a 2-0 Welwyn lead on 57 minutes and they didn't look like improving until the award of a penalty with 20 minutes to go.

Rolfe was penalised for a tackle on Sergei Makofo and Ufuah fired home the spot-kick.

Manager Nick Ironton immediately went for more attacking options, bringing on Matty Campbell-Mhlope and George Ironton and the latter almost made an instant impact, his low free-kick deflected inches past the Merstham post.

WGC continued to press for a third which finally arrived in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time.

Ironton robbed keeper Bull and then very accurately found the empty net with a low, bobbling effort from 20 yards.