No shock in FA Trophy as St Albans City see off 10-man Cray Wanderers
- Credit: Peter Short
In the end the proverbial banana skin was avoided as St Albans City moved into the third round of the FA Trophy with a 3-0 win over Cray Wanderers.
It wasn’t always as comfortable as it turned out to be, with the Isthmian League Premier Division side giving as good as they got in the early stages, but a sending off on the stroke of half-time changed the momentum.
And City took full control in the second half with goals from Kyran Wiltshire, Zane Banton and Mitchell Weiss setting up a home game with National League Sutton United on Saturday.
There was one enforced change from the side that beat Tonbridge Angels on Saturday to go top of the National League South table, Tom Bender missing out with a shoulder injury.
But Ian Allinson also opted to lave Michael Clark out of the rarely-penetrated defence too, he dropped to the bench.
And it looked as if City were still adapting to the new personnel with a very shaky opening 10 minutes.
Cray got forward to great effect on a number of occasions and the only disappointing aspect of their play was their reluctance to pull the trigger, or at least pull the trigger at the right moments.
And despite their early dominance, it was Saints who got the first meaningful shot away.
Banton had it, catching it perfectly too but somehow goalkeeper Lewis Carey was able to throw up an arm and deflect it onto the crossbar.
It was a rare moment of joy going forward for City who looked disjointed once the ball got beyond the halfway line.
But despite the lack of fluency at times, it was the hosts who continued to create the chances.
Weiss forced Carey into another save and shortly after the keeper was twice called into making saves.
The first was to bat away a firm drive from Luke Warner-Eley and the second to tip a Shaun Jeffers header over after Weiss had sent his volley bouncing towards the goal.
The change in momentum had been partly down to two injuries for Cray, Lee Lewis and Barney Williams coming on for Charlie Allen and Thomas Carlse, and the first of them lasted just 12 minutes before seeing a straight red card.
It was the right decision, Lewis tripping Weiss as the forward raced in on goal, but it was more of an accidental collision rather than anything sinister or deliberate.
And from the free-kick City hit the bar for the second time before a prone Carey snaffled the rebound.
The dismissal set-up the second half for what was expected to be a bit more of a comfortable time for the home side and that is exactly what happened when Wiltshire fired low into the corner four minutes after the restart.
It was a soft one for the keeper to concede considering the saves he made in the first period but he made up for it shortly after as St Albans pressed and pressed.
He couldn’t stop Banton making it two, a one-two with Warner-Eley breaking for him and the wide forward thumping it low and hard into the corner, but Carey did make a good stop to deny the full-back a fine goal from a free-kick he sent arrowing towards the top corner.
Saints, like Cray in the first-half, were guilty of over-complicating it when they got inside the box, which they did often in the half, but they continued to close the game out in a professional manner.
And they finished it off in style when a cross from Devante Stanley was tucked away at the back post by Weiss.
St Albans City: Johnson, Stanley, Wiltshire (Noble 70), Kaloczi, Nwabuokei, Jeffers, Z.Banton, Weiss, Sundire (Dada 87), Mukena (Clark 82), Warner-Eley.
Subs (not used): Lankshear, Onokwai, Diedhiou, Matrevics.
Goals: Wiltshire 49, Z.Banton 60, Weiss 86
Booked: Mukena 79
Cray Wanderers: Carey, Carlse (Williams 40), Nelson, Phipp, J.Banton (Adade 59), Parker, Pritchard, Murrell-Williamson, Richards, Allen (Lewis 33).
Subs (not used): Hall, Dent, Onoabagbe, Oduguwa.
Booked: Williams 56, Nelson 65, Taylor 88
Sent-off: Lewis 44
HT: St Albans City 0 Cray Wanderers 0
Referee: Daniel Simpson (Reading)