Saints serve up a winter warmer

St Albans City 2 (Paul Hakim 48, Stuart Lake OG 63) Hampton & Richmond Borough 2 (Lawrence Yaku 53, Ian Hodges 78) James Ronayne at Clarence Park THERE was a real Christmas cracker at Clarence Park on Boxing Day as ten-man St Albans twice took the lead

St Albans City 2 (Paul Hakim 48, Stuart Lake OG 63)

Hampton & Richmond Borough 2 (Lawrence Yaku 53, Ian Hodges 78)

James Ronayne at Clarence Park

THERE was a real Christmas cracker at Clarence Park on Boxing Day as ten-man St Albans twice took the lead against play-off hopefuls Hampton.

City, who had Gary Cohen sent off six minutes before the interval, produced a performance to warm the 609 fans on a bitterly cold day and with it end a run of four straight defeats.

Chris Seeby returned to the starting line-up for the first time since September 22, 2007 deputising for the flu-stricken James Quilter, Seeby slotting in at right back with James Fisher moving into midfield. Steve Castle's only other change saw Scott Cousins replace Adam Everitt at left back.

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The opening exchanges went the way of City with Jonathan Hunt's free kick fizzing past the far post and then Ben Martin was unable to connect with a Hunt corner.

Cousins delivered to the far post but Simon Martin was unable to get over the ball and his header looped harmlessly over the Hampton bar. Seeby and Fisher exchanged passes on the right wing and Seeby cut inside but his shot was easily held by Matt Lovett in the Beavers' goal.

Another Hunt corner was aimed towards Ben Martin and although the centre half was unable to connect, the ball fell to his namesake Simon whose effort was cleared off the line by the Hampton defence.

Six minutes before the interval disaster struck. Cohen's poor first touch saw the ball squirm away and he lunged after it, taking out Francis Quarm and sparking a melee.

Quarm jumped up to get involved as several Hampton players went after Cohen, but then went down again to receive treatment after Cohen was given his marching orders by referee Ian Rathbone, who also issued yellow cards to Ben Martin and Stuart Lake.

With just a minute until half time, Paul Bastock was called into action for the first time. Ben Wright's free kick arched over the wall and the veteran 'keeper did well to push the ball away to safety.

Most City fans would have understood had their team come out after the break and defended for a point but they had other ideas and took a deserved lead three minutes into the second half.

Hunt raced down the left wing and delivered a fine cross to the outstanding Paul Hakim who knocked the ball down and stabbed it inside Lovett's post for his tenth strike of the campaign.

Hampton were nearly gifted an equaliser two minutes later when Lake's long shot which looked to be heading wide and was left by Bastock, took a wicked bounce and skidded inches past the post.

The Beavers did draw level with 53 minutes on the clock. Stuart Lake's long pass found Lawrence Yaku free in the box and although Bastock saved his initial effort, he was unable to stop Yaku smashing the rebound in off the bar.

City reacted well and Lee Clarke found Cousins who cut inside and unleashed a shot which was well saved by Lovett.

Cousins was proving to be highly influential in the game and it was his cross that lead to City's second goal, when Lake headed emphatically past his own 'keeper.

City went in search of a third and, when Lovett's clearance fell to Seeby, the right back hit a crossfield ball to Hakim who laid it off to Hunt but the veteran's shot was deflected over the bar.

Hampton manager Alan Devonshire introduced Ian Hodges as the Beavers went to three up front and the move paid off. Lake again found Yaku in space behind the City defence and he fired the ball across the face of goal for Hodges who bundled the ball home.

From then on it was all Hampton and Bastock was again called upon to save his team mates. A ball found substitute Shaun McAuley free in the box and only a great last-ditch tackle from Cousins stopped him adding a third. With the game in the 94th minute, Wright had a shot that Bastock could only parry to Yaku but he hit the bar with the goal at his mercy, the offside flag saving him from further embarrassment.

It was a well-deserved point for City against a team with serious promotion credentials and sets up wonderfully the return match on New Years Day.

St Albans City: Bastock, Seeby, B.Martin, Frater, Cousins, Cohen, Clarke, Fisher, Hunt (Everitt 79), S.Martin (Munday 65), Hakim. Subs not used: Gray, Nicholls, Sulaiman.

Hampton & Richmond Borough: Lovett, Fernandes, Jeffrey, Scarborough, Wells, R.Lake (Hodges 65), S.Lake, Quarm, Matthews (McAuley 59), Wright, Yaku. Subs not used: Kember, Tyson, Badu.

Ref: Ian Rathbone (Northampton).

Att: 609.