New boys put a major dent in Gosport’s play-off hopes

St Albans City Football Club

St Albans City Football Club - Credit: Archant

Stevenage loanee Jo N’Guessan shined for St Albans City on a sun filled afternoon, as they defeated play-off chasing Gosport Borough 2-1 at Privett Park.

Following Monday’s victory at home to Eastbourne, City travelled to the South Coast in confident mood of causing another upset.

With the Eastbourne win still fresh in the mind, manager Jimmy Gray went with the same starting eleven. The only change to the squad being the return Jamal Lowe, who came in for Matt Taylor on the City bench.

However, the management team were forced into a substitution with just a quarter of the game gone, as Steve Wales pulled up with a tight calf. Jo N’Guessan, on loan from League Two neighbours Stevenage, replaced the wide man, and was soon creating plenty of issues for a static looking Gosport defence.

It took just six minutes for N’Guessan to announce himself. Receiving the ball out wide on the right, the winger turned a Gosport defender before getting to the bi-line and delivering in a ball which Thomas, with no hesitation, headed powerfully past Nathan Ashmore in the Gosport goal.

N’Guessan, despite his skill when on the ball, has an impressive leap, and he gave a preview of things to come when he headed a dangerous looking ball onto the roof of Ashmore’s net with twenty-seven minutes on the clock.

The hosts, who needed a win to give themselves a chance of making the play-offs, were clearly shaken by City’s free flowing style, and wasted an excellent opportunity when a Paco Saez corner kick found Andy Robinson, who could only direct his effort straight into the arms of a grateful Joe Welch.

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However, despite that scare, the Saints doubled their lead a minute later. The ball was played forward with speed to the awaiting Michael Malcolm, who like N’Guessan previously, turned a Gosport defenderwith ease, and floated in a teasing high ball. N’Guessan, running into the box from the other side of the pitch, leapt above a Gosport defender, sending a looping header over Ashmore and into the back of the net.

The Saints continued to look dangerous, but saw out the rest of the half comfortably, as the home side failed to show their play-off chasing credentials.

Gosport came out after the interval looking much more dangerous, and within seconds of kick-off had a sight of goal, but Paterson’s effort was cleared away for a corner, which Joe Welch eventually punched away with ease.

Welch, who Jimmy Gray has already started speaking to over a contract for next season, made an excellent save ten minutes into the second half. City’s defence, with James Comley at the heart of it once again, demonstrated a rare moment of weakness when an excellent through ball split the centre halves and reached the energetic Saez, who looked to place it past the goalkeeper as he reached the edge of the area, but Welch, despite appearing to be diving to the left, tipped it wide with his right hand, maintaining City’s two goal lead.

Jack Green, playing alongside his brother Danny in midfield, almost caught Ashmore out just before the hour mark, when he reached the bi-line and unleashed a powerful strike which the goalkeeper had to tip over.

Danny, however, soon become City’s second forced change of the afternoon, when an ankle injury saw him replaced by James Kaloczi.

As the game progressed, Gosport pushed forward, as Boro looked to keep their play-off hopes alive with other results around the division not going their way.

That pressure finally gave with quarter of an hour left. The home side won a corner, and Paterson rose above a sea of bodies to power the ball past Welch, to give the Hampshire side a glimpse of hope.

That hope looked justified for a few seconds just minutes later, when Saez headed home Williams’ whipped cross. However, the linesman on the near side quickly had his flag up, quickly silencing the home sides’ celebrations.

Jamal Lowe, who replaced the dangerous looking Michael Malcolm, came closest to securing the points for City on two occasions, but he failed to find the target initially, before seeing a curling effort deflected out for a corner.

As the final whistle approached, the Saints withstood waves of Gosport pressure, showing a composure and calmness rarely seen this season to secure an impressive three points on the road.

Following a disappointing defeat to Bishops Stortford a week ago, the Saints have put in two outstanding team performances against sides above them in the table.

The Saints are next in action on Saturday when they host Ebbsfleet United at Clarence Park. Kick-off is 3pm.