Captain Lee Chappell leads by example to help St Albans City see off Weston-super-Mare and reach FA Cup First Round proper
- Credit: Archant
St Albans City can dream of a plum tie from Monday night’s FA Cup First Round draw after defeating fellow Vanarama National League South side Weston-super-Mare 2-1 in the Fourth Qualifying Round at Clarence Park.
Captain Lee Chappell’s baseball-like slide at the far post to convert debutant Ben Nunn’s cross was the deciding factor for the Saints.
Up until then, the hosts were on uncertain ground having seen their half-time lead extinguished within 10 minutes of the interval.
Seconds before the half-time whistle, top scorer Louie Theophanous harried former St Albans defender Clayton Fortune into a slip, stealing the ball and supplying Graeme Montgomery to put City ahead.
Disaster struck early in the second period as a defensive mix-up between keeper Joe Welch and Darren Locke left Ben Withey the easiest chance to level for the Somerset side.
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The confidence seemed to drain from the hosts as Weston got on top but with the game heading for a replay, Chappell popped up to settle the tie.
It is the second time in three years that the Saints have been in the hat for the first round and all Saints eyes will now be on BBC Two at 7pm. Jimmy Gray and Graham Golds’ side will be hoping for a better outcome than 2013, having scored first but eventually lost 8-1 to League Two Mansfield Town.
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Saints made two changes from the side that narrowly lost at Maidstone United in league action last Saturday as Nunn, a recent new recruit from Boreham Wood, started at right-back while Kevin Krans was preferred to Luke Allen in support of Theophanous.
The visitors chose to shake things up a little more as they made four changes. Bradley Ash, two-goal hero from their 3-1 victory at Wingate and Finchley in the previous round of the Cup, was among the starting 11, although his impact was rather more minimal in this encounter.
City started nervously, with the suspended Ben Martin’s absence looking particularly key having been sent off during the Saints’ crushing 6-0 defeat at Whitehawk two weeks ago, and they were lucky not to go behind inside the first 10 minutes.
First, Jake Mawford flashed a ball across the area that Withey blasted over and then moments later, Welch scuffed a backpass to Mawford but the Saints escaped.
From there, City found some rhythm and should have got themselves in front. Kevin Krans’ neat pass found Ghassimu Sow with time around the penalty spot but he shot wide.
Both sides fancied their chances in this winnable tie but neither could stamp their authority on the game.
Theophanous, perhaps the most likely to grab the headlines, missed when in acres of space once more as Saints wasted another chance.
More opportunities continued to go begging for the hosts, although Billy Gibson’s rifled effort needed a firm Luke Purnell palm to avoid the concession of the first goal, but just on half-time, Theophanous’ good work teed up Montgomery who showed composure to finish. A deserved half-time lead for all their endeavour.
City began the second half as sleepily as the first and, following let-offs via shots from Jamie Edge and McClennan, the latter made good of poor defending to level things up, albeit through kamikaze defending.
The home side looked a shadow of the team that skipped into the dressing room ahead a few minutes earlier and they looked in danger of throwing away the tie.
Weston, entrenched in the National League South relegation zone with St Albans failed to take any afforded chances, and they were made to pay when Chappell surged into the box unopposed and stuck the ball beyond Purnell.
Try as they might, the away side could not muster anything tangible in the final minutes and City should have perhaps won by more. Substitute Harry Crawford shot straight at the keeper with time and the impressive Nunn also shot wide.
That won’t matter to the Saints though. They enter the hat for the next round alongside the likes of Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, Portsmouth and Luton Town. Any of those would leave them smiling from ear-to-ear.
St Albans City - Welch, Nunn, Chappell (capt), Thomas, Comley, Locke, Gibson (Allen, 77), Sow (Corcoran, 68), Theophanous, Krans, Montgomery (Crawford, 77). Substitutes not used - Corcoran, Longe-King, Hartley, Kyriacou, Coulton.
Weston-super-Mare - Purnell, Keary, Barnes, Wring, Edge (capt), Fortune, Withey, Ash, Page (Plummer, 63), Mawford (Grubb, 72), McClennan. Substitutes not used - Cane, Jackson, Byrne, Filipov, Wilson.