Shields leads the way for City
St Albans win at Barwell courtesy of a single goal from midfielder Sol Shields
Southern Premier Division
Barwell 0 St Albans City 1
A SECOND goal of the season from midfielder Sol Shields proved enough for St Albans City to clinch all three points at Barwell.
The midfielder was in the right place at the right time to profit after Barwell ‘keeper Liam Castle had spilled debutant Danny Hart’s free kick, drilling the loose ball into the unguarded corner of the net to settle a tie that was full of grit and determination but lacking in flair.
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Following Tuesday night’s 4-0 defeat at Cambridge City, Saints’ boss David Howell made two changes bringing in Paul Furlong and Hart as he looked for his side to get back to basics.
Barwell’s muscular right-sided attacker Jamie Towers looked the most likely to contribute to the goalscoring stakes early on often drifting in off his wing unmarked. The Barwell midfielder came the closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening quarter of the contest reacting quickest to a loose ball in the City penalty area but smashing his effort off the outside of Kyle Merson’s post.
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Howell’s side nearly gifted their hosts the opening goal when a lapse in concentration presented leading scorer Luke Barlone with an excellent chance. A fairly tame ball up the line by left-back Lewis Dodd was allowed to roll goalwards by Ryan Moran allowing Barlone to latch onto the ball with just Merson to beat. The Barwell forward panicked however, hitting his shot early and far from cleanly resulting in the ball sailing harmlessly wide of the target.
Hart grew into the match the longer it went on and his ability to go down the line or cut inside gave him the edge over his marker. One such occasion saw Hart drive inside from his wing and slice the home defence open but Haworth’s effort was tame and easily held by Castle.
The same pair linked up less than a minute later, this time Hart gliding down the wing and picking out Haworth perfectly at the far post only for Castle to prove more than a match once more.
There were, however, big question marks over the performance of the Barwell stopper in the lead up to City’s goal 12 minutes after the interval.
The home side were outraged by referee Edward Smart’s decision to penalise skipper Jamie Hadland for handball but instead of focussing on defending the set play they switched off, aggrieved at the perceived injustice. Hart’s free kick didn’t look too threatening but Castle allowed the ball to spill out of his grasp and although Furlong’s follow up was blocked, Sol Shields was on hand to calmly place the ball inside the top corner of the far post.
Centre-half Rikki Bains was forced off with an injury sustained in denying Furlong resulting in nearly a three-minute delay before the game resumed.
Towers, who had an unsuccessful spell with Conference National side Kettering Town last season, continued to threaten from his position out on the right wing and really should have drawn the home side level after Joakim Ehui had squandered possession but he lashed his effort high and wide.
The Leicestershire side threw caution to the wind as they pushed for an equaliser and they were very nearly rewarded but for a fortuitous deflection.
Barrie Matthews was guilty of pulling out of a challenge on the wing gifting Scott Rickards the space to look up and pick out Barlone whose effort smashed into Towers but looped harmlessly into the hands of the static Merson.
City had a good chance to put the game beyond doubt when Ehui flicked the ball into the path of fellow sub Marvin Alebiosu but the midfielder was denied by a brave save from Castle.
Injuries to Bains and latterly Mason Rowley meant nearly eight minutes of injury time were played during which the home side continued to create chances to earn a share of the spoils.
Towers found himself one-on-one with Matt Cutchey, turning the centre half but dragging his effort across goal and wide and then just minutes later the City defender had to throw his body in the way of a powerfully hit effort from the same player as the Saints held on for a first clean sheet of the season and all three points.
Barwell: Castle; Lower, Bains (Harris 60), Rowley (Wykes 84), Dodd; Towers, Hadland �, Rickards, Julien; Charley (Pearson 89), Barlone.
Subs not used: Hamilton, Ginnelly.
City: Merson; Pooley, Moran, Cutchey, Matthews; Hart (Alebiosu 72), Sol Shields, Ijaha �, Davies (Ehui 55); Furlong (Bakare 58), Haworth.
Subs not used: Haule, Sonuga.
Referee: Edward Smart