Promoted! City win play-off final
- Credit: Archant
St Albans City will be playing their football in the Conference next season after winning the play-off final against Chesham United.
In a game between the league’s second and fourth placed teams, City fought back from a goal down to win 3-1 thanks to a brace from John Frendo and a third from Steve Wales.
With a place in the Conference North or South on offer, the fans showed up in their droves, resulting in the kick-off time being put back 15 minutes so more fans could get into the ground.
St Albans stuck with the same 11 that emphatically beat Cambridge City 4-2 in the semi-final but it was the Generals who had the first chance, Chris Dillon flicking a header just wide from Bruce Wilson’s teasing free-kick.
And City’s defence, which was so tight in the semi-final, was breached shortly after. Ben Martin lost the ball to James Potton in the box and he rounded Bastock to give Chesham a seventh-minute lead.
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Martin nearly atoned for his mistake in the 12th minute but he headed wide from James Comley’s free-kick in the corner.
The teams traded chances for the next 15 minutes, albeit without testing Paul Bastock or Shane Gore.
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Locke had a glorious chance to level the game in the 30th minute but he missed the target. A free-kick from Howard Hall into the box was knocked down to the centre-back who attempted a half-volley but he sliced it over the bar.
At the other end, Dave Fotheringham ran towards the front post to connect with a low cross but he stabbed the ball wide.
Gore was finally tested in the 35th minute as John Frendo captialised on a mistake to get a shot on target but the goalkeeper saved with his legs.
Fotheringham was booked a minute later for a heavy challenge on Chappell and from the resulting free-kick Frendo scored the equaliser. City’s topscorer bent the ball around the wall and although Gore got a hand to it he was unable to keep it out.
City were dealt a blow at the end of the first half as Sam Corcoran, the scorer of the brilliant fourth goal against Cambridge had to go off injured. Chris Watters replaced him and was called upon instantly to clear danger from in his own box.
In added time ex-Chesham man Steve Wales profited from a superb pin-point, defence splitting pass from David Keenleyside and he placed the ball past Gore to give City a 2-1 lead.
The action was not over though as Bastock was called on to deny Bruce Wilson in a one-on-one situation and then Chappell had to head off the line, after an attempted clearance rebounded off Ben Martin and flew goalward, to preserve City’s advantage.
Chesham made an early change in the second half as Danny Gordon came off for Daniel Brathewaite. He almost had an instant impact with his first touch but he shot over.
After missing an early chance, Chesham had three corners in a row but the Saints were able to clear the danger.
A good move from the hosts then set up Drew Roberts, the Generals topscorer, but he drilled his shot into the ground and Bastock was able to gather it easily.
Minutes later, City were 3-1 up as Comley lifted a sublime ball over the defence for Watters to head into Frendo’s path and from two yards he wasn’t going to miss, sending the fans into rapturous celebration.
Locke was the target of two tame penalty appeals after challenging Dillon in the area and then Chesham thought he controlled the ball with his arm but the referee waved play-on both times.
For City, Martin pealed away from his marker to head wide from a Watters corner. Comley then tried an audacious lob from just inside the hosts’ half after spotting Gore off his line but the ball marginally cleared the crossbar.
The Generals brought off Fotheringam for Inih Effiong in a bid to turn the tie in their favour with 20 minutes remaining while Locke was replaced by Tom Ward for City.
St Albans should have scored a fourth after John Frendo dispossessed Brathewaite and squared the ball to Wales but his shot from the edge of the box whistled past Gore’s right post.
Bastock was called into action to save with his legs and City countered as Wales found Frendo with a ball over the top but his shot was straight at Gore.
As the game entered the last five minutes, substitute Ward had to be alert to cut out a ball through to Roberts, and City cleared the resulting corner.
Dillon had his name taken for a foul on Watters while, behind the City goal, the stewards had to intervene as the home fans were throwing objects at Bastock.
Six minutes were added on but Chesham crafted only one more chance that failed to threaten Bastock as it sailed over his bar.
At full-time jubilant fans invaded the pitch to celebrate the end of St Albans’ three-year hiatus from the Conference.
Chesham United starting line-up: Gore; Kyriacou; Little; Gordon; Purse; Thomas; Fotheringham; Potton; Dillon; Roberts; Wilson. Subs: Effiong; Dodge; graham; Brathewaite; Prosper.
St Albans City starting line-up: Bastock; Hall; Chappell; Martin; Locke; Comely (c); Keenleyside; Marwa; Corcoran; Wales; Frendo. Subs: Henry; Coulton; Sykes; Watters; Ward.