Poor defending costs City against Totton

Saints edged out in seven goal game

Southern Premier Division

St Albans City 3 AFC Totton 4

SLOPPY defending cost St Albans City their unbeaten home record despite a spirited second half fightback against league leaders AFC Totton on Tuesday evening.

David Howell’s side were guilty of gifting their opponents too much space in midfield and also of poor decision making and the Hampshire side were in no mood to pass up the opportunity to extend their advantage at the summit of the table.

For the second successive game Saints made an excellent start taking the lead through Tobi Jinadu but it took Totton just 10 minutes to equalise and by half time the hosts found themselves 3-1 down and with just 10 men following Jack Pattison’s dismissal for handball.

The introduction of Barrie Matthews and in particular French striker Sakho Bakare helped Saints get back into the contest but they were hamstrung by yet more poor defending that allowed Michael Charles to net the decisive goal.

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The night had started so brightly for City as a short corner routine between Danny Hart and Ryan Watts resulted in the latter beating his man and sending in a low cross that beat everyone except Jinadu at the far post who slid in to net his first goal of the season.

Saints could have been two up inside five minutes when Hart’s delicious cross to the far post found the unmarked Rob Haworth who rose high – perhaps too high – only to head over the bar.

While Totton looked less than convincing at the back their attacking play was excellent.

James Hill’s excellent free kick on the edge of the box was matched by Saints stopper Will Viner’s save but a minute later the ‘keeper was beaten as Charles fed Nathaniel Sherbourne who netted his seventh goal of the campaign with a low shot past the ‘keeper at his near post.

The goal spurred the visitors on and it was no surprise when they went ahead. A long throw in from Michael Gosney wasn’t dealt with by the City defence allowing left-back Matthew Oldring to lob the ball over his shoulder and into the top corner of the net from the edge of the box.

The visitors were given a break when the officials failed to spot goalkeeper Grant Porter stepping outside of his area with the ball in his hands but there was no questioning referee Stuart Pawley’s judgement when he awarded the visitors a penalty and sent off Saints right-back Jack Pattison after the youngster had handled Jamie Whisken’s effort on the line. Midfielder Gosney stepped up and dispatched the penalty despite Viner diving the right way.

Howell re-jigged his side at the break and was rewarded with another early goal. This time it was the visitors who were guilty of sub-standard defending and Jinadu made no mistake, crashing the ball home from six yards for his second goal of the evening.

It was just the response City needed but all their hard work was undone by yet more poor defending. Gosney’s long throw from the left was missed by both Totton’s Nathan Campbell and City centre-half Matt Cutchey and while everyone else stopped and watched, Charles ghosted in to head home.

Totton took their foot off the gas from that point and resorted to a frustrating combination of time-wasting and theatrics.

That allowed City to build momentum but they found goalscoring opportunities few and far between. A rare foray into the Totton penalty area by midfielder David Ijaha resulted in a regulation save for Porter, who was then booked for time-wasting.

With 15 minutes remaining Howell made his final throw of the dice with the introduction of Sean Shields and the winger made an instant impact as City scored the best goal of the night. Ijaha won the ball in midfield as a Totton attack broke down and he set Sean Shields on his way. The youngster unlocked the Totton defence with an inch-perfect pass into the path of Bakare who advanced into the box before confidently beating Porter for his third goal of the season.

That sparked a sustained period of pressure for the hosts but they weren’t able to work Porter, their closest effort a volley from Nathan Ralph that flew wide of the far post.

The result leaves City 12th in the table but this Saturday they take a break from league action when they welcome Berkhamsted to Clarence Park in the FA Cup.

City: Viner; Pattison, Cutchey, Jinadu, Ralph; Hart, Sol Shields (Matthews 46), Ijaha �, Watts; Haworth (Bakare 46), Walker (Sean Shields 72)

Subs not used: Haisley, Jupp.

Totton: Porter; Hill, Whisken, Richardson, Oldring; Coutts (Davies 56), Pettefer �, Campbell, Gosney; Charles (Osman 72), Sherbourne (Baddeley 86).

Subs not used: Lewis, Tomasso.

Referee: Stuart Pawley (Cambridge)

Att: 329.