Penalty miss costs Saints dearly against Dartford

Late winner sinks Saints

Blue Square Bet South

St Albans City 1 v Dartford 2

ST ALBANS City stumbled to their 12th home defeat of a miserable season on Saturday against a very ordinary Dartford side which had nothing to play for. The result was self-inflicted. After conceding a first half goal they fought back with a memorable equaliser, spurned the lead with a missed penalty and conceded a demoralising late winner.

St Albans were forced to make changes to the starting line up after James Fisher left the club in midweek, with teenager Michael Lewis filling the right back berth. Steve Castle decided to rest Rob Magwood from the squad and reinstated another teenager Glodi Kweme in central midfield alongside his captain Adam Everitt. Veteran striker Tony Battersby led the line.

City came into the match knowing that their appeal to the Football Association had not reinstated any of their deducted points but still with a statistical chance of avoiding relegation. That still applies, but with only five games to play and a deficit of 13 points that is unlikely to happen.

In front of a healthy crowd of 404 Dartford had the advantage right from the start with a pressure game that used left back Tom Bonner to attack City’s right flank. Early on he burst past Lewis to test Gough, then he laid the ball into the path of Charlie Sheringham who shot wide and, before City had mustered an effective attack, he skipped past three static defenders only for Mark Peters to come across to deny him a goal scoring chance. After that Sheringham headed wide when he might more easily have scored and had a goal bound shot blocked by City captain Everitt. His illustrious father, standing behind the York Road goal, must have despaired.

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Yet the opening goal, coming midway through the second half, owed much to the inexperience of 17 year old loanee goalkeeper, Conor Gough rather than the skill of any Dartford player. His opposite number, Andrew Young, launched a free kick into the City half which was helped into the penalty area by Lee Burns. Gough must have had an eye on a Sheringham challenge as he missed the ball completely, its high bounce taking into an empty net. Burns was the Darts’ top goal scorer last season but this was his first of the current campaign.

Dartford almost doubled their lead just before half time when Burns lobbed the ball over the advancing Gough towards the York Road goal but the ball drifted just wide of the target.

Aidy Chaves replaced Jonathan O’Donnell after the break and added substance to City’s midfield but they still needed Pete Smith to keep the game within reach when he cleared a Paul Goodacre header off the line.

Minutes later Battersby hit City’s equaliser in a classic manner. A through ball into the right-hand channel from Ryan Frater seemed innocuous enough until Battersby lined up the target and lashed an unstoppable drive past Young. Battersby then tested the ‘keeper when he teed up a poor clearance and volleyed from 20 yards. Inih Effiong limped off in the 68th minute to be replaced by Dom Petrucci.

Ten minutes later City had a golden chance to win the game after Kweme made a mazy run past three defenders before being upended by Goodacre. Battersby stepped up to the mark, sent the Dartford goalkeeper the wrong way but hooked the spot kick against the cross bar and over. It proved to be a costly miss.

City needed fresh legs to gain the initiative and the introduction of Sean Shields for Kweme did just that, providing penetration down the right flank that unnerved the Dartford defence. In the 78th minute only the shear numbers of bodies in front of goal denied a Petrucci shot and, from the rebound, an audacious back-heel from Peters.

But it was a mistake by Frater and a slip from the reliable Peters that let in Jack Pallen to slot in Dartford’s undeserved winner five minutes from time. The Dartford substitute seemed surprised to find himself in possession beyond City’s back line but he ran on to beat the advancing Gough with a cool strike.

City boss, Steve Castle, now has the task of ensuring that this doomed squad play out the remaining five games of the season with enthusiasm and pride. It’s a tall order, but most of the players have shown allegiance to the club beyond what might have been expected. Home fans too have endured the most difficult of seasons but, perhaps together with the team, they can show dignity in adversity that will reflect well on this famous club.

St Albans City: Gough, Lewis, Smith, Kweme (Shields ), Everitt �, Frater, Peters, Kelly, Battersby, Effiong (Petrucci 68), O’Donnell (Chaves 46). Subs not used:Flavin, Chrysanthou.

Dartford: Young, Burgess, Bonner, Bruce (Pallen 71), Goodacre, Champion, Noble, White (Bradbrook 71), Sheringham, Burns, Harris (Hayes 46). Sub not used: Jones.