Welwyn Garden City claim extra-time FA Cup replay win over Saffron Walden Town

Juan Cifuentes wins the ball for WGC

Juan Cifuentes wins the ball for WGC - Credit: Archant

Juan Cifuentes’ 99th minute wonderstrike sent 10-man Welwyn Garden City through to the FA Cup first round qualifying after a dramatic night at Herns Lane.

Now the Citizens play away at Thurrock of the Ryman League Division One North on Saturday, September 13 in the first qualifying round - they are the only SSML Division One side this season to reach this stage.

The preliminary round had seen the Citizens draw 1-1 away at Saffron Walden on Saturday and so the two replayed in WGC last night (Tuesday).

Adam Fisher’s side were reduced to 10 when debutant Yasin Boodhoo was sent-off by referee Karl Tribe for dangerous play, when his challenge sparked uproar among the visiting Walden bench, who raced onto the pitch to illustrate their displeasure.

After order was restored, Mr Tribe sent off Boodhoo on his first full senior appearance for WGC.

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But down to 10 in front of a huge crowd at Herns Lane - WGC’s second highest for an FA Cup tie - the Citizens defended manfully for an hour with keeper Joe Croft and central defensive pair, skipper Liam Kenna and Jack Dekanski, outstanding in what, at times, was a rearguard action.

Eight minutes into the extra half-hour, Cifuentes, introduced immediately after Boodhoo’s dismissal, collected a fortunate rebound off referee Tribe, slipped inside a couple of challenges and unleashed an unstoppable effort into the far corner from 25 yards, that left Walden keeper Floyd Croll helpless.

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It decided 210 minutes between the two very evenly matched sides.

WGC went into the replay still without unavailable top scorer Jason Caswell, while Saturday’s scoring hero Sean Brettell was also away and Bradley Jenner, unwell.

Manager Fisher brought in Boodhoo, Isaac Oppong, for his first game of the season, and experienced full-back Paul Taylor.

Saffron Walden had the ball in the WGC net in three minutes, but Matt Snelling was clearly offside, before Joel Norris warmed visiting keeper Croll’s hands with a 20 yard drive.

Craig Arnott pushed WGC’s next good chance wide, after Boodhoo had headed down to him, before Shaun Avis brought Croft to his first save with an effort on the turn.

As the game wore on, both sides had their chances, Walden’s Snelling pulling off a goal-saving tackle as Norris threatened and Craig Calver going close for the visitors, just before Boodhoo’s dismissal.

Boss Fisher immediately brought on Cifuentes and Sam Perrin and Croft kept WGC in the tie, beating away a powerful effort from Walden substitute Crane with minutes left of normal time.

With the WGC 10 men defending heroically, a penalty shoot-out looked a distinct possibility, until Cifuentes’ stunner gave the Citizens even more to hold onto.

That they did successfully, left nearly all of an outstanding 315 crowd very happy at referee Tribe’s final whistle.

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