St Albans City miss out on FA Cup first round as Bishop’s Stortford produce shock
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
St Albans City fell short of the FA Cup first round proper after a disastrous opening spell in their 2-0 defeat away to Bishop’s Stortford.
Their game was the last of the fourth qualifying round ties to be played, due to the rescheduling for live coverage on BT Sport.
It meant both teams knew a trip to Brackley Town was waiting and Stortford blasted there with two goals in the opening 16 minutes.
Saints had chances but any hope that their first televised showing would bring a dramatic and grandstand finish never materialised.
The Isthmian Premier League Blues, one level below St Albans, went for the same starting line-up that had begun in the last round when Royston Town were the visitors.
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Saints’ plans meanwhile were thrown into disarray prior to kick-off when goalkeeper Michael Johnson was ruled out following an injury picked up in training.
A former West Ham junior, Rihards Matrevics, was drafted in from Hendon and his debut in a City shirt had a less-than auspicious start.
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The ball ran to him with former City man Darren Foxley in pursuit and when he tried to clear it long, the ball hit the Stortford man and bounced over the keeper and in.
It had the capacity and partisan crowd in raptures and things got even better on 16 minutes when a delightful 60-yard ball from Sam Robbins dropped over the last defender and into the path of Aaron Green.
He took his time, looked up and drilled it past the keeper.
And yet in between City could and probably should have scored at least twice.
Mitchell Weiss was guilty of both of them, the first of which was within 60 seconds of the restart after the first goal.
He raced in one-on-one and opted to fire it low at the keeper’s right, beating him but not the post with the ball bouncing out forcefully.
His second effort saw him cut inside but he dragged his shot wide of the near post again.
Zane Banton also got in but was beaten to the ball just as he was about to shoot, Mark Haines doing the excellent covering.
And for the rest of the half the grey shirts of Saints kept pressing forward but without truly testing Jack Giddens, one Shaun Jeffers effort from distance straight down his throat being the best of them.
It felt like it needed something different in the second half whether that was a tactical change or different personnel.
Manager Ian Allinson chose to keep it as it had been in the first period but he may have had a different view after the opening five minutes.
The hosts had a couple of good chances to extend their lead, Jack Thomas nodding wide with a free header from a Foxley free-kick, while Frankie Merrifield fired well over three minutes later.
Stortford looked a threat on the break and Merrifield wasted a glorious chance with 17 minutes to go when he somehow put an effort wide when in a central position.
City’s chances in contrast had dried up although Banton did bring a good save out of Giddens.
However, there was never really a moment in the second half when you felt that unlikely comeback would happen.
In fact it was Matrevics who produced the final save, redeeming himself slightly with a brave block to prevent Correy Davidson from making it three.
St Albans City: Matrevics, Stanley, Bender, Wiltshire, Nwabuokei, Jeffers (Onokwai 81), Banton (Chidyausiku 70), Diedhiou, Weiss (Akinola 70), Sundire, Mukena.
Subs (not used): Jackson, Warner-Eley, Clark, Kaloczi.
Booked: Bender 26
Bishop’s Stortford: Giddens, Mvemba, Thomas, Robbins, Henshaw, Marlow, Merrifield (Richardson 73), Greene (Davidson 67), Jones (Baker 64), Foxley, Haines.
Subs (not used): Smith, Haxell, Johnson, Brown.
Goals: Foxley 3, Greene 16
HT: Bishop’s Stortford 2 St Albans City 0
Referee: Aji Ajibola (Maidstone)