Welwyn Garden City 3 v 1 Brackley Town Saints
(Saturday 9th September 2017)
For the second season in a row Saints were drawn against opposition from the Spartan South Midlands Premier League. Welwyn Garden City had made a strong start to their season, unbeaten in the league and their only setback coming in the FA Cup where they lost 4 - 2 to North Greenford United.
Saints themselves have had a reasonably good start to the season but are yet to find their rhythm and put together a run of consistent performances.
With Greg Kaziboni being called up to the Brackley Town first team squad for their visit to Salford City, Saints manager Gordon Kille opted to recall Chris Jordan to the middle of the attacking midfield moving Matt Johnson out to the right and James Watts replaced Joeb Evans in the centre of the midfield.
Although Saints striker Josh Bowden had the first chance of the game, drawing a good save from City keeper Charlie May after 2 minutes, the hosts started well and took control from the outset. The Saints defenders cleared a couple of early chances before, on 9 minutes, Welwyn Garden City's Josh Bronti beat Ali Worby with a tidy finish to break the deadlock, 1 – 0 to City.
Just 5 minutes later Saints switched off after clearing a corner leaving 3 City players unmarked in the box and it was Jon Clements who took charge and comfortably headed the hosts 2nd goal past Worby, 2 – 0 to City.
Saints were able to create a couple of chances to get back into the game, Matt Johnson set up another shooting chance for Josh Bowden that was saved and James Watts's well struck shot from distance went just over the bar, but they were given a mountain to climb when Josh Bronti was given far too much time in the penalty area to pick his spot and beat Worby again for his 2nd and City's 3rd goal of the game, 3 – 0 to City with 35 minutes played.
With the hosts perhaps relaxing a little Saints continued to work hard despite the scoreline and were rewarded after 40 minutes when after good quick play in the middle of the field a through ball set Josh Bowden clear and his pull back was perfectly placed for Chris Jordan to fire home, 3 – 1 to City.
Half Time – Welwyn Garden City 3 v 1 Brackley Town Saints
A change was made at half time for Saints with manager Gordon Kille replacing Chris Jordan with Lewis Baldwin who had missed a couple of games through injury but before he could affect the game in any way the hosts were offered a chance to extend their lead from the penalty spot when Saints defender Charlie Kille was adjudged to have handled the ball following a corner.
Welwyn Garden City's Josh Bronti stepped forward to take the kick looking to complete his hat-trick but Saints stopper Ali Worby pulled off a superb save to keep the visitors slim hopes alive.
Saints responded to the let off with an attack of their own with Matt Johnson being set free on the left but his first-time ball into the box just failed to reach the on-rushing Lewis Baldwin.
A second substitution for Saints was made with Sam Bridges replacing Charlie Kille and Bridges first involvement saw him penalised by the referee for a foul leading to another opportunity for the home side before, at the other end a chance for Ryan Knight was saved.
After 30 minutes the game was halted following a late challenge on Saints keeper Ali Worby resulting in a yellow card for the attacker and 4 minutes of treatment for the injured player.
With the game opening up as players from both sides tired Saints pressed forward to try to get back into it but they were unable to create any clear-cut chances. Striker Josh Bowden was replaced by Alex Stott to freshen things up and shortly afterwards the visitors were awarded a free kick just inside the City half.
The free kick led to Saints closest opportunity to score again with centre back Joe Ward leaping well at the far post but his header went just the wrong side of the post. In winning the ball Ward and the Welwyn Garden City defender had clashed heads and both remained on the ground requiring treatment.
For the second time in the half a significant stoppage in play of around 5 or 6 minutes with both players being unable to continue and as Saints had already made all 3 substitutions they played the remainder of the game with 10 men.
Bizarrely the referee deemed it appropriate to only play 5 minutes added time but this made no difference to the result and the home side were able to maintain possession of the ball to deservedly win the game and take their place in the next round.
Full Time – Welwyn Garden City 3 v 1 Brackley Town Saints
Saints: Ali Worby, Dan Middleton, Joe Ward, Dean March, Charlie Kille, James Hammond, James Watts, Matt Johnson, Chris Jordan, Ryan Knight, Josh Bowden
Subs: Alex Stott (replaced Josh Bowden), Lewis Baldwin (replaced Chris Jordan), Sam Bridges (replaced Charlie Kille), Calum Pearce, Callum Williams
Saints play at home (St. James Park) on Wednesday 13th September against Abingdon United and again on Saturday against Windsor