Bakare double seals three points for St Albans City

French striker nets twice in first half stoppage-time to defeat Frome

Southern Premier Division

St Albans City 2 Frome Town 1

THE first match between the St Albans City and Frome Town was a largely forgettable encounter but City will remember it for the three valuable points gained which consolidates their mid-table position. But the result was always in doubt until the end.

Sakho Bakare struck twice in first half stoppage time to give City a now familiar two-goal cushion. Frome substitute Luke Ballinger scored from a delightful free kick with the last kick of the match and City, hanging on, were glad that there was no time to restart the game.

Improbable though it may seem, in an era when squad rotation is fashionable, both managers named unchanged line-ups from Tuesday’s fixtures but, for the Saints, Paul Furlong and Tobi Jinadu took their places on the bench in place of Marvin Alebiosu and Joakim Ehui. City chose to attack the York Road goal with a strong sun at their backs but a lack of ambition and some strong defending by Frome led to a 45minute stalemate. The visitors already have a good away record and City’s on-loan defender Kosi Ntlhe had to be at his best to thwart the direct running of Kris Miller on at least three occasions. The Robins almost took the lead in the 20th minute when a through ball opened up the City back four but Nick Jupp was able to block Shaun Benison’s clean strike on goal.

City’s most expansive move was neat interplay between Ntlhe and Ryan Watts but chances were few until near the end of the half. An overhead bicycle kick by Miller flashed past Jupp’s post and perhaps deserved better and at the other end, with two minutes left, skipper David Ijaha latched onto a loose ball but saw his left foot strike saved low down by Darren Chitty.

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Stoppage time, added because of injury to Ijaha and Josh Brigham, provided the opportunity for two unexpected goals for Bakare. Firstly he took a ball from Watts, turned his defender and shot low across Chitty into the far corner and within a minute had doubled his tally and City’s lead when he headed in a good left wing cross from Watts. There was still time enough for the Saints to panic and Frome captain Dean Evans was unlucky to see a pile driver of a shot hit a player in the crowded goalmouth and fly away to safety.

If ever there was a chance to show the City faithful that they had learned their lesson after squandering a two goal lead both last Saturday and on Tuesday, this was it. But they looked vulnerable from the start and just ten minutes into the second half they had a real let off when Sean Benison, on his knees, headed wide from two yards out with Jupp a mere spectator. Three minutes later the City defence were caught ball- watching and left a gap at the far post where a half-decent forward would have been to convert Ben Thomson’s swirling free kick.

At the Hatfield Road end Bakare’s nimble footwork allowed him to feed Jerome Walker to run at the Frome defence and from a half-clearance Ijaha’s fierce drive was blocked. Soon afterwards Danny Hart struck an instinctive volley from some 30 yards out to force Chitty into the best save of the match. A tired Bakare was then replaced by Furlong and Haisley by Barrie Matthews. But the most significant substitution was by Frome’s belligerent manager, Ballinger for Brigham - a striker for a full-back - with 15 minutes left. Within a minute the current England Futsal captain and all-time goal scorer in that innovative form of the game had a goal bound shot blocked.

Ten minutes from the end full back Tom Evans curled a shot from 35 yards that Jupp was unable to pick-up against the setting sun and was relieved to see bounce off the angle of post and bar.

The entertainment increased immeasurably as City almost made it three when Haisley’s forceful header gave Walker a half chance and just when the City fans craved for a tidy ending the game opened up. Ntlhe was beaten by Kyle Tooze but had the pace to recover and smoother a cross but on the other flank, from Ballinger’s great cross, Thomson’s goal bound header was cleared off the line by Reece Yorke.

Into stoppage time Jupp leapt acrobatically to turn over a Ballinger header and when Walker felled the number 17 on the edge of the penalty area he picked himself up, dusted himself down and struck a perfect free –kick over the defensive wall and beyond Jupp. For the fourth game in a fortnight City looked as though they might not be able to win all three points but Mr Phipps’ whistle sounded before the game could restart. The relief was almost audible.

Not surprisingly the City boss was full of praise for an all-round team effort and no one would disagree that Ryan Moran was his man of the match for his tireless defending. After the match he said that his squad was still taking shape. City fans will hope that his team shape will make it less likely to discard well-earned points on a regular basis.

St Albans City: Jupp; Yorke, Moran, Cutchey, Ntlhe; Hart (Sean Shields 83), Matthews (Haisley 71), Ijaha, Watts; Walker, Bakare (Furlong 71).

Subs not used: Jinadu, Viner.

Frome Town: Chitty; Brigham (Ballinger 75), Evans, Flockton, Bennett; Smith, Miller (Tooze 62), Evans, Benison (Plummer 62); Perrot, Thomson.

Subs not used: Lapham, Reaney.

Referee: Mr S Phipps (Abingdon)

Attendance: 303