City hold off Bedford to pick up three points

Chris Henry attacks Bedford Town's defence. Picture: Leigh Page

Chris Henry attacks Bedford Town's defence. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans City staved off a fightback from Bedford Town to escape Clarence Park with three points.

Kaloczi came off the bench to give City a 2-0 lead but they were pegged back by Sam Macrae’s 77th minute goal which set up a nervous final 15 minutes. The back four and Paul Bastock, however, kept the fightback at bay as City consolidated third place.

Joint managers James Gray and Graham Golds handed a debut to Barnet loanee George Sykes alongside John Frendo. Chris Henry also made a start as City put out an attacking side to get an early goal against a side that hasn’t picked up a point in the league since November 26.

It took City all of four minutes to create the first chance of the game. James Comley lifted a sublime ball over the defence for the on-rushing Kerrea Gilbert but Jordan Davis recovered to clear the danger.

The right back was at it again two minutes later as his cross beat Lee Crockett but came back off the bar. The ball fell to Lee Chappell who delivered a dangerous ball into the box which eventually set up for Sam Corcoran but he couldn’t direct his shot goalwards.

Tom Ward almost opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a smart shot on the turn from Lee Chappell’s cross but Crockett parried the ball away.

Sykes got his first look of goal in the 17th minute but a last ditch tackle from Stefan Powell stopped him in his tracks. City did not have to wait long for their next chance and Henry made sure to tuck it away.

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Bedford tried to hit straight back through Samson Alalade but his shot, the visitor’s first of the half, sailed over Paul Bastock’s goal.

Saints nearly doubled the lead in the 23rd minute as fortuitous through ball from Corcoran, intended for Henry, found Chappell in stride but his thunderous shot struck the post. The ball rebounded to Frendo but Crockett was aware enough to make the save.

St Albans did get a second five minutes later as Ben Martin headed Comley’s corner past Crockett but the referee blew up for a foul, cancelled out the goal.

Bedford started to play their way into the game after a pedestrian opening 30 minutes but they failed to test Bastock as City’s defence were alert to the danger.

Gray and Golds were forced to reshuffle their pack in the 40th minute as Comley came off injured, making way for James Kaloczi.

City were under pressure for the last 15 minutes of the half and they needed Bastock to be quick off his line to deny Alalade. Saints did have the last chance of the half as a melee in the box found Sykes but his shot on the turn was easily collected by Crockett.

Both teams came out unchanged and it was Bedford who had the first chance, carrying their momentum over into the second half, but Kerran Birch fired over when well placed.

Bedford brought off Jamie Nicholls for Sam Macrae in the 52nd minute as they went in search of an equaliser while City brought on Danny Green for Corcoran as they looked for a second goal.

The Saints’ second nearly came minutes later but Martin could not keep his header from Lee Chappell’s free-kick down. Sykes then made a strong run at goal that resulted in him being brought down on the egde of the box but Frendo could not capitalise, curling his effort over the bar.

The second goal came in the 62nd minute as Kaloczi’s shot was too strong for Crockett and it hit the back of the net.

After a poor half an hour, the goal calmed City down and they slipped back into the possession based football that has served them well all season. Bedford, on the other hand, reverted to the desperate, nervous play that characterised the opening exchanges of the game.

Kaloczi almost doubled his tally with 20 minutes left as Bedford rode their luck. A ball in by Henry was deflected towards goal, rebounded off Crockett to Kaloczi whose shot was saved at the second time of asking.

City then called an end to an encouraging debut from Sykes, introducing Elliot Bailey to the game. His play, particularly his link up play from high balls, will be integral to the Saints’ run in to end the season.

Bedford caught St Albans a man down to score their first goal and narrow the deficit. Kaloczi was receiving treatment for a bloody nose and while he was off a throw-in wasn’t defended and Macrae was allowed to pick a spot before firing past Bastock.

The goal brought about another switch in momentum as Bedford re-took the initiative. Fortunately for City, the back four kept the visitors to speculative shots which didn’t cause Bastock any trouble.

St Albans City starting line-up: Paul Bastock; Kerrea Gilbert; Lee Chappell; Ram Marwa; Tom Ward; Ben Martin; Sam Corcoran; James Comley; John Frendo; George Sykes; Chris Henry. Subs: James Kaloczi; Howard Hall; Elliot Bailey; Peter Dean; Danny Green.

Bedford Town starting line-up: Lee Crockett; Paul Cooper; Luca Seminerio; Jamie Nicholls; Stuart Wall; John Sonuga; Jordan Davis; Stefan Powell; Samson Alalade; Kerran Birch; Jerry Nash. Subs: Alex Thomas; Amos Kabeya; Sam Macrae.