Midfielder Clarke relishing role in City revival
CLUB captain Lee Clarke is relishing his role as midfield playmaker as St Albans City bid to reach safety in the Blue Square South. Clarke has formed a strong midfield combination with teenager Luke Thurlbourne, on work experience from Southend United,
CLUB captain Lee Clarke is relishing his role as midfield playmaker as St Albans City bid to reach safety in the Blue Square South.
Clarke has formed a strong midfield combination with teenager Luke Thurlbourne, on work experience from Southend United, with the duo thriving during the recent surge in form. Clarke said: "I have enjoyed it. I like to get on the ball. I like to drop deep as a striker and some people say I wanted to be a midfielder anyway. Playing alongside Luke Thurlbourne is great, it is good to have a young lad in there who has a lot of energy.
"Paul Hakim and Sunday are working well together. They have got that speed and trickery to create something for themselves. For a midfielder that is great because you know that if you do something with it they will get on it. They give you options when you are looking for a pass."
The new role as provider has not quashed the goalscoring instincts of the City top scorer. His emphatic strike at Lewes and his final touch on a shot from Sunday against Hayes & Yeading, which was disputed by the Nigerian born forward, were equally important to Clarke. The unfortunate Sunday was also unable to claim the winning goal against Havant after his header diverted in off Paul Hakim. Clarke sympathises with his teammate who has one goal to his name joining City. He said: "It was my goal against Hayes & Yeading. I got the last touch. Sunday was trying to claim the goal against Havant as well but it was definitely Paul Hakim's goal. I think Sunday knows that he is making a massive contribution. He is a big reason why we have been doing so well. He has got to know all the players now and we are getting to know him. Everything is clicking into place for us to do things."
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The win against Havant lifted City out of the relegation zone with five matches to play. Clarke hailed the result which highlighted the spirit and togetherness in the squad. He said: "It is all about results now and this wasn't the prettiest game but we have to go with the conditions. Conditions dictated today that we couldn't really get it down and play.
"In the last five or six games the football we are playing has been good and we have been scoring goals and keeping clean sheets. What you don't see is all the hard work that has gone into it and on the pitch we are working for each other. There is 11 people on that pitch trying their hardest for each other.
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"Steve Castle is drumming it into us that we haven't done anything yet. We are out of the relegation zone now but only by one or two points. If we go and lose three on the spin then it all comes undone. The onus is on us. We have got ourselves in a position where it is in our own hands."
A number of players have been unfortunate to lose their places in the starting XI with Hasim Deen missing out due to injury, Marcel McKie regularly on the bench and James Quilter and Simon Martin also out of the side. Clarke believes the competition for places has had a major impact on the dazzling run of form. He said: "When you look at our bench, Marcel McKie is good enough to play and we have Simon Martin coming on. We have been without Hasim Deen and the strength is a massive step up from where we were earlier in the season when we didn't have a good enough team. Now Steve Castle has got those options if he wants to change it and mix it around. It is a credit to the boys that are playing. You have to do well to keep your place."
Towering defenders Ben Martin and Ryan Frater have excelled since the arrival of goalkeeper Paul Bastock and Saints have let in just two goals in six games. Clarke sees the strength of the defence as a major reason for the revival. He said: "Ben Martin and Ryan Frater have been superb. Ryan has been our best signing of the season other than Paul Bastock. He has shown he is more than capable of playing at this level and his partnership with Ben Martin is very impressive, if they can keep that going it will be a massive platform for us. The back four is a good unit, James Fisher has come in and been superb and Scott Cousins gets ignored a little bit when people mention the back four but contributes to the clean sheets with the work he does defensively. Going forward you always know the quality you are going to get from Scott.