FA Cup second qualifying round
Matt Harriott 58
Welwyn Garden City
Jordan Watson 28, Jordan Kinoshi 72, Matty Campbell-Mhlope 78
Welwyn Garden City one step closer FA Cup dreamland with deserved victory at Bedford Town
- Credit: DANNY LOO
Welwyn Garden City are just two games from the first round proper of the FA Cup after a thoroughly-deserved victory at Bedford Town.
Goals from Jordan Watson, Jordan Kinoshi and Matty Campbell-Mhlope fired them to the third qualifying round for only the second time in their history with a 3-1 win.
They had to scrap for every ball and every bit of possession but coming on the back of the awful performance seven days earlier in the home defeat to St Neots Town, this was a joy to watch.
Bedford had levelled early in the second half but the winning double, inside the final 20 minutes, sent the travelling army into delirium.
Manager Nick Ironton went with three changes from the side that started against St Neots while the return of Jess Walklin was expected, the skipper replacing Ryan Doherty, the return of Carl Mensah and Elliot Bailey's inclusion at right-back were definitely out of the blue.
Joe Bennett made way for Bailey while Lee Close was missing from the centre of defence.
And after a few frantic moments in the opening minute, two blocks required to preserve parity, the reorganised back four were to a man superb.
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Jay Rolfe and Mensah both put in vital challenges at vital moments and with the full-back pairing of Bailey and Jon Sexton making sure they were well supported, it was the perfect base for Welwyn to build from.
It was needed too because this was not a fast and furious FA Cup tie but a tense and nervy one.
Neither keeper really had a save to make throughout the entire opening 45 minutes although both got into good positions at time
It made the opening goal even more important and it came from a Bedford taken short by their keeper, Alex Street, inside his own box.
Seconds later a tackle by Walklin rebounded to Watson and sent him in on goal, remaining calm to place it to the left of the stopper.
Craig Mackail-Smith should have equalised but inexplicably missed from about a yard after a cross from the left.
It was a good lead but Welwyn's happiness at half-time was tempered by an injury to Ben Spaul, picked up on the whistle.
It required a good couple of minutes of treatment after the others had left the field but although he returned with the rest of them, he lasted just four minutes and was replaced by Charlie Payne.
The second half was much brighter for both teams with Bedford determined to get back into it quickly.
They did after 13 minutes although it required a huge slice of luck, a deflection taking it the other way to which Crowley had dived.
It came moments after Callum Taylor had almost made it two, a deep free-kick dropping over the head of the keeper but the wide forward had to react quick and couldn't turn it home.
Kinoshi had an even better chance after what can only be described as a determined run.
He somehow wriggled clear of three defenders but when faced with a one-on-one with the keeper, it was Street who won.
But he was not to be denied and when he was presented with another chance, from a suicidal cross-field pass from Shaun Keane, and after cutting inside, he fired low to the keeper's left.
Two became three six minutes later.
Dave Keenleyside released Campbell-Mhlope down the left and when the winger's cross wasn't collected by Street, he raced in to fire it into the far corner.
Bedford pushed late on, Crowley produced a strong hand to push a Will Summerfield drive away, but this was Welwyn's day and deservedly so.
Welwyn Garden City: Crowley, Bailey, Sexton, Walklin, Mensah, Rolfe, Kinoshi, Spaul (Payne 49), Watson (Vasey 84), Keenleyside, Taylor (Campbell-Mhlope 66).
Subs (not used): Ironton, Babaie, Adinna.
Goals: Watson 28, Kinoshi 72, Campbell-Mhlope 78
Booked: Walklin 54, Sexton 79
Bedford Town: Street, Keane (Brown 75), Miccio, Steele, Sanders, Alban-Jones, Tomlinson, Richardson, Harriott, Page (Summerfield 75), Mackail-Smith.
Subs (not used): Duffy, Donnelly, Setchell, Ishola.
Goal: Harriott 58
Booked: Steele 47, Sanders 57
HT: Bedford Town 0 Welwyn Garden City 1
Referee: Joe Woolmer (Northampton)