Frenchman Diarra stars in St Albans City’s win over Stourbridge

DEFENDER Moussa Diarra had a stunning St Albans City debut in Tuesday’s 2-1 home win over Stourbridge to help his side maintain their outside chance of making the Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division play-offs.

The Frenchman, who has been turning out for the reserves, netted the opener on 10 minutes, impressed alongside Cedric Ngakam in the heart of the back four and had a huge hand in Howard Newton’s winning goal.

Saints boss David Howell said: “Moussa has been training with us for a while, he’s settled in well with the other three or four French lads we have got in the side.

“He needs to get himself settled here, bed himself in, play some games and make a mark and I felt he went a long way to doing that tonight.”

Stourbridge arrived at Clarence Park for the game half-an-hour before kick-off after being held up in traffic on route.

It was therefore no surprise that it was the hosts who started the better.

Midfielder David Ijaha won a corner on 10 minutes after his drive to the byline and attempted cross was blocked.

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Sean Shields’ set-piece found the head of Ngakam and he nodded down for Diarra who turned and tucked home the opening goal.

Stourbridge, who reached the second round proper of this season’s FA Cup losing to Stevenage, responded as they settled into the encounter.

The Glassboys midfielder Sean Geddes should have done better when Marcus Palmer’s effort was punched by City keeper Nick Jupp to him on the edge of the box, but he volleyed wide of goal.

Jupp was called into action soon after as he did well to hold onto a Geddes free-kick with a host of bodies in front of him.

At the other end Ryan Watts found Sakho Bakare 20 yards out and to the left of goal.

The striker swivelled and sent a vicious, dipping effort just over the Stourbridge goal.

The Saints should have been given the chance to double their advantage from the penalty spot.

Just before the break left-back Watts this time picked out Sean Shields.

His trickery bamboozled defender Nathan Bennett who appeared to foul Shields and send him crashing to the deck, however referee Dave Bushell turned down the appeals.

Ten minutes into the second period Stourbridge deservedly got back on level terms.

Ben Billingham reached the byline on the right flank and cut the ball back to Bennett who stroked a low shot past Jupp.

They could have then gone ahead in a similar move, this time Sam Rock pulled back for Billingham who was denied by Jupp.

However, it was the hosts who regained the lead. Diarra surged forward with the ball from the halfway line, he rode a challenge before giving the ball to Bakare.

He found Simon Martin who fed Howard and he netted at the far post on 63 minutes.

Stourbridge fought hard to get back into the game and Billingham twice shot off-target from distance as he looked for a leveller.

St Albans still posed a threat though and Shields got the better of three opponents before smashing a shot into the side-netting.

As the clock ticked towards the 90-minute mark The Saints hit the post with Bakare’s bobbling effort and in added-on time substitute Chris Henry blasted against the Stourbridge bar.

With the three points in the bag, Howell added: “I was really pleased with the lads I though we worked hard throughout the side, it was a very difficult game for us.

“I can’t take anything away from the opposition. It was a good test for us.”

City are without a game this weekend.