Frenchie fries Leamington
Sakho Bakare double sinks The Brakes
Southern Premier Division
St Albans City 2 Leamington 1
SAKHO Bakare provided the Va Va Voom as St Albans City overcame high-flying Leamington in an enthralling contest at Clarence Park.
Leamington, nicknamed The Brakes after the club’s association with automotive braking manufacturers Lockheed, would have gone top had they won this game but their challenge stalled in the face of a St Albans side who look like they may have found their top gear in recent weeks.
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For the second game running Bakare was handed a place in the starting XI and again the French striker responded netting two goals to take his tally to seven in his last seven starts. Both of the Parisian’s strikes were crafted out of nothing, the first a tricky run into the box before firing off the underside of the bar, the second a perfectly placed shot into the bottom corner of the Leamington goal.
David Kolodynski’s perfectly executed over-head kick late on denied City a deserved clean sheet but the home defence put up the perfect road block to repel everything The Brakes threw at them late on.
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A healthy crowd of 480 had just eight minutes to wait for the opening goal of the game as City drew first blood. Bakare still had a lot to do when he received the ball inside the Leamington box but he twisted and turned his way past three defenders before crashing an effort in off the bar that gave Leamington goalkeeper Lee Evans no chance.
It was a vital breakthrough for David Howell’s side that gave them the advantage in what was a very even contest. Leamington came into the game on the back of a poor festive period that saw them take just one point from their three games but Paul Holleran’s side didn’t look like a team short on confidence. Their best chance of the first half fell to striker Luke Corbett but he was foiled by a reflex save from Nick Jupp after Michael Tuohy had turned the ball back across the six yard box.
That City remained ahead had much to do with their dominance in midfield with David Ijaha turning in his best performance for the club. The former Harrow Borough man took a long time to settle at Clarence Park but is now in a rich vein of form and his harrying of opponents and ability to win the ball back ensured that the City defence never really came under sustained periods of pressure.
The visitors made a change at half-time in a bid to reverse their fortunes and enjoyed a good start to the second 45 minutes. Stephen Morley’s flighted free kick into the penalty box was flicked goalwards by Richard Batchelor but Jupp was able to get fingertips to the ball to tip it over the crossbar.
Having weathered The Brakes spell of pressure City seemingly put the game to bed when Bakare grabbed his second goal of the contest 12 minutes from time.
For once the striker’s first touch was poor and the chance appeared to have vanished as the ball squirmed under his foot but he fought to win the ball back and, despite Micah Hyde screaming for his team mate to pass, guided the ball into the bottom corner of Evans’ net to double City’s lead.
There were a nervous final few minutes for the home faithful when Kolodynski acrobatically turned Corbett’s cross past Jupp but the City defence never looked troubled by the visitors who could have conceded another when substitutes Joackim Ehui and Aaron Lansiquot combined with the latter somehow firing over the bar from inside the six yard box.
It mattered little as referee Matt Foley’s full-time whistle soon sounded and the Saints were given a heroes’ welcome off the pitch. This victory proved important not just for the three points it provided but also the proof that City can now match and even better the top sides the Southern League has to offer and while there is still a lot more football to be played and work to be done, the play-offs are very much on the horizon for St Albans City.
City: Jupp; Harriman, Gray �, Ngakam, Bernard; Clarke (Lansiquot 74), Ijaha (McGonigle 90+2), Hyde, Watts; Martin, Bakare (Ehui 82).
Subs: Matthews, Jinadu.
Leamington: Evans; Mace, Morley, Downes �, Charlton (Husband 46), Francis, Tuohy, Owen (Kolodynski 74), Blyth, Corbett, Batchelor.
Subs: Robbins, Adkins, Byrne.
Referee: Matt Foley (North London)