Spitfires’ wingman ends Saints run

First half Graham goal settles tie

Blue Square Bet South

St Albans City 0 Eastleigh 1

PERHAPS those who stayed away knew something the rest of us didn’t.

A season’s low league gate of 217 turned up at a damp Clarence Park to witness Eastleigh end St Albans City’s unbeaten start to 2011 with a 1-0 victory but in truth the only winners were those who stayed in front of their television sets.

Although there was no shortage of passion there was a distinct lack of quality in the final third from both sides and it made for a horrible spectacle.

Neither Paul Bastock, Gareth Barfoot or the injured Eastleigh ‘keeper’s replacement Jason Matthews had much to do between the sticks bar a few regulation saves in a contest that was dominated by the defences.

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The sides’ endeavour in the first half was often halted by referee David Margetts’ whistle. The Harlow based official awarded 10 free kicks in the first 24 minutes, which did little to help an already scrappy game flow freely.

It was the away side that carved out the better opportunities early on but Tom Jordan headed over twice from teasing set-play deliveries from Richard Graham.

City’s only real sight of goal came when Adam Martin barged his way through a tackle in midfield and Inih Effiong smashed the loose ball well wide.

The game deciding moment came five minutes before the interval with Graham applying the finish at the far post for the Spitfires.

Peter Adiniyi threaded the ball down the right hand channel for Anthony Riviere whose low ball across the face of goal was deflected past Bastock and into the path of Graham who fired the ball past Matt Hocking on the line.

The game did improve after the break, albeit only very slightly. Effiong was sent racing clear behind the visiting defence but his curling effort from out wide was straight at replacement stopper Matthews and the ‘keeper held onto Adam Martin’s well struck shot from 20 yards.

City’s best chance of the evening fell to prolific reserve team striker Dom Petrucci. The forward has scored 11 goals for the second string this season but was unable to break his duck for the senior side when he failed to get a boot to Effiong’s low cross to divert the ball past Matthews.

Both Sol and Sean Shields were introduced by boss Steve Castle in an attempt to find an equaliser but with City pushing forward they were leaving the defence exposed.

Pete Smith lost possession on the halfway line to Shaun McAuley who raced into the City penalty area but shot straight at Bastock and substitute Richard Gillespie probably should have hit the target when played in on the left hand side.

A defensive error should have seen Eastleigh double their lead but Bastock was on hand to keep them out. A poor pass from Sol Shields left Ben Martin in trouble and Gillespie stole the ball from the City man. The Eastleigh forward however was thwarted by Bastock and despite the substitute being first to the loose ball his cross was too high for the unmarked Jamie Slabber.

City’s hopes of a point evaporated when Ben Martin failed to connect with James Fisher’s excellent cross.

St Albans City: Bastock; Hocking (Sean Shields), B Martin, Frater �, Everitt; Fisher, Deeney, A Martin (Sol Shields), Smith; Effiong, Petrucci (Sheppard). Subs not used: Lobjoit, Magwood.

Eastleigh: Barfoot (Matthews); Smith, Holland, Jordan, Byles (Bottomley 46); McAuley, Riviere, Adiniyi, Graham (Gillespie); Taggart, Slabber. Subs not used: Bennett, Goodhind.

Referee: David Margetts (Harlow) Att: 217.