Saints begin New Year with a bang
Bakare shines in fine away win
Southern Premier Division
Hemel Hempstead Town 0 St Albans City 4
ST ALBANS City made the ideal start to the New Year with a comprehensive victory over neighbours Hemel Hempstead Town.
From the moment French striker Sakho Bakare gave Saints a fifth-minute lead David Howell’s men never looked back.
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After a disastrous start to the campaign Hemel have enjoyed a mini resurgence of late under new boss Tommy Widdrington, but the Tudors never looked at the races against the Saints who welcomed back inspirational skipper James Gray at the heart of the defence alongside debutant Cedric Ngakam.
Gray’s presence has added a steely resolution to a Saints side that had previously looked fragile and it is hard to understand why a struggling Arlesey Town side saw fit to dispense with his services.
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The only time Gray and his latest centre-half partner, Ngakam, got caught out was inside 60 seconds when Alieu Jallow freed Lewis Toomey only for the Hemel striker to be foiled by a good save from Nick Jupp.
With Paul Furlong missing through injury, Howell handed Bakare the chance to show what he could do and the French striker seized his opportunity with both hands, opening the scoring with his first shot on goal.
Dewayne Clarke, another new face in the Saints side, had his marker chasing shadows down the right wing and his early low cross was superbly controlled by Bakare before turning his man and driving the ball home from the edge of the penalty area much to the delight of the large away support.
It was a glimpse of the talent Bakare has at his disposal and took the forward’s goal tally to seven for the season.
The former Neuchatel Xamax striker displayed his creative side minutes later when he beat his man and crossed for Simon Martin but the striker was denied by a smart save from Ross Kitteridge at the near post.
The let off was only temporary for the home side however as the resulting corner produced Saints’ second goal of the afternoon.
The Tudors defence failed to clear their lines adequately gifting David Ijaha possession on the edge of the area and when he fed Clarke inside the box the winger slotted the ball past the advancing Kitteridge from the tightest of angles.
Saints could have added a third goal before the half hour mark when Martin turned a deep corner back across goal but Ngakam miscued his effort and sent the ball away from goal.
The home side were forced into another change before half-time when Toomey came off worse in a challenge with Jupp but the introduction of Ryan Blake failed to change the course of the game in Hemel’s favour.
The home side rallied after the break but Jupp was never seriously tested. Their afternoon was summed up perfectly when Danny May’s cross found Luke Gambin but the winger took his eye off the ball and it squirmed under his foot.
Having weathered Hemel’s spell of pressure City regained the upper hand and only the woodwork denied Bakare a spectacular second. Having won the free kick, Bakare was on hand to receive Martin’s knockdown inside the area and the striker unleashed a fierce volley that crashed off the upright and landed in the grateful arms of the home ‘keeper.
Bakare was proving a real thorn in the side of the home defence and when the French forward was sent tumbling inside the box referee Dave Bushell had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Micah Hyde stepped up and calmly sent Kitteridge the wrong way from the spot to net his first goal for the club.
The icing on the cake came in stoppage time when substitute Aaron Lansiquot broke his duck for the club with his first touch of the ball, expertly stroking the ball home from 20 yards.
Hemel Hempstead Town: Kitteridge, Gilbert (Smith 24), Brighton, May �, Matt McEntegart, Beale, Scowen, Gorman (Pearce 72), Jallow, Toomey (Blake 38), Gambin.
Subs not used: Eades, Morgan.
St Albans City: Jupp, Harriman, Bernard, Ijaha, Gray �, Ngakam, Clarke, Hyde (Frost 90+4), Bakare (Lansiquot 90+1), Martin, Watts (McGonigle 85). Subs not used: Jinadu, Matthews.
Referee: Dave Bushell