Stow earned an opening day victory for the fourth successive year with a dominant 3-0 victory over Welwyn Garden City. There were four changes from the side that lost to Buckhurst Hill in the FA Cup, with James Dillon making his debut between the sticks, and Panny Boxer, Lucas Schreiber and Ben Ward-Cochrane all making their full debuts.
In searing heat, Stow looked to get on the front foot early, and skipper Adalberto Pinto immediately won the ball back from kick-off but Stow couldn’t find a way to make the turnover into a shot on goal. The first real chance of the game went the hosts’ way, and Josh Hutchinson should have done better with a header at the back post which Dillon saved with his legs.
But from then on, it was more or less one-way traffic. A long clearance from Dillon found Ward-Cochrane who expertly picked out Demary Anyadike, unmarked in the box to sidefoot home.
The one chance Wewlyn did manage to fashion was a shot from Cheyce Grant which was directed straight at Dillon after the front man had cut inside.
The rallying cry from former Stow manager Max Mitchell, now in charge at Welwyn was clear for anyone within earshot of the changing rooms, but Stow quickly ruined his plans. In an almost carbon copy of the first goal, Samir Bihmoutine won the ball back in defence, put in Ward-Cochrane down the right who put it on a plate for Schreiber to side-foot volley home. The majority of the players on the pitch had stopped earlier in the play, expecting Bihmoutine to be penalised for a foul, but the referee waved play on.
Welwyn did not learn from their mistakes, and Ward-Cochrane had a golden chance to make it 3-0 but he side-footed wide when well-placed. It didn’t matter though, as he made amends just minutes later. Anyadike had the freedom of Herns Way down the right wing, and while Charlie Crowley dealt with the first cross, he could do nothing to stop Ward-Cochrane following up, who smashed the ball emphatically into the roof of the net.
With the outcome of the game now in no doubt, both sides seemed content to see out the remaining 20 minutes without any real incident, a case of self-preservation in the heat.