St Albans City handed a lesson by Cambridge City

Saints hammered at Milton Road

Southern Premier Division

Cambridge City 4 St Albans City 0

FROM day one David Howell has maintained that the opening weeks of the season will be all about learning and his side certainly gave him plenty to think about following their heavy defeat at Cambridge City on Tuesday evening.

Right from the moment Liam Nicell’s cross-cum-shot nestled in the stanchion of Kyle Merson’s goal in the 18th minute Howell’s side were on the back foot and only some abysmal finishing from last season’s league top scorer Craig Hammond stopped the hosts doubling their tally.

The Saints were their own worse enemies gifting the Lilywhites far too much time and space in midfield and when Gary Roberts’ side got the ball into the box they found it far to easy against some powderpuff defending.

It was hard to believe that this was the same side – minus James Bent – who had recorded such an impressive victory at the weekend.

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The early action didn’t suggest such a comprehensive defeat was on the cards for the Saints with Rob Haworth in particular making a lively start and causing the home defence problems with his aerial threat.

The veteran striker did well to twice get on the end of crosses but he was unable to test Zac Barrett in the Lilywhites’ goal on either occasion.

The same could not be said of the home side who took the lead in spectacular if slightly fortuitous circumstances. Neat passing between Joey Abbs and Robbie Nightingale had Saints chasing shadows and with no one tracking the run of full-back Nicell, Nightingale was able to loft the ball over the top for the marauding right-back who was in acres of space. Whether it was a cross or a shot only Nicell knows but one thing is for certain - Merson had no chance as the ball whistled over his head and squeezed inside the far post.

That goal knocked the stuffing out of the Saints and Roberts’ team began to dictate play through experienced midfield duo Nightingale and Adie Cambridge.

The visitors’ best chance of the opening 45 minutes came when Sean Shields weaved his way into the box and cut back onto his left foot but his low effort was held by Barrett.

Cambridge were having plenty of joy attacking the Saints’ left flank and it was no surprise when the second goal came eight minutes before the interval. City stood off Abbs allowing the winger to collect a throw in before sending a perfect cross to the far post where Luke Robins had got free of his marker Matt Pooley and was able to head past Merson unchallenged.

City clearly didn’t learn their lesson as they conceded an almost identical goal just four minutes later. This time it was Nicell who was the provider, swinging over an inviting ball for Robins at the back post and although Merson got two hands to the ball this time, it slipped out of his grasp and squirmed over the line.

The referee’s half time whistle was a welcome sound for the Saints but it didn’t stop the second half being played out in a similar fashion.

Throughout the contest St Albans looked comfortable in possession without ever looking like hurting the opposition. Sean Shields looked the most likely to produce something for the Saints but he never forced Barrett into a meaningful save.

The same could not be said of Cambridge though with Nicell’s audacious 25-yard volley beating Merson but smashing onto the upright.

The home side really should have boosted their goal difference as they carved open at will the visiting defence but on more than one occasion the finishing was woeful.

A mix up between Matt Cutchey and Merson when dealing with a Robins’ ball into the box presented Hammond with an open goal but the striker lifted his effort over the unguarded net from six yards. The striker put his shirt over his head to hide his embarrassment and so he should.

The striker was again guilty of passing up an excellent opportunity when he failed to work the ‘keeper from another Robins’ centre but the ex-Royston front man made sure it was third time lucky, adding a fourth five minutes from time.

An innocuous looking pass looked easy enough for right-back Pooley to deal with but he somehow allowed the ball to go under his foot presenting Hammond a clean run on goal and the big striker made no mistake this time curling his effort around the despairing dive of Merson.

Cambridge: Barrett; Nicell, Theobold (Chaffey 88), Lacey, O’Donnell; Abbs (Burke 83), Cambridge, Nightingale, Robins; Midgley (Ogbonna 70), Hammond.

Sub not used: Clift.

St Albans: Merson; Pooley, Cutchey, Moran, Matthews; Walker (Davies 67), Sol Shields, Ijaha �, Sean Shields (Alebiosu 77); Haworth, Haule (Ehui 52).

Subs not used: Sonuga, Dedman.

Referee: Stephen Rubery (Ilford)

Att: 305