National League South: Diedhiou sends Clarence Park into rapture as St Albans City start with a dramatic win
- Credit: Archant
A thunderous last-gasp debut goal from Dave Diedhiou ensured St Albans City began their Vanarama National League South season with a sensational 3-2 win over Hungerford Town.
Two goals from the Berkshire visitors in the first five minutes of each half had threatened to make it a miserable start.
But City twice fought back through another new face, Ralston Gabriel, as the match seemingly headed to a draw.
That was before Diedhiou’s late stunning header from Khale Da Costa’s cross.
It is always difficult to judge the first game of any season and this was no different.
Back in 2009-2010 Colchester United thumped Norwich City 7-1 at Carrow Road in League One.
By the end of the year the Canaries were champions and the U’s were eighth.
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That same year Saints were finishing 13th in the Conference South, a comfortable mid-table position.
They would take mid-table again this year although this victory, regardless of how it happened, could change their thinking.
Manager Ian Allinson gave new signings Gabriel and David Moyo the nod up front, ahead of last year’s top-scorer Sam Merson.
At the back Diedhiou, Tarik Moore-Azille and Tom Bender made up a new-look back three while Ben Herd and the fourth debutant, Da Costa, played as wing-backs.
The first half was a fairly impressive affair from the Saints.
Yes, they went down to a fourth-minute goal, the first in the National League South this season, but their response was good.
They got forward at will and played some neat, intricate football.
One move was almost reminiscent of the famous Carlos Alberto goal in 1970 but this effort from Herd flew inches wide of the post.
The former Shrewsbury and Aldershot Town man had three chances in total, all low but all wide of the post. He would have been expected to hit the target at least once.
Gabriel though showed him how to do it with persistence and a fine finish. He chased a long ball down and outjumped keeper Jokull Andersson to create the opportunity before firing it high into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
The former Haringey man was linking well with Moyo who almost got in himself but was denied by the young Hungerford keeper.
Defensively there were shaky moments, Saints guilty of not clearing their lines once or twice, but on the whole they restricted the visitors to very little.
The one moan could be they didn’t get their noses in front, a moan that got louder five minutes after the break when Harvey Bradbury, who spent a few months on loan at Saints last year, converted a penalty.
There was no doubt about it, Percy Kiangebeni bundling into the back of Alfy Whittingham, and it gave Hungerford a huge lift.
It also took the wind completely out of City’s sails and the energy and urgency of the first-half soon disappeared.
A change midway through the half brought Merson into the fray as Allinson went to a 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to turn their fortunes.
They hit the bar but it appeared as if desperate measures were needed.
And with Zane Banton and Roman Michael-Percil waiting to come on, Gabriel increased his stock with a second, nodded in from a cross and squeezed in at the far post. It was scruffy but nobody cared around Clarence Park.
There was more to come though. Two efforts from Sam Merson, one over and a header straight at the keeper seemed to have signalled a draw.
But with time all but up Diedhiou thundered a header beyond the Andersson and sent the fans into ecstacy.
St Albans City: Snedker, Herd, Bender, Noble, Diedhiou, Moore-Azille (Merson 67), Da Costa, Sambou, Gabriel, Moyo (Banton 83), Kiangebeni
Subs (not used): Michael-Percil, Joseph, Sage
Goal: Gabriel 15, 81, Diedhiou 90+5
Hungerford Town: Andersson, Johnson-Schuster, Jones (Cooney 65), Ten-Grotenhuis (Ouldridge 65), Ekpiteta, Rusby, Rose (McCready 69), A.Whittingham, Bradbury, R.Whittingham, Fragata
Subs (not used): Lynch, Herring
Goals: Rose 4, Bradbury (pen) 50
HT: St Albans City 1 Hungerford Town 1
Referee: Jacob Miles (Brighton)