Fleet too strong for ailing Saints

Second half goals sink City in relegation six-pointer

Blue Square Bet South

St Albans City 0 Thurrock 2

WE are now well and truly into the business end of the season. The stage of the season when a single game can make or break a club’s season and unfortunately for St Albans City this game appeared to be the latter.

To use another overworked clich� at this time of year, this was a relegation six-pointer with both sides needing victory to boost their hopes of retaining their Blue Square Bet South status and it was the visitors who prevailed as second half goals from Jamie Richards and Jake Lee gave Grant Gordon’s side an important three points.

In truth this was a 90 minutes that failed to entertain in any shape or form.

This was City’s first outing since losing goalkeeper Paul Bastock to Boston United and after coming to several dead ends in their search for a replacement manager Steve Castle handed a debut to reserve team stopper Aiden Kelly.

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The youngster did nothing wrong during his first taste of action for the first team but City missed Bastock’s vocal cajoling of his team mates and that bit of brilliance that often lifted the Clarence Park faithful.

Bastock’s departure may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for this inexperienced team and that coupled with the loss of influential midfielder Ollie Kelly to a twisted ankle during the week certainly unsettled the Saints.

Thurrock clearly knew they were up against an inexperienced goalkeeper in Kelly and took a shoot on sight policy early on.

The reserve team stopper got down well to keep out Danny Hockton’s low drive and repeated the trick minutes later when stopping Chris Bush’s well struck free kick.

The City ‘keeper was heavily involved in the action in the first half and he had to be at his best to keep out a speculative effort from Reece Harris. The home side failed to clear their lines adequately from a free kick and when the ball came back out to Harris his curling shot from 25 yards appeared to be dipping under the bar. However Kelly back pedalled at speed and managed to get his fingertips to the ball to divert it over the crossbar.

Fleet continued to put the Saints under pressure and dogged determination from Richards forced Kelly into a mistake. The ‘keeper fumbled the ball under pressure from the forward but Richards couldn’t take advantage seeing his shot blocked by Ross Dedman with the loose ball rolling agonisingly wide of strike partner Hockton.

Jonathan O’Donnell did manage to get a rare shot away for City but his volley flew well over the bar.

City would have been glad of reaching the half-time break level but the second half was only five minutes old when Thurrock were handed a penalty kick.

A goalkick from Kelly failed to reach halfway and the ball was headed back goalwards putting Hockton in on goal. The striker held the ball up before rolling it to Joe Carlos but his surge into the penalty area was ended by Adam Everitt’s outstretched leg and referee Lee Venamore had no hesitation in awarding the spot kick. Former Harlow Town front man Richards stepped up to take the penalty and sent Kelly the wrong way to open the scoring.

Richards then went from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of four minutes. First the Thurrock forward controlled a ball into the box on his chest before executing an overhead kick that smashed off Kelly’s cross bar.

Then, after a good run and cross from Hockton, the Thurrock striker was guilty of the miss of the season dragging the ball wide of the open target from two yards.

In truth City never looked like scoring and Thurrock made sure of the points in injury time thanks to a goal from substitute Jake Lee.

A long ball forward was missed by James Fisher allowing Lee a clear run on goal and although the forward was initially denied by Kelly the ball fell kindly to the Thurrock man who squeezed the ball between Kelly and the post to seal a dismal afternoon for the Saints.

City: A. Kelly; Dedman, Frater, Everitt �, Smith; Kweme (Flavin 72), Fisher, Magwood, O’Donnell (Shields 72); Battersby (Petrucci 60), Effiong.

Subs not used: Chaves, Abdulai.

Thurrock: Woolley; Pope �, Olima, Bush, Carlos; Cracknell (Bodkin 63), Clark, Mingle, Harris; Richards (Knight 72), Hockton (Lee 78).

Subs not used: Scanlon, Duncan.

Referee: Lee Venamore (Maidstone, Kent)

Att: 235.