Super seven from Welwyn against St Neots as play-off hopes are boosted
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
Welwyn Garden City motored back into the Southern League Division One Central play-offs with consummate ease thanks to a 7-1 win over St Neots Town.
Dave Keenleyside and Elliot Bailey both scored twice in the first half as the Citizens threatened to run riot.
It wasn't quite that but they still added three more, Bailey completing his hat-trick before goals from Callum Stead and Alex Cathline.
The result means Welwyn are up to fourth with their goal difference seriously improved.
And while manager Nick Ironton could still be heard barking instructions deep into the second half, even he will be delighted with their evening's work.
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An multiple vehicle accident on the A1(M) had caused chaos for everyone trying to get here.
The officials, who were all from Milton Keynes and Bedford, as well as three-quarters of the visiting side were all trapped for over an hour to the north of Stevenage.
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The hosts weren't as badly disrupted but still had problems, with Jack Bradshaw arriving just 20 minutes before a kick-off which was delayed by 45 minutes.
The Saints did start slightly the better but only for a few early moments and once Keenleyside had volleyed in the opening goal on seven minutes, their resistance began to crumble.
It was a terrific goal and showed the technical ability that the skipper is blessed with.
The game looked gone even before his former St Albans City team-mate Bailey scored twice in three minutes.
Stead had played a good one-two with George Ironton before slicing a shot that James Philip had to kick behind.
The winger then had another attempt that he miskicked after great work by Romelle Alomenu.
Bailey had already had one chance that had deflected off a team-mate before he bagged his quick-fire double, and both owed a great debt to strike partner Eusebio Da Silva.
The first saw a free-kick from deep nodded down to Bailey and his first touch set-him up for a thumping finish into the roof of the net.
The second was down to the hard work of Da Silva and then the unselfishness to square it when every instinct in his body was probably screaming to shoot.
Bailey simply tapped it home from six yards.
There was no tap-in about the fourth, another beauty for the Keenleyside scrapbook.
This was thumped in from 30 yards but it was after a lovely passing move that saw Welwyn probe and pass their way up the field.
Alomenu almost gave them the perfect start to the second half after wriggling through two defenders again, Bailey just unable to turn the ball goalwards.
But he didn't have too long to wait for his hat-trick, using his strength to get behind the last defender and then rolling the ball beyond the keeper.
Chances again came and went, Stead having the best chance with a shot from a central position that seemed destined for the net until Philip beat it away.
A double substitution followed with the highly impressive pairing of Bailey and Da Silva taken off for Cathline and Toby Cleaver.
After needing a striker at the start of the season, Nick Ironton now has five good ones to choose from, including Brodie Carrington, and the starting pair have staked a good claim for regular games.
Their departure coincided with a slump in effort from the hosts and to punish them Jamie Kerins swerved a low drive beyond the unsighted Marco Tavares.
But it relit the fire again and Stead finally got his goal, getting ahead of Cathline, before the new signing from Enfield marked his debut with a goal, turning the ball in from 10 yards.
They could have had more again with Philip making two great saves in a row to deny Jesse Walklin and then Alomenu.
An effort from Catline that was blocked and then one fired over by Cleaver ended the game without further goals but despite the late finish, Welwyn supporters will still leave happy.
WGC: Tavares, Bradshaw, Alomenu, Walklin, Rolfe, Close, Stead (Smaldone 71), Ironton, Da Silva (Cathline 61), Keenleyside, Bailey (Cleaver 61).
Subs (not used): Mensah, McClelland.
Goals: Keenleyside 7, 40, Bailey 28, 31, 49, Stead 70, Cathline 77
St Neots Town: Philip, Kerins, Smith, Noble (Shaw 54), Boxer (Sutton 54), Goode, Bradley, Watkins, Musoke, Olusemo, Davies (Mutswunguma 72).
Subs (not used): Bennett, Connor.
HT: Welwyn Garden City 4 St Neots Town 0
Referee: Ryan Dix (Milton Keynes)