City one game away from the Conference
- Credit: Archant
St Albans City are one game away from playing Conference football after setting up a play-off final against Chesham United.
The Saints booked their place after beating Cambridge City 4-2 at Bridge Road thanks to goals from John Frendo, Steve Wales, Ben Martin and Sam Corcoran.
James Comley kept the captain’s armband and there was no place in the starting line-up for Tom Ward with Ben Martin and Darren Locke preferred. David Keenleyside, Ram Marwa, Steve Wales and Sam Corcoran joined Comley in midfield and Frendo was deployed as a lone striker.
With a place in the play-off final on offer City took the tie by the scuff of the neck with a fifth minute goal from Frendo. Steve Wales was the architect as he broke from his own half before rolling the ball to the Saints’ top scorer who slotted the ball past Zac Barrett.
Good work from Wales and Frendo led to the second goal as they linked up on the edge of the area and the latter got off a snap shot which was cleared out of play. From the resulting throw in Lee Chappell hurled a long ball into the box which was flicked on to the back post where Wales was waiting to place it across the face of goal and into the far corner to put St Albans in control of the tie.
The hosts tried to get back into the game as Josh Beech had their first sight of goal in the 30th minute but he fired over Paul Bastock’s goal.
Wales, instrumental in all of City’s good work, almost added a third in the 32nd minute but his shot on the turn hit the bar before falling into Barrett’s hands. The goalkeeper released Josh Dawkin quickly down the left but Comley got back to dispossess him in the St Albans box.
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Adam Marriott was the first to see a yellow card after a late challenge on Lee Chappell. A melee of players ensued but the referee got a hold of the situation and kept his cards in his pocket.
As an uninspiring half from Cambridge drew to a close, they hauled themselves back into the game with a stunning strike from Danny Kelly, who conjured a goal out of nothing. St Albans were guilty of not clearing their lines but it was still all to do for Kelly who turned and smashed the ball into the top corner.
St Albans came out after the break looking to kill any thoughts of a comeback. Keenleyside had the first chance after a mix up in the Cambridge defence but his attempted lob was caught by Barrett.
It didn’t take long for the Saints’ third goal, though. Cambridge had no answer to another long throw in from Chappell and Martin rose highest to head the ball past Barrett and put the visitors 3-1 up with 51 minutes on the clock.
Kelly had a glorious chance to double his and Cambridge’s tally almost immediately after St Albans’ goal but he blazed over from five yards when he should have done much better.
Bastock then had to be alert as Marriott directed a bullet header on target but the Saints’ shot stopper pulled off a stunning save to deny the league’s top scorer.
There was nothing he could do to stop Marriott’s next effort. The striker latched on to a through ball and drove the ball home into the bottom right corner.
The Saints had two chances to restore their two-goal cushion, both coming from a Chappell throw in, but Barrett clawed a ball away from the top corner and then Frendo was unable to drive the ball through a mass of bodies and Cambridge cleared.
Marriott forced Bastock into another save after cutting in from the left and firing a shot at the far post. And they were at it again soon after as City’s keeper dived at Marriott’s feet to smother a chance.
With 15 minutes left to play, James Kaloczi was introduced to the game in place of Steve Wales.
It was Corcoran who proved to be the match-winner. The midfielder picked the ball up on the halfway line and drove forward. With nothing on he stroked the ball into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of Barrett.
Sykes then replaced Frendo, who had an excellent game as a lone forward and started St Albans on their way to victory with a cool finish.
The Saints saw out the last five minutes with few scares to book a tie against Chesham United with place in either the Conference North or South as the reward.
Cambridge City starting line-up: Barrett; Pepper; Brighton; Lawton; Chaffey; Beech; Burns; Martin; Kelly; Marriott; Dawkin; Lewis; Ramm; Beasant; Lee; Phillips.
St Albans City starting line-up: Bastock; Hall; Chappell; Marwa; Martin; Locke; Corcoran; Comley; Frendo; Keenleyside; Wales. Subs: Henry; Kaloczi; Sykes; Ward; Coulton.