Saints back on winning track
- Credit: Archant
St Albans secured a crucial three points on Saturday afternoon at Stourbridge’s War Memorial Athletics Ground courtesy of a first half strike from Sam Corcoran.
The visitors began the game as the brighter side, and with just 54 seconds of the clock, Danny Green, starting his second match in a row, played a ball to Mark Nwokeji, but the forward could only slice his effort wide of the oncoming goalkeeper and the goal.
Nwokeji was again set free seven minutes later, but like the previous attack, he was forced wide and in the end he could only find the side netting when under pressure from the Stourbridge goalkeeper and defenders.
The home side imposed themselves on the game for the first time in the 10th minute, when Jordan Fitzpatrick was fed the ball in the area, and the midfielder unleashed a shot which Bastock gathered easily.
The Saints started the game with five men in midfield, and this worked to perfection for the majority of the game as The Glassboys failed to control the ball or keep possession for significant periods in the centre of the field. It was this inability which cost the hosts the opening goal, when James Kaloczi won the ball in midfield and played it to Corcoran, who exchanged passes with Nwokeji, before taking a touch in the six yard area and beating Dean Coleman with a low strike.
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It was a deserved lead for the away side, but it was soon under threat, when a free-kick was played into the City box from the left of the midfield, and it fell to the dangerous looking Luke Benbow, however, he failed to control the ball and Bastock was quickly out to tidy things up.
The Saints suffered a blow in the first minute of injury time before the interval, when Nwokeji, who had up until this point played well up front supported by the five in midfield, was forced off with a Groin strain, and was replaced by Elliot Bailey.
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As a result of the stoppage, there was still time for a Stourbridge effort on goal, but Fitzpatrick’s dipping effort from 25 yards out was straight at Bastock, and he had no problems in holding onto the strike.
The second half began with Stourbridge threatening, but their attacks were easily repelled by a City defence bolstered by the return of captain Ben Martin, who despite doubts before the game over his fitness, came through the match not only unscathed, but with another impressive performance to his name.
With 58 minutes played, managers James Gray and Graham Golds looked to inject some pace into the City side by bringing on Chris Henry in place of James Kaloczi.
As time ticked on, the home side began to up the pressure on the Saints, but their forwards seemed to be having an off day. Luke Benbow linked up well in the 62nd minute, but his strike went well wide of the target. A free kick was then played into the box by Broadhurst, but again, Benbow failed to find the target.
Stourbridge came close again in the 74th minute, when Marwa conceded a corner and Billingham played the set piece in, but Will Richards saw his close range header go well over Bastock’s goal.
Referee Ollie Yates, who had a quiet game, booked James Comley for time wasting after the midfielder appeared to wait while taking a free-kick for Chris Henry to reach the edge of the box. It’s a booking which was harsh, and is Comley’s tenth of the season, which in turn sees him pick up a two game suspension.
With the game entering the final ten minutes, Stourbridge began to control possession, but again, they seemed devoid of creative ideas, and their final ball left plenty to be desired. A long punt up field from Coleman found Benbow, but like previous attacks, he hit his effort well wide and over.
The Saints caught The Glassboys on the break with four minutes remaining, and Comley skipped over a challenge in the box, before being brought down by Drew Canavan. Corcoran, scorer of the first goal, stepped up looking to score his second for the club, but his strike down low to the keeper’s right was palmed away and cleared.
As the game entered injury time, there were brief periods of fear that the missed spot-kick could cost the Saints dearly, but in the end, the defence when called upon in the four minutes of added on time, defended resolutely, and a foul on Elliot Bailey after a City clearance proved to be the last action of the game.
After two defeats on the trot, victory over fifth placed Stourbridge could prove to be crucial as the Saints enter the final 10 games of the season.
City return to action almost immediately, when they travel to Biggleswade Town on Monday evening. Kick-off at the Carlsberg Stadium is 7:45pm.
Stourbridge line-up: Coleman; Canavan; Richards; Drake (Wahbourne 45); Geddes; Fitzpatrick (Knight 62) ; Francis (Murphy 81); Broardhurst; Brown; Billingham; Benbow. Subs: Birch; Tye.
St Albans line-up: Bastock; Gilbert; Chappell; Marwa; Ward; Martin; Corcoran; Comley; Nwokeji (Bailey 45+1); Kaloczi (Henry 58); Green. Subs: Dean; Graham; Hall.