St Albans City stay undefeated but need to come from behind to beat bottom club Braintree
- Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO
It wasn’t the comfortable by the numbers success many had envisioned but St Albans City stay unbeaten in the National League South by beating Braintree Town 2-1.
They trailed at half-time thanks to a Romario Dunne header but second-half strikes from Zane Banton and Mitchell Weiss gave them the win.
Their only defeat this season was to lower league opposition, Bishop’s Stortford winning 2-0 in the FA Cup.
That was a day when the script was not only ripped to pieces, it could have been buried in a peat bog and sold as firelighters in the club shop, to paraphrase Douglas Adams.
This was not quite like that but it wasn’t always as convincing as it could have been.
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The Irons arrived with a record in the league of played five, lost five, and with just four goals scored.
City were unbeaten but never hit the heights and in the closing stages shouts of “take it into the corner” could be heard.
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Still three points is three points and one plus point is that last year this would have been a game they’d have lost.
Kyran Wiltshire had the first shot in the second minute but that rolled tamely through to Preston Edwards in the visitors’ goal.
Weiss had a similar effort later on that was of no concern to the keeper although he was indebted to two fine blocks, the first from Johnville Renne, to stop shots from close in.
But for all that, there was a lack of bite in the home attack. They were often in good positions but it never felt they were going to rip through the Braintree defence.
Solomon Nwabuokei had their best chance after a clever one-two but opted to chip the keeper, allowing George Allen to get round and clear with relative ease.
The visitors too were not exactly clinical with their attacks, centred mostly around the opening 10 minutes and last five of the half.
They were though with a minute to go when Dunne put them in front.
It came from the left wing moments after a cross from a similar position had been slammed off his own crossbar by Michael Clark.
Louis Yamfam delivered it perfectly for Dunne to head home, although Michael Johnson’s positioning was suspect as he came for the ball but seemed to stop.
Neither team had really done enough to warrant a half-time advantage but there would have been some searching questions and honest opinions in the dressing room of the unbeaten Saints.
They returned a good three minutes after the buoyant Irons and had plenty of possession for the majority of the half.
There were no shots though, the first coming from a Tom Bender free-kick on 59 minutes that disappeared high into the night sky.
Braintree meanwhile had one from distance that had Johnson scrambling across his goal to make a less than convincing save.
Wiltshire’s effort two minutes later was better, and closer, but still wide and City looked to be lacking in desire and movement.
That was summed up by one attack where they had four in the middle and six defenders facing them. There was space on the flanks but nobody out there to pass too and the quartet up front were all fairly static.
It must have been sensed by the management as they brought Romeo Akinola on for Dave Diedhiou and the impetus brought an immediate response.
A cross came in from the right and although deflected away, it ran perfectly to Banton who drilled it to the right of the keeper and into the bottom corner.
The pressure continued and City were in front on 73 minutes.
It won’t make the goal of the season competition, bouncing in off Weiss from a yard, but was deserved simply for the persistence of Wiltshire.
He slid in on the left of the box to keep the ball and move alive and his drive to the by-line provided the crucial assist.
An injury to the second goalscorer with 10 minutes to go brought a further defender back to the action, Joy Mukena coming on, and there was a couple of worrying minutes when Saints started to defend their lead and Braintree pushed further forward.
One blocked shot aside though the biggest threat to the win was the mist which began to creep across Clarence Park as the minutes ticked by.
There was never any chance of it causing a problem and the three points, hard-earned in the end, move Saints up to fourth.
St Albans City: Michael Johnson, Clark, Bender, Kaloczi, Diedhiou (Akinola 62), Wiltshire, Nwabuokei, Sundire, Banton, Weiss (Mukena 80), Jeffers (Chidyausiku 90+3).
Subs (not used): Onokwai, Dada.
Goals: Banton 64, Weiss
Booked: Wiltshire 31
Braintree Town: Edwards, Fielding, Renne, Matthew Johnson, Allen, Clements, Gordon (Smyth 82), Krasniqi (O’Keefe69), Dunne, Chiedozie, Yamfam (Rolt 77).
Subs (not used): Holness, Forrest.
Goal: Dunne 44
Booked: Fielding 56, Chiedozie 62, Matthew Johnson 75
HT: St Albans City 0 Braintree Town 1
Referee: Dale Wooton (Cheltenham)