Merson at the double as St Albans City come from behind to beat Braintree Town
- Credit: Archant
A Sam Merson double proved to be enough for St Albans City as they made it four wins on the bounce with a 2-1 home victory against Braintree Town.
It took the young striker to 21 for the season in all competitions, and 17 in the Vanarama National South, and kept Saints in fourth as the battle for the play-offs reaches its climax.
His second though continued a pleasing, if nerve jangling, recent run of late winners, arriving as it did with five minutes to go.
It was needed too as the Iron, who went into the game having not lost a competitive fixture at Clarence Park since November 2001, started perfectly with a goal inside two minutes.
Defender and former St Albans City man Josh Hill picked up the ball on the left of the City box and looked to loop a cross towards the back post, but the delivery caught everyone out, including Dean Snedker in the St Albans goal, and crashed off of the cross-bar before spinning over the line.
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The hosts struggled to recover from that fluke goal, and even though they saw plenty of the ball, Ian Allinson’s side couldn’t make anything happen in the final third.
The Braintree Town defence, expertly marshalled by Marc Okoye, easily dealt with St Albans City’s rather sluggish passing.
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The visitors continued to repel any home pressure and were able to hit City on the break, and as half-time approached one of these forays forward almost proved fruitful.
Roman Michael-Percil powered through the heart of the home defence and looked certain to score as he bore down on goal, but his low effort across goal was well saved by the legs of Snedker.
St Albans started the second half the brighter of the two sides and after a spell of pressure around the hour mark, they won a corner.
David Noble rifled the ball low into the area and Merson was there to calmly side-foot his first time effort past Nathan McDonald and into the back of the net.
It was City’s first effort on target.
The hosts were now well on-top and almost took the lead eight minutes later when Zane Banton’s corner on the far side of the pitch was floated in and Tom Bender’s blocked header fell to Jamie Sendles-White, but the defender slipped as he struck the ball and it ricocheted off the post.
The Saints were then given a wake-up call just 60 seconds later when Michael-Percil received the ball on the edge of the box and played in Daniel Thompson, who took a touch and looked to beat Snedker, but the goalkeeper made himself big and brilliantly turned the drive away.
The open nature of the second half continued, and the hosts were presented with another golden opportunity in the 73rd minute.
Kieran Monlouis won the ball in midfield and worked it down the right before curling a cross towards the back post which Banton met at speed, but with the goal at his mercy the former Luton Town man could only manage to send his effort well over and into the terracing behind.
Despite that miss St Albans City continued to probe and the winner eventually came with five minutes of regular time left on the clock.
Ben Herd picked the ball up on the right and curled the ball towards Monlouis on the edge of the box, who delightfully controlled the ball and laid it off into the path of Merson, and the striker flicked the ball from under his feet with his first touch before using his second to send a placed effort into the bottom corner of the net.
St Albans City: Snedker, Herd, Bender, Noble (Kiangebeni 82), Sendles-White, Gardiner, Murrell-Williamson (Lucien 70), Sambou, Merson (German 87), Monlouis, Banton
Subs (not used): Walker, Bradbury
Goals: Merson 60, 85
Braintree Town: McDonald, Muleba, Gabriel, Hill, Okoye, Wright, Michael-Percil (Grant 87), Frimpong (Curtis 77), Barrington, Thompson, Wyatt
Subs (not used): Bettache, Stanisall, Cleal
Goal: Hill 2
HT: St Albans City 0 Braintree Town 1
Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis