Slideshow: Saints have enough to sink FA Cup giant killers
ST Albans City made it five wins and a draw from six games with a strong display in tough conditions against Havant & Waterlooville at Clarence Park on Saturday. Defender Hasim Deen was again ruled out with an ankle injury for City
ST Albans City made it five wins and a draw from six games with a strong display in tough conditions against Havant & Waterlooville at Clarence Park on Saturday.
Defender Hasim Deen was again ruled out with an ankle injury for City and skipper Paul Bruce went down with flu. Boss Steve Castle handed a first start for Jon Hunt since his return to the club. Hunt replaced Bruce on the left side of a midfield four and Paul Hakim recovered from an ankle problem to continue his fine partnership with Akanni-Sunday Wasiu. Lee Clarke took the captain's armband.
FA Cup headline makers Havant & Waterlooville included former City man Gary Elphick at centre back and on-loan Grays Athletic player Jamie Day in midfield. Striker Rocky Baptiste who starred in the impressive cup run earlier this season was partnered by Luke Nightingale who made his debut after signing from Bognor Regis Town. Manager Shaun Gale included eight players in his squad who featured in the Third Round cup clash against Liverpool at Anfield in January.
City went against the blustery wind in the first half and started brightly. A free kick from Jon Hunt was headed back out to Hassan Sulaiman who saw his volley hit Havant defender Jay Smith and divert for a corner kick.
On 11 minutes, powerful striker Sunday held the ball superbly and spread the play to Sulaiman who provided an indication of the confidence in the City camp as he burst between left back Brett Poate and midfielder Jamie Collins. Sunday almost found Luke Thurlbourne on the edge of the box after the set up play from Sulaiman. A minute later City attacked again and Sunday surged through on goal, only to lose control as the ball ran awkwardly on the sticky Clarence Park surface.
Sunday continued to make his presence felt and in the 24th minute, after Hakim and Sulaiman combined well to find the forward who saw his shot blocked superbly by a fine challenge from Havant centre back Neil Sharp.
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Havant struggled with the wind in their favour and caused few problems for City goalkeeper Paul Bastock. The experienced goalkeeper did well to collect a dangerous free kick from left winger Tony Taggart with striker Baptiste lurking. Bastock then rushed out quickly to tackle Nightingale who had got away from Ryan Frater.
City took the lead in the 34th minute when the excellent Scott Cousins delivered a precise cross from the left flank. Sunday beat Elphick in the air and his glancing header flicked off Hakim and found the corner of the net.
City almost conceded the lead just a minute after scoring. Bastock struck a wayward clearance straight into the path of Havant forward Baptiste who lofted a shot over the stranded 'keeper and against the far post. Bastock recovered well to dive at the feet of Nightingale who was flagged offside.
Clarke fired a shot wide from 30 yards before Hakim found the net again on 41 minutes only this time he punched the ball home and received a yellow card as reward. Giant defender Ben Martin then came to the rescue before the break with a superb deflection to send a shot from the dangerous Baptiste wide of the target.
In the second half City were playing with the wind and the measured long passes that had held up well in the first 45 minutes, suddenly carried too far.
Both sides took time to adjust and just before the hour mark a tame shot from Baptiste forced Bastock to dive and make a comfortable stop.
Right back Fisher, proving an exceptional signing since his switch from Northwood, made a vital challenge in the 59th minute. Baptiste and Nightingale linked up superbly to expose the City defence. A low ball in from Baptiste looked dangerous until Fisher made a superb tackle at the back post and Bastock was able to come out and gather the loose ball.
Havant missed their best chance on 63 minutes when Smith delivered a cross which swirled over the City defence and Taggart glanced his header well wide from a glorious position.
City threatened to cut Havant open on 66 minutes when Fisher played a great pass to Hakim who found Sulaiman and only a strong intervention from Elphick at the near post denied Sunday a tap in. A minute later Hakim surged clear off Elphick and rounded Scriven only to see his strike at goal roll across the face of goal and away to safety.
Bastock was alert in the 73rd minute to palm over a rising shot from Nightingale after a good cross from Smith. From the resulting corner Bastock was caught underneath the ball but Havant substitute Gavin McCallam flicked his header wide.
City substitute Simon Martin almost escaped the attentions of the Havant defence after good work from Cousins and Clarke. Right back Fisher then struck a shot only just wide from 35 yards out. Saints looked the more likely scorers during the six minutes of injury time with Sulaiman denied by some superb goalkeeping from Scriven following more good play from the energetic Clarke. Fittingly, impressive defender Ben Martin denied Havant their last chance when he shrugged substitute Jamie Slabber off the ball, turned clear in style and nullified the danger.