Saints shut out Waders

George Sykes celebrates the winner. Picture: Bob Walkley

George Sykes celebrates the winner. Picture: Bob Walkley - Credit: Archant

St Albans edged one step closer to a play-off berth with a tight and nervy 1-0 victory over Biggleswade Town at Clarence Park on Monday afternoon.

The Saints went into the game on the back of a confident 5-1 win against Banbury United on Saturday, and were looking to make it two wins on the trot, while the visitors to the Park were hoping to secure their fifth win in a row.

Managers James Gray and Graham Golds picked the same eleven that had started the game at Banbury, and their side began the match like they had ended Saturday afternoon’s, spreading the ball around well, looking to un-pick a notoriously difficult Biggleswade defence.

The home side, for the majority of the opening quarter of an hour, bar a corner for the Waders, demonstrated the most attacking intent. A Howard Hall cross was gathered low down by Ian Brown after a weaving run by the defender, while a weak John Frendo strike in the 15th minute was the first real attempt on target from either side.

Biggleswade, who up until this point, had failed to create many chances, went close when a devilish cross in from Jon Woolf flew across the goal mouth and was cleared by a last ditch header from the back tracking Lee Chappell.

Three minutes later, however, and St Albans were in front. Frendo, on the left side of the Waders box, controlled the ball with his chest before playing it to his strike partner George Sykes. The teenager, on loan from Barnet, ran with it before unleashing a shot which looked to be travelling into Brown’s arms, until it took a wicked deflection off of a divot and flew straight over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. It was a fortunate stroke of luck for the striker who had struggled to find the target against Banbury.

With half an hour on the clock, the Waders not only found themselves a goal down, but they also found themselves a man down, after Lee Allinson was sent off for a late and high tackle on Sam Corcoran. It was a blow for the visitors, and it played some part in killing the game off as a spectacle, as Biggleswade took the decision to sit back with two banks of four, restricting the majority of the play between the two sides to the centre of the field.

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However, the side from Bedfordshire did have the clearest cut sighting of goal before the interval when Lee Smith’s corner found a Biggleswade player free at the back post, but he could not control his header, and it eventually went well wide of Paul Bastock and the City net.

Frendo, who was largely isolated throughout the game, attempted a spectacular scissor kick just six minutes into the second half, but his ambitious attempt from Steve Wales’ cross failed to test Brown.

With the game slowly drifting into somewhat of a damp squib, Gray and Golds looked to change things around by introducing the pacey Warren Whitely in place of tiring goalscorer George Sykes in the 59th minute.

Despite this substitution, the away side went close two minutes later when another corner, this time from Lee Reed, fell to Craig Daniel, but he saw his shot hacked off of the line by Darren Locke, before his follow up was easily cleared.

Frendo again looked to score a speculative effort when a poor clearance from the Waders defence fell to the forward 35 yards out, but his attempt to catch the goalkeeper off of his line curled wide of the left hand post.

As the game entered its final 10 minutes, Biggleswade almost found some luck themselves, when a header towards goal which initially appeared to be a simple save for Bastock was spilled onto the post by the veteran goalkeeper. However, the custodian reacted instantly to recover from his mistake by grabbing the ball as it slowly creeped towards the goal line having come off of the woodwork.

Waders manager Chris Nunn looked to give his side some emphasis, and brought on Joel Mason and Evan Key in place of Lee Reed and Jon Woolf for the final 10 minutes, but it failed to have the desired effect as the Saints held firm against an increasingly dangerous looking attack.

As the full time whistle blew, sighs of relief could be heard around Clarence Park after a tight affair, which at times, looked as if Biggleswade could find a way back into the match.

However, City held on, and go into their final league game on Saturday afternoon away at Frome Town knowing that a draw or better will secure their place in the play-offs.

Kick-off at the Blindmans Brewery Stadium is 3pm.

St Albans line-up: Bastock; Hall; Chappell; Marwa ; Ward; Locke; Wales (Henry 69); Comley; Frendo; Sykes (Whitely 59); Corcoran. Subs: Keenleyside; Kaloczi; Green.

Biggleswade Town line-up: Brown; Yorke; Iwediuno; Mawer; Short; Allinson; Daniel; Smith; Donnelly; Reed (Mason 79); Woolf (Key 79). Subs: Coulson; Reed; Rydeheard.

Referee: Mark Mellor (Hemel Hempstead)

Attendance: 724