Christmas cracker buoys St Albans City

Saints make it back-to-back wins for the first time this season

Southern Premier Division

St Albans City 3 Cambridge City 0

ST ALBANS City sent their supporters into the festive period in buoyant mood after recording back-to-back victories for the first time this season with a good win over Cambridge City.

Simon Martin helped himself to two headed goals – one in each half – before Matt Cutchey stole the limelight with a glorious curling effort from the edge of the box as the Saints saw off a Cambridge City side that was a shadow of the side that had thrashed David Howell’s men at Milton Road back in August.

Adie Cambridge’s impressive long throw-ins aside, the visitors offered little threat to a Saints defence that was again well marshalled by captain James Gray. When Gary Roberts’ men did beat the home defence they came up against a goalkeeper in Nick Jupp who was determined not to be beaten. The former Harrow Borough stopper enjoyed his best afternoon in a St Albans shirt, saving Craig Hammond’s late penalty and producing a remarkable one-handed save to keep out Joey Abbs’ point-blank header to ensure he kept his second clean sheet in as many games.

The visitors’ best chance came via an Adie Cambridge long hurl that was helped on at the near post by Lee Chaffey but despite Neil Midgley’s despairing dive at the far post the visitors couldn’t force the ball over the goal line.

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If that was meant to serve as a warning sign to the Saints they didn’t heed it as a near carbon copy long-throw from Cambridge was again flicked on at the near post by Chaffey with Yamfam the forward closest to applying the finishing touch at the far post.

That was about as good as it got for the visitors though as St Albans, with Micah Hyde dictating play in midfield, taking control of proceedings.

A ball into the channel by Ryan Watts allowed Martin to round Cambridge goalkeeper Zac Barrett but his goal bound effort was cleared off the line by Chaffey.

Paul Furlong missed a good opportunity to add to his tally when Watts bamboozled his marker and crossed into the six-yard box but the former Watford man couldn’t adjust his feet in time and the ball looped into the arms of Barrett.

Saints weren’t to be denied though and the opening goal came five minutes before half-time courtesy of a well worked free kick. Danny Hart, given his chance in the starting XI due to Sean Shields’ injury, had endured a quiet opening 40 minutes but his perfectly flighted delivery to the near post gave Martin enough scope to direct a header past Barrett and into the corner of the net.

Cambridge started the second half brightly but Robbie Nightingale shot wide of the goal and saw a second effort fall into the grateful arms of Jupp.

The introduction of Hyde to the Saints midfield has helped release the shackles on Daivd Ijaha and it was one of his impressive surges from the centre of the park that led to Martin’s second goal of the afternoon.

The former City captain takes some stopping when he is in full flight, something Cambridge were unable to do, and although his cross evaded everyone in the centre, Hart recovered the ball and lobbed it back in for Martin at the far post. The striker made a decent enough connection with his head but the ball looked to be going straight into the grasp of Barrett only for the visiting goalkeeper to inexplicably spill it over the line.

It proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and St Albans enjoyed their best spell of the game, playing some of their best football of the season. It was fitting that they then went on to score their best goal of the season, courtesy of Cutchey. The big defender looked to have got the ball stuck under his feet, when he received it on the edge of the box, but some neat footwork rectified the situation before the centre-half sent a curling shot into the top corner of the net with his weaker left foot. Clarence Park went wild and Cutchey was mobbed by his team-mates but the action was far from over.

First came Jupp’s wonder save to deny Abbs, the goalkeeper springing low to his right to get a paw to the winger’s header and push it away to safety before Cambridge were handed the chance to give their fans something to cheer when referee Kyle Kirkbride spotted a shirt pull in the penalty area. Substitute Craig Hammond stepped up to take the spot kick but Jupp guessed right and flew across his line to palm the penalty away to complete an excellent afternoon’s work from Howell’s Saints.

St Albans City: Jupp; Matthews, Gray �, Cutchey, Bernard; Hart (Ehui 90), Ijaha, Hyde, Watts; Martin (Lansiquot 87), Furlong (Haworth 80). Subs not used: Bakare, Jinadu.

Cambridge City: Barrett; Islam, Theobold, Chaffey, Gould; Midgley, Cambridge �, Nightingale, Abbs; Kelly (Clift 66), Yamfam (Hammond 66). Subs not used: Savalnieks, Death.

Referee: K. Kirkbride (Uxbridge) Att: 362.