Gallery: Martin strikes as City end dramatic campaign with placid point
ST Albans City had to settle for a point at home to Hampton & Richmond in the final match of a dramatic season on Saturday at Clarence Park. Manager Steve Castle
Blue Square South
St Albans City 1 Hampton & Richmond 1
David Brawn at Clarence Park
ST Albans City had to settle for a point at home to Hampton & Richmond in the final match of a dramatic season on Saturday at Clarence Park.
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Manager Steve Castle was without injury victims Ben Martin, Hasim Deen, James Quilter, Hassan Sulaiman and the suspended Paul Bruce. Tenacious midfielder Luke Thurlbourne was switched to right back with James Fisher moving from his favoured full back role to centre back. Striker Simon Martin was restored to the attack alongside Akanni-Sunday Wasiu. Former Premier League player Jonathan Hunt returned to the starting XI after in injury in the centre of midfield and Paul Hakim started wide on the right.
Hampton & Richmond manager Alan Devonshire left goal machine Lawrence Yaku on the bench with their impending Play Off first leg clash at Fisher scheduled for Tuesday. Former Saint Elliott Godfrey started in attack alongside Ian Hodges.
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With their survival secured at Maidenhead United on Tuesday, The Saints began in lively form and took just four minutes to open the scoring in the sunshine at the Hatfield Road end. Paul Hakim robbed dazed defender Ryan Lake and squared a simple ball across the six yard box for striker Martin to jubilantly slide the ball into the net.
Hampton & Richmond appeared to be more interested in dreaming of Play Off success as City threatened to run riot. Sunday smashed a shot high and wide on nine minutes before the City 'keeper Paul Bastock dived to make a smart stop from Shaun McAuley. Bastock palmed the ball out and with Hodges threatening to net the rebound, the goalkeeper recovered and twice dived at his feet before Hampton had to settle for a corner kick.
In the 15th minute, big City centre back Ryan Frater rose highest in the box to meet a corner kick from Hunt, only to power his header high over the cross bar.
City continued to press and Simon Martin out paced Hampton right back Marcello Fernandes before cutting back a good ball. Left winger Hamza Twomey stepped over the ball and Lee Clarke ran on to it, only to lash a shot far over the top from 14 yards.
Right back Thurlbourne showed his usual energy and effort and almost crowned a fantastic contribution during his spell at City with a wonder goal on 26 minutes. Good link play from Simon Martin, Scott Cousins, Sunday and Paul Hakim ensured the ball reached the diminutive Southend United teenager and he flicked the ball up and spun a defender before screaming a fine volley towards goal which Hampton custodian Matt Lovett had to parry away in spectacular fashion.
Hampton mainly threatened from set plays which the newly crowned St Albans City Player of the Season, Bastock, dealt with. In the final minute of the half Lake spread the play well with a diagonal free kick to find Godfrey and his searing near post shot from the corner of the box was blocked away by Bastock at his near post.
City seemed to lack the same spark and desire in the second half and Hampton began to gain the ascendancy going down the slope.
The home fans were surely beginning to snooze in the sunshine when Clarke decided to spark things up and snapped in with a stamping challenge on Hampton midfielder Barrie Matthews. The latter retaliated with fury, twice pushing Clarke who went to ground. Referee Richard Martin booked the City skipper before calling across Matthews and brandishing a slightly harsh red card.
With 10-men, Hampton stepped up their game and City were soon on the back foot. The introduction of Yaku for Godfrey proved a key switch in momentum and the dangerous striker took just three minutes to threaten the City goal. Bastock stood strong at his near post after a dangerous free kick from Lake was cleared and then played back in, finding Yaku in space. The striker lashed a low shot towards goal and Bastock, as ever, was in the right place to avert the danger.
City almost snatched a crucial second against the run of play when Hunt whipped in a dangerous cross which Hodges flicked on towards his own goal and the ball evaded Martin and flashed just wide.
The deserved equaliser for Hampton finally arrived on 78 minutes when a long throw from substitute Dean Wells was allowed to travel to the unmarked Yaku who finished smartly giving Bastock no chance.
City boss Steve Castle responded by handing Tegana James his first outing with the senior side since his horrific head injury which threatened to end his career, when on-loan at Potters Bar Town. James added some real spark to the City side, now with four Oaklands College players on the pitch.
In injury time the excellent James Fisher hooked a fine pass forward to James who burst into the box and pulled a fine ball back towards Martin who was denied by goalkeeper Lovett as he slid in. James then won a corner with another surging run and in the final act City centre back Frater struck a spinning effort just wide of the far post from 25 yards out.
St Albans City: Bastock GK, Thurlbourne RB, Cousins LB, Fisher CB, Frater CB, Hakim RM, Clarke CM, Hunt CM, Twomey LM, Sunday CF, S. Martin CF. Subs: Asamoah for Sunday (64), Olcot for Hakim (76), James for Clarke (87). Unused sub: Noel.