Welwyn Garden City ready for huge Aldershot Town clash after another win in FA Trophy
- Credit: KARYN HADDON
Welwyn Garden City set-up arguably the biggest game in their almost 100-year history after a nerve-jangling 2-1 win over Burgess Hill Town in the FA Trophy.
The Citizens will now host former Football League and now National League side Aldershot Town in the last 32 on Saturday, in front of a crowd limited to just 400 at Herns Lane.
Town, who were formed as a phoenix club after the original well-established league club folded, returned to the professional ranks in 2008, spending five seasons in League Two and just missing out on promotion to League One with a play-off defeat to Rotherham United in 2010.
And while City's planned celebrations to commemorate their 1921 formation are on hold, that game and this cup run will be a very fitting and long-remembered start.
Mind you after 70 minutes of near cruise control against Burgess Hill they almost contrived to throw it all away.
They were 2-0 up courtesy of goals from Lee Close and Carl Mensah when a very uncharacteristic error from keeper Charlie Crowley from a 72nd minute corner let the visitors back into the game.
When Mensah was sent off three minutes later for two yellow cards it threatened to get worse and had it not been for an offside flag it may well have done.
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However, a wonderful backs to the wall effort, epitomised by the colossal Close in the heart of the defence and the tigerish tackles in midfield of skipper Jesse Walklin, was enough to see WGC home.
Yet in the opening half, these frantic final stages looked highly unlikely.
Welwyn tore into their lower league opponents, totally dominating proceedings.
George Ironton had an effort charged down in four minutes but they were ahead two minutes later.
From Ironton’s corner Close came in with a rocket header, planting it high into the corner past keeper Alfie Jones and sending the 200-plus crowd into raptures.
Ironton was sent clear by a fine Jon Sexton interception, but badly pulled his final shot wide, as the Citizens continued to dominate.
Jordan Kinoshi, the two-goal hero in the win over Hednesford in the previous round, was also looking lively and he worked his way past two defenders to flash a shot across the face of the Burgess Hill goal.
On 25 minutes, Mensah caught upfield, having gone up for a set piece, was booked for a foul running back and that was to prove significant.
But two minutes later, he doubled the WGC lead after a punch from Jones landed at his feet and he crashed an unstoppable 25-yarder back past him.
Jones was forced to make a save almost immediately when a fine run by Walklin and a neat pass from Kinoshi set up Robbie Buchanan, but his low effort was held.
Just past the hour, WGC made their only change of the evening, when new signing Joe Bennett replaced a fading Kinoshi.
But the former Potters Bar Town midfielder had little chance to show his skills as it came minutes before the tie was turned on its head.
But Welwyn were not to be denied and now all eyes will turn excitedly towards the history-making clash on Saturday.
WGC: Crowley, Mensah, Close, Rolfe, Sexton, Walklin, Keenleyside, Ironton, Buchanan, Bailey, Kinoshi (Bennett 63).