Debutants’ impact pleases Howell

All five new players star as City bounce back in style

DAVID Howell was delighted with the impact his new signings made as St Albans City ended their poor run of form with a 4-1 demolition of Evesham United on Saturday.

Michael Harriman, Mo Shariff, Chris O’Leary and James Gray all made their home debuts for the club following their recent arrival at Clarence Park while Nathan Ralph returned to the starting XI following a spell with the Saints earlier in the season. All five played a major role in ending City’s dismal run of recent results.

On-loan QPR full-back Harriman played a helping hand in two of City’s goal with teasing crosses from the right wing while Shariff netted a debut goal as well as forcing James Blake to turn another shot into his own net.

O’Leary, a 27-year-old midfield enforcer previously with Wealdstone, slotted in seamlessly and provided City with some much needed steel in the middle of the park leaving Howell happy with the pairings he had on show all over the pitch.

“I was very pleased with how the new players settled in,” Howell told the Herts Advertiser.

“Out of the five new players, James (Gray) played at Oxford, Chris O’Leary worked with David (Ijaha) at training on Thursday and they looked good and we teamed up Sean Shields with Michael Harriman at training and they too looked good.

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“The only one who wasn’t there was Nathan (Ralph) but we know all about him and he’s played with Ryan Watts before so there was an understanding there so through the heart of the team and with the players out wide we had good pairings. Even when we went behind there wasn’t that feeling that we’ve had in recent weeks and I was confident because we had started brightly.”

Howell will be forced to make at least two changes to his match-winning XI this Saturday when league leaders Brackley Town visit Clarence Park with Gray suspended for two games for a red card he picked up when playing for Arlesey Town and Ralph ruled out with a double fracture to the wrist sustained in Saturday’s win over Evesham.

“We will have to change it again with Nathan suffering a double fracture to his wrist and James being suspended for two games.

“We don’t know how long Nathan will be out for. He’s had the x-rays which reveal two fractures and it will probably be around four to six weeks.”

Asked whether he will go back into the transfer marker to replace Ralph, Howell added: “For the moment Ryan (Watts) can fill in there and we can bring someone else in but Jake Panayiotou has played well in the reserves and I would like to have a closer look at him.”

This Saturday sees Jon Brady bring his table-topping Brackley side to Clarence Park. The Australian saw his side go top on Tuesday evening after coming from behind to win 3-2 at fellow high fliers Cambridge City but Howell says Saturday’s match will be no more of a challenge than any of their other games this year.

“Every week in this league I expect a challenge,” he explained.

“Last week Hemel came here and beat us 3-0 and they were bottom of the league. We expect a challenge every week whether we’re playing the team at the top of the league or the team at the bottom of the league.”

* City have been forced to rearrange their trip to Chippenham Town due to the home side’s involvement in the FA Trophy.

The Saints had been scheduled to visit Chippenham on Saturday, November 26, but this has now been bought forward to Tuesday, November 22. Howell’s team will now travel to Leamington on November 26 having brought forward the fixture from March 31, 2012.

There will be St. Albans City team and supporters coaches going to both games.

The Chippenham Town coach will depart at 3:30pm and the Leamington coach at 11:15am, both from the Clarence Park entrance to the ground. To book seats, call Ian Rogers on 07714 145862, Barry Hilliard on 07831 859041 or alternatively drop into the club shop at this Saturday’s game against Brackley. The cost for the Chippenham coach is �19 adults and �12 juniors and for the Leamington coach is �17/�11.