City win thriller at Staines
- Credit: Archant
St Albans City picked up their first points of the season with a thrilling 3-2 win away to Staines Town on Tuesday.
Steve Wales scored either side of John Frendo’s first goal of the season as City staged a dramatic 12-minute turnaround. Still, they were indebted to goalkeeper Joe Welch who kept City in front with two top-class saves in the final 10 minutes.
Joint managers Graham Golds and James Gray called up Frendo for this first game of the season after City struggled to threaten Hayes and Yeading’s goal in the opening match. Ben Martin also made his first appearance with Tom Ward dropping to the bench.
City started the game really brightly, knocking the ball between each other and not surrendering possession by trying to force passes that weren’t available. In fact, intricate passing on the edge of Staines’ box produced the first chance but Sam Corcoran cleared the bar with his effort.
Wales, who was anonymous in the first game, made a run in behind the defence in the first 10 minutes, a good sign for him and City. Frendo then got his first sight of goal but he’s attempted curled effort was deflected behind.
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Five minutes later he had a clear sight of goal after a quick free-kick but his shot was straight at Jack Turner.
It took 18 minutes for Staines to have their first chance on goal – Ben Martin gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box – but James Comley blocked the initial shot from Josh Ekim and Ashley’s Lodge’s follow up skidded wide of Welch’s post.
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The teams cancelled each other for the next 10 minutes, the next chance coming in the 31st minute and falling to Lodge, after David Keenleyside lost the ball deep in his own half, but he cleared the goal and the net designed to keep the ball in the ground.
City had their best chance shortly after. Frendo won the ball in Staines’ half and played it to Comley who lifted a reverse pass to Wales on the right side of the box. The ball didn’t sit down quickly enough, though, and the shot was blocked.
Saints were again knocking at the door shortly after. David Keenleyside’s cross was headed back to John Kyriacou. The right-back took a touch but he shot for the top corner was always rising.
The action was all in Staines’ half and, after winning it in an advanced position yet again, Keenleyside danced towards the edge of the box and played it to Frendo who let it run for Comley. He prodded the ball towards the back post but Turner was quick off his line to claim it.
For all their good work, St Albans found went a goal down just before half-time. A ball over the top found Calum Willock behind the defence and his shot from a tight angle somehow beat Welch. City’s defence were asking for offside but the goal stood.
Normal service resumed for the final minutes of the half with St Albans working their way into the Staines’ penalty area but failing to test Turner.
St Albans stuck with the same team for the second half while Staines made one change: Lodge made way for Chace O’Neil. The substitute made his presence felt straight away with long-range shot that Welch pushed away.
At the other end, a weak headed clearance fell to Keenleyside on the edge of the box but his shot of the turn was well over.
Staines’ then gave City a mountain to climb when Louie Theophanous back-heeled the ball into the net, turning in Willock’s cross, but the visitors took the first steps towards points with their first goal of the season.
Keenleyside headed a ball straight up in Staines’ box and then battled well to win the ball back and tee up Wales who smashed the ball past Turner.
City added a second soon after as they finally started to reap rewards for their excellent play. This time it was good work down the right between Comley and Wales set up Frendo who made no mistake.
Corcoran nearly made it a stunning five minute spell with a third goal but his off-balance shot was easily collected by Turner. The goals invigorated City’s defence too as they put their bodies on the line to defend Welch’s goal.
City’s third wasn’t long coming and it was something special from Wales. He collected the ball on the right of the box and sent a looping shot over a despairing dive from Turner into the far top corner.
Staines’ refused to lie down though and Max Worsfold tried his luck from distance but he was off target. Right-back Sanchez Ming was causing more problems as the game went on and he forced a save from Welch in the 76th minute. In general, though, Lee Chappell kept him in check.
The excellent Keenleyside made way for Elliott Buchanan in the 80th minute before Frendo was brought off for Pires – two surprisingly attacking changes considering City were holding onto their first points of the season.
Staines were doing all the attacking and in the 84th minute Welch was called upon to make a brilliant save to deny Theophanous from a tight angle. Pashaj then had a long range shot that looked menacing but missed the top corner.
City were again indebted to Welch as Staines pushed forward; the goalkeeper tipped another shot around the post to keep City’s lead intact.
The promise of three points saw City through to the end as first Danny Green and then Buchanan made runs forward that gave them a respite from Staines’ relentless attacking. The final whistle finally came after five minutes of injury-time, signally the first win (of many) for the Saints.