St Albans City make a fast start to life in Southern Premier Division
Pace and power does the job for Saints on opening day
Southern Premier Division
St Albans City 4 Cirencester Town 1
THE embryonic Southern Premier Division table makes excellent reading for St Albans City fans following their opening-day victory over Cirencester Town.
It was a victory borne out of a very good attacking display from a team that has only been together a matter of weeks and just what was needed to signal the start of a new era at the club.
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This day was all about St Albans City heading out on a new adventure with new faces in both the boardroom and the dressing room so it was ironic that it was two of the club’s ‘old’ boys who had such a big say in proceedings with Sean and Sol Shields playing a major part.
Cirencester had no answer to the pace and trickery served up by City’s wide men, Jerome Walker and Sean Shields, and struggled to deal with the aerial threat of returning forward Rob Haworth.
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That said the City goal in which Kyle Merson, an academy stopper on loan from Staines Town, stood guard lived a charmed life. Ciren striker Paul Banks had already forced Merson into a save with his legs by the time Zak Westlake saw his header smash onto the crossbar and over the top.
Having seen his side make all the early running, Cirencester boss Brian Hughes, was left apoplectic when Haworth marked his return with the opening goal. City skipper David Ijaha won the ball in midfield and quickly sent Walker racing clear down the right wing. The speedster showed his game isn’t all about pace with an exquisite cross to the far post where Haworth rammed the ball home with a diving header.
The goal settled the home side down but Cirencester continued to carve out chances and should have been level midway through the half. Striker Banks was the man causing all the havoc, turning Barrie Matthews and picking out the unmarked Mike Tamblin two yards out who inexplicably beat the crossbar with his shot with the goal gaping.
It was a costly miss for the visitors who soon found themselves two goals down. The danger seemed to have been averted when goalkeeper Danny Greaves punched Sean Shields’ corner out to namesake Sol around 30 yards from goal. The City midfielder had other ideas though, taking a touch before unleashing a shot that seemed to take Greaves by surprise before nestling in the bottom corner of the net.
Banks was unable to punish City after Merson had failed to collect another high ball into the box but while Cirencester were cursing their profligacy in front of goal the Saints were having no such problems and extended their lead eight minutes before the interval.
Sean Shields was the architect displaying some mesmeric close ball control to bamboozle his marker before firing the ball goalwards and into the net via a deflection off defender Matt Sysum all from the tightest angle possible.
Sysum nearly atoned for his part in City’s third goal with a strike of his own in the right end but the defender became the second visiting player to be denied by the York Road crossbar.
It’s fair to say the second half didn’t quite have the fireworks to match the opening 45 minutes but both sides still found chances rolling off the conveyor belt.
Matt Pooley’s cross from the right found Sean Shields at the far post but the winger could only lift his volley over the crossbar while substitute Jamie Reid saw his effort fly past Merson’s left hand upright.
Cirencester’s persistence was rewarded 17 minutes from time when Reid was allowed to burst into the box and fire across Merson but it proved little more than a consolation as City immediately restored their three-goal cushion.
Veteran striker Paul Furlong has enjoyed a prolific career at various levels of the English pyramid and the 42-year-old needed just one touch to get off the mark for the Saints.
Questions will have to be asked of Ciren goalkeeper Greaves who appeared to misjudge Furlong’s 25-yard strike believing it would fly past his post only for it to hit the back of the net, to send the City supporters, including chairman Ian Ridley, on the York Road terrace into raptures.
The new faces at Clarence Park couldn’t have wished for a better start to life at the club. The challenge now is for them now to ensure the club finishes the final day of the season in the same place they ended the opening day.
St Albans City: Merson; Pooley, Moran, Cutchey, Matthews; Walker (Alebiosu 87), Ijaha �, Sol Shields, Sean Shields (Furlong 71); Haworth (Ehui 81), Bent.
Subs not used: Davies, Dedman.
Cirencester: Greaves; Gunn, Mansell, Westlake, Dunton (Reid 61), Sysum, Etheridge, Mortimer-Jones, Banks, Stone, Tamblin (Bevan 61).
Subs not used: Mayo, Loughman.
Ref: Constantine Hatzidakis (Bromley)