Slideshow: Saints pan title hopefuls Lewes
LEE Clarke smashed home a stunning goal to help fire St Albans City to a spectacular win at Blue Square South title chasers Lewes on Saturday. City boss Steve Castle recalled James Fisher who recovered from his ankle injury for the trip to the Dripping Pa
LEE Clarke smashed home a stunning goal to help fire St Albans City to a spectacular win at Blue Square South title chasers Lewes on Saturday.
City boss Steve Castle recalled James Fisher who recovered from his ankle injury for the trip to the Dripping Pan. Lee Clarke continued in midfield alongside the impressive Luke Thurlbourne and Paul Hakim again partnered Akanni Sunday Wasiu in attack.
Lewes included on loan Brentford striker Charlie Ide alongside top scorer Paul Booth in attack. Former Saint Tom Davis missed out due to a knee injury sustained in training on Thursday.
The Saints, chasing a third straight win, looked the more confident side from the kick off and an excellent goal kick from Paul Bastock almost exposed the sluggish home defence. Hakim looked set to escape through on goal, only for defender Steve Robinson to deflect the ball away.
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Lewes responded in the sixth minute when Booth fired into the side netting after starting a sparkling move in midfield and then driving into the box to reach a cross from Andrew Drury.
Fisher caused panic in the Lewes box when he got forward superbly to pull back a cross into the danger area. Sunday and Hakim were unable to get a shot away but the latter found Paul Bruce who smashed his effort across the goal and Lewes were able to block and clear.
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Dominant City, boosted by some impenetrable defending from giant centre backs Ben Martin and Ryan Frater, created the first clear cut chance on 22 minutes. Sunday broke clear from a pass by the excellent Fisher but the striker fired straight at Lewes goalkeeper Steve Williams who comfortably held.
The Saints squandered a similar chance two minutes later when Frater hacked the ball into midfield and Thurlbourne knocked a clever ball through for Hakim. The striker outpaced the Lewes defence and from a difficult angle beat Williams only for his low shot to sizzle across the goal and wide.
Castle's side continued to control the match and Bruce was denied a fifth goal in three games when he curled a corner directly into the net, only for the referee to blow for a push on the Lewes goalkeeper.
The ball was soon in the net again as Scott Cousins took a throw in to Hakim who touched the ball to Clarke. The midfielder turned away from a defender and from 25 yards smashed a supreme right foot shot high into the net. It was a glorious finish and a goal City deserved for starting the game with spark and commitment.
Before the break City showed a glimpse of the spectacular attacking football that secured promotion in 2005/06 when Bastock palmed a cross out to Hassan Sulaiman who ran from the City box right to the edge of the Lewes penalty area and fed Hakim but his deep cross was blasted into the side netting by Bruce.
League leaders Lewes, with only one point from the last six, were nervous and disjoined but reminded the visitors off their threat on 36 minutes. Gary Holloway sprinted through the midfield with a fine run and fed Ide who lashed his shot off target. City goalkeeper Bastock then took a blow to the kidney as Fisher rose superbly to head a dangerous Booth cross away from danger. The goalkeeper was down for treatment but soon recovered his breath.
City should have added a second goal just three minutes into the second half when Sunday put Hakim through but the striker could not beat Williams who came off his line quickly.
Clarke hit a shot over the cross bar from 30 yards as City continued to dominate, although just after the hour mark, their rock solid defence was finally breached. Booth fed Ide and picked up the return pass, scything through only for Bastock to spectacularly tip his shot onto the roof of the net when an equaliser looked inevitable.
Castle's team responded well to the scare and some sublime play from the strikers almost resulted in a goal of the season contender. Hakim back-heeled the ball to Sunday who evaded two challenges with sublime footwork and off balance could only roll his left foot shot wide of the near post.
City finally got the second goal they deserved on 86 minutes when the energetic Thurlbourne broke forward and slid a perfect pass out wide to Bruce. The left midfielder fired in a powerful cross which Williams spilled and Sunday helped the loose ball on for Hakim to sweep it home.
City were denied a third by the offside flag when Hakim found the net from a Sulaiman cross and at the other end a great block from Fisher secured the clean sheet.