Clarke haunts City as away day blues continue

Welling United 3 (Michael Deane 9, Lee Clarke 18, Andy Sambrook 64) St Albans City 2 (Quinton 66, 77p) James Ronayne at Park View Road NINE-man St Albans City were undone by former favourite Lee Clarke as their away days blues continued at Park View Roa

Welling United 3 (Michael Deane 9, Lee Clarke 18, Andy Sambrook 64)

St Albans City 2 (Quinton 66, 77p)

James Ronayne at Park View Road

NINE-man St Albans City were undone by former favourite Lee Clarke as their away days blues continued at Park View Road.

Clarke scored one and set up the other two as City, who had Solomon Shields and Paul Bastock dismissed, succumbed to their second defeat of the campaign.

City were very poor early on and found themselves 2-0 down inside 20 minutes however it was the performance of referee Matt Foley that will have incensed the City fans most.

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The London whistle-blower dismissed Shields minutes before half-time for 'going over the top' despite awarding the free-kick in City's favour - City boss Steve Castle was as baffled as the rest of us.

Bastock joined Shields in the dressing room with 20 minutes remaining. A poor back-pass from Ryan Frater was pounced upon by Clarke and as the ex-Saint lifted the ball over the City stopper he went down. If Bastock did touch him it was the slightest of touches and Clarke could have scored had he stayed on his feet relieving his team of a nervy last ten minutes.

Despite City's poor showing early on they could have actually taken the lead when Shields won the ball on the right and slipped it in to Alex Bailey whose low cross was well cleared by Jack Parkinson with Gary Cohen set to pounce.

City failed to clear the ball and Rob Hughes cross was met by Clarke but Bastock easily held the Welling man's effort.

Welling didn't have to wait long to break the deadlock though opening the scoring in the ninth minute and it was that man Clarke who did the damage. The striker picked the ball up in the left-hand channel and after bamboozling James Quilter he put Michael Deane in the clear with the winger lashing the ball past Bastock from 10 yards.

Welling nearly made it two shortly after the quarter of an hour mark but both Jake Hobbs and Parkinson saw their efforts blocked from close range by James Fisher.

The second goal wasn't long in coming though as Clarke returned to haunt his former employers. Michael Haswell whipped in a vicious free kick from the right-hand side and Clarke rose unchallenged to head past Bastock from six yards out.

City regrouped and had a good spell in possession with Shields and Luke Thurlbourne creating an opportunity for Fisher but the midfielder blazed over the bar.

Clarke nearly grabbed a second but his header came down onto the bar before being scrambled away by the shell-shocked City defence.

With things not going City's way and Thurlbourne already being booked Steve Castle bought on Paul Hakim in place of the former Southend man.

City's night got even worse when Shields was sent off. The 19-year-old was devastated by Foley's decision and Castle later called the referee's judgement a 'horrendous decision'.

From the resulting free kick Frater hit a venomous effort but it was straight at goalkeeper Charlie Mitten who easily held it.

The sending off appeared to galvanise City and Danny Green had a good left-foot shot go narrowly wide of the post.

City could have been 3-0 down with the second half just eight seconds old as Hobbs got in on the left hand side but thankfully for the visitors his shot was tame and straight at Bastock.

City's saw a glorious chance fall to sub Darren Quniton in the 55th minute as the midfielder ghosted in unmarked and he really should have done better with his header from Everitt's cross.

Castle's men continued to probe for a goal and only a great one-handed stop from Mitten denied Hakim. Everitt found the striker at the far post and his smart volley was excellently saved by the Wings' stopper who bounced back up and denied Hakim from the rebound.

City's pressure continued and a Fisher corner was headed over the bar by Cohen at the near post.

A free kick by Deane out on the right was met by Perkins but his low header couldn't get past Bastock who saved low down.

Welling did make it 3-0 in the 64th minute as Clarke ripped through the Saints defence once more. The 26-year-old spun his man and laid the ball off for Andy Sambrook to fire past Bastock.

City regrouped once more and Quinton reduced the deficit in the 66th minute with a super goal. Excellent skill and persistence from Cohen saw him wriggle free of two defenders and his pass released Quinton who showed great composure to slip the ball through Mitten's legs.

City's joy was short-lived though as referee Foley reduced them to nine men five minutes later. Frater's poor back-pass left City in trouble and as Clarke went down Foley was only ever going to make one decision with Everitt donning the gloves.

Welling failed to test Everitt with the fullback not having a single shot to deal with as City took control of the match.

The Wings were left to suffer a nervous final ten minutes as City and Quinton grabbed a second. Quilter played a long ball over the top to Cohen who was hauled down and Foley pointed to the spot. Bizarrely the referee deemed that the challenge, which denied a goalscoring opportunity, wasn't even worthy of a yellow card let alone a red. Quinton stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way.

At the other end a poor clearance by Everitt was pounced upon by Deane and Clarke was only denied another goal by a great last ditch challenge by Frater.

Quinton went in search of his hat trick and went close with a long-range volley that had Mitten worried but it wasn't to be for City as a relieved Welling held on for their first three points of the season.

Welling United (4-3-1-2): Mitten; Sambrook (Protheroe 68), Ngakam, Perkins, Haswell; Hughes, Parkinson, Deane (Greehalgh 89); Hurrell; Hobbs, Clarke (Menga 90+1).

Sub not used: Billings.

St Albans City (4-3-3): Bastock; Bailey, Frater (c), Quilter, Everitt; Fisher, L.Thurlbourne (Hakim 32), Shields; Roberts (J.Thurlbourne 75), Cohen, Green (Quinton 46).

Subs not used: Thomas, Mitchell.

Referee: Matt Foley (Rotherhite)

Attendance: 445