Five-star Saints smash Puritans

George Sykes gets ahead of Luke Cray. Picture: Leigh Page

George Sykes gets ahead of Luke Cray. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

After suffering defeat last weekend against Poole Town, St Albans responded in impressive fashion, thumping cash-strapped Banbury United 5-1 at Spencer Stadium.

The Saints went into the game looking to secure all three points after a disappointing week which had seen the club slip into 5th position in the table, while Banbury went into Saturday afternoon’s match on the back of a 1-0 win away at Weymouth on Tuesday night.

Banbury, who featured just two players in their 16 man squad that had also played in the reverse fixture at Clarence Park in late August, were caught on the back foot early on by the visitors, and found themselves 1-0 down with just 57 seconds on the clock.

A long ball forward towards the Banbury defence wasn’t cleared, and it allowed to bounce into the box where Frendo found himself with space and he unleashed a strike which goalkeeper Scott Dutton could only palm into the path of Steve Wales, who calmly took a touch before seeing his shot bounce off of the left hand post and in, to give St Albans the best possible start.

With 16 minutes on the clock, the home side showed their hand for the first time, when an attack down the left hand side through the dangerous looking Melanius Mullarkey ended up with the ball being played to Marvin Martin, and he saw his thunderous drive denied by Paul Bastock, who was on hand to quickly gather up the ball at the second attempt.

Ten minutes later, and Banbury, who had been threatening, found themselves level. The Puritans won a corner after another attack down the right hand side, and Martin delivered in a dead ball which found full-back Luke Feathers. His header was deflected past the stranded Bastock by the body of James Comley, who had been attempting to block the effort, but could only direct it into the far left hand corner.

This goal seemed to give Banbury some impetus, and for a brief period, they looked as if they would pose quite the obstacle for a City side eager to regain the lead. However, the Saints soon started to create opportunities, and Corcoran should have done better when he was fed the ball by John Frendo, but the midfielder failed to get his first time strike on target.

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Frendo, who had gone without a goal since the 22nd of February, demonstrated just what he is capable in the 38th minute. A long ball aimed for Sykes went out for a throw-in, and the young forward quickly took it aiming for his strike partner, who, on the edge of the Banbury area, took a touch and turned before unleashing a dipping shot which found the roof of the net, and left Dutton, in the home net, wondering what had just flown past him.

Three minutes later, and it was three goals for the Saints, when Frendo grabbed his second of the afternoon. Howard Hall attacked down the right hand side and played the ball to Comley, and the City captain for the afternoon, cut into the box and played it across into the path of Frendo, who beat the goalkeeper with his low left footed strike.

It was an important double-salvo for the away side before half time, and it could have easily been even better if it wasn’t for Scott Dutton, who spectacularly palmed Steve Wales’ header over the bar.

The Saints, clearly boosted by Frendo’s two goals, started the second half like they had finished the first, and added their fourth with just 50 minutes gone. Steve Wales fed Lee Chappell down the left hand side with an enticing pass which allowed the defender to attack at pace into the box, where he found himself one on one with the goalkeeper, and he had no hesitation in dinking the ball over a diving Dutton.

The fourth goal soon after half time seemed to kill off any spirit that Banbury had tried to recover during the break, and from then on, it was almost all one way traffic, as the Saints looked to send a statement out to the clubs around them in the play-offs.

George Sykes, winner of the April player of the month award, found himself with two excellent chances, but the first was hit wide, while another opportunity two minutes later saw the attacker denied by the goalkeeper.

Banbury made ventured forward in the 65th minute, and nearly reaped the rewards. Another corner caused trouble for St Albans, and the ball eventually found Puritans captain Luke Cray, who saw his almost point blank header spectacularly palmed away by Bastock.

From that save, a quick break saw City score their fifth. A long defensive clearance found Comley, who released Frendo, but he was well tracked by two Banbury defenders. However, Frendo had other ideas, and he superbly back-heeled it towards Comley, and he cheekily chipped the ball over Dutton to round off the scoring in impressive fashion.

Despite having scored five, the Saints looked to grab even more, but wasteful finishing was the only disappointment of the afternoon for managers James Gray and Graham Golds. Sykes, again, found himself in great positions, but he managed to find everywhere but the back of the net. His most spectacular miss came when a good cross from Lee Chappell fell to the striker just five yards out, but his side footed attempt somehow went wide of the post.

With the game entering stoppage time, a quiet match in terms of incidents suddenly burst into life when an off the ball incident between Comley and Marvin Martin saw both sets of players get involved, along with a number of individuals from both benches. After it had all calmed down, referee Ian Rathbone deemed that Comley and Martin only required bookings, and no cards were shown to any other individuals.

It was an impressive result for the Saints, and it could yet prove be crucial as the regular season enters its final week.

St Albans are next in action at Clarence Park on Monday Afternoon, when Biggleswade Town are the visitors. Kick-off is 3pm.

St Albans line-up: Bastock; Hall; Chappell; Marwa ; Ward; Locke; Wales (Green 67); Comley; Frendo (Whitely 75); Sykes; Corcoran (Keenleyside 67). Subs: Henry; Kaloczi.

Banbury United line-up: Dutton; Cray; Fathers; Mullarkey (Green 60); Abrahams; Fishwick; Obeng; Martin; Skendi; Evangelinos; Dias (Talabi 45). Subs: Strafford; Tappin; Collins.

Referee: Ian Rathbone (Northampton)

Attendance: 308