Herns Way or The BP Mitchell Stadium as it is now known has been the home of The Citizens since 1968. Situated to the North-West of the town centre, the ground backs onto Panshanger Golf Complex which I have in the back of my mind was once where Nick Faldo plied his trade (maybe even the club Pro at one point?). The ground has a relatively small car park which seems to force a lot of supporters to park in the surrounding streets or on the large grass verge which runs down Herns Way. Once inside the complex you find that all of the facilities are in the corner of the ground adjacent to the car park and are all outside of the actual stadium, which is accessed through a single turnstile. Once paid you get a ticket which allows you to freely exit and re-enter should you wish to visit the club house and snack bar.
The ground features a covered seating area, on the Herns Way side of the ground, which also incorporates a media 'tower' in which the stadium announcer sits. There is a also a covered standing area behind the car park end goal.
This would be Dean Barker's first game in charge of The Citizens after Adam Fisher, who over 6 years had produced 2 promotions and 2 cup wins, resigned his position at the club last Thursday. The resignation combined with a statement from the club stating that they had forced Fisher out, created a certain amount of unrest at the club with a number of players and staff following Fisher. As a result of this the club was forced to postpone Saturday's home game with Peterborough Sports (League sanctions yet to be known). The club then announced Dean Barker's appointment and the the nee manager began a very hurried process of trying to put a team together for Tuesday evening's fixture against Sutton Coldfield Town. The resignation, appointment and consequential squad rebuild happened so quickly that the programme for Tuesday still had Fisher listed as Manager as well as a squad list that bore no resemblance to the new squad (hence my very scruffily and rapidly written notes in the photo). To be honest, given that the stadium announcer reported only five players had remained, it was a minor miracle that they had got a squad together in a matter of a couple of days.
Coming into the game The Citizens were in 15th spot, after starting the season quite well but having only won 2 of their last 10 league outings.
Sutton Coldfield were in eighth spot, just outside the play-offs, seven points better off than their hosts but having played a game extra. They were unbeaten in five and had won four of their last ten league matches. Striker Ryan Nesbitt, with 12 goals, was in the top 10 marksmen in the Division.
Unsurprsingly, The Citizens didn't look that cohesive to begin with. As a team they had been put together in a very short period of time and could not have had more than a couple of sessions to get to know each other and formulate tactics. So, it wasn't that surprising that they didn't begin the game that well. However, they didn't need to be worried because their opponents also looked out of sorts. They had an excuse of sorts in that their goalkeeper had been delayed getting to the ground because of an accident and thy began the match with their manager in goal for the first 15 minutes.
Welwyn certainly started to settle into the game after a while but, in fairness, neither side managed to muster too much in the way of good football or serious attempts on goal.
The hosts came the closest to scoring when they hit the post after 22 minutes. The Royals were playing the more precise football but lacked any kind of bite up front and were definitely being outdone in terms of effort.
Having said that, it did come as a bit of a surprise when Welwyn Garden City took the lead after 40 minutes. A hopeful lob back into the box saw the ball dropping from height into the the heart of the Royals six-yard area. Gwilliams came for the ball and appeared to claim it, before fumbling it over the line, gifting the home side the lead. 1-0
HT Welwyn Garden City 1 Sutton Coldfield Town 0. Not the best game of football so far and hard to tell which team has been thrown together in two days. The Citizens will be much the happier after taking the lead just before the break. Hoping for a better second half from bot teams.
Welwyn continued to work very hard all over the pitch but I really though their lack of preparation would start to come into play as the game progressed. On the contrary though. The longer the second-half went on, the more The Citizens looked dangerous going forward. They were still having to defend a lot more than in the first half and it was noticeable that Sutton were generating more attempts at goal, but Welwyn were very much a threat on the break, especially with the pace an trickery of right-winger Griffith.
I have to say that, even as a neutral, I did feel a little for the Welwyn team and supporters when, on 88 minutes, Sutton Coldfield managed to snatch an equaliser. In hindsight it was on the cards. They had manufactured numerous chances in the second half, thwarted by some staunch defending and brave goalkeeping, and on that basis alone probably were due to get a goal at some point. The goal came when a ball into the box was not completely dealt with allowing Piggon to swivel and lash the ball into the net from close range. 1-1
FT Welwyn Garden City 1 Sutton Coldfield Town 1. The biggest credit to give to a very hastily assembled home side is that, although they will be pleased with the point, they will also probably feel that they should have won the game. I have not seen Sutton Coldfield play previously this season but their league position suggest that this evening was not indicative of their overall form. Having said that, maybe it was the hard work of The Citizens players, closing down all over the pitch, that made Sutton under peform? I guess the remainder of the season will tell the tale.
Welwyn Garden City: Todd, Smith, Sexton, Mays, Ebengo, Rolfe, Griffith, Keenleyside, Edwards, Clarke, Alomenu. Subs: Port, Andic, Carrington, Bannon, Anderos
For comparison, this was the WGC starting line-up their last game before Adam Fisher's departure - Green, Rolfe, Sexton, Payne (c), Cooran, Close, Elliott, Spaul, Zanone, Kersey, Keenleyside
Sutton Coldfield Town: Male, George, Curtis, Hurst, Clarke, Beresford, Letford, Palmer, Piggon, Nesbitt, McNulty. Subs: Gwilliams, Mutton, Delaney
Ground Number: 178