St Albans City out of the Herts Senior Cup despite dramatic late comeback

Zane Banton skips through the Truro midfield. Picture: LEIGH PAGE

Zane Banton skips through the Truro midfield. Picture: LEIGH PAGE - Credit: Archant

Two goals inside the final eight minutes almost booked an improbable passage to the quarter-finals of the Herts Senior Cup for St Albans City – but they crashed out on penalties to Hertford Town.

When Charlie Wade put Town 2-0 up on 76 minutes, adding to Charlie Cole’s superb first-half strike, that seemed to be that.

But City responded by sending on Tom Bender and Sam Merson and the pair combined five minutes later, the former sending in a perfect cross for the latter to attack with venom and head home.

And then Zane Banton, the first of the Saints substitutes who had been sent on at the start of the seond half, burst into the box, rounded Town’s goalkeeper Simon Dent, and slotted home.

There was to be no winner, although City came close, and misses from Harold Joseph and Ben Herd in the shoot-out put Hertford through to a quarter-final meeting with either Royston Town or Berkhamsted.

Prior to that St Albans City had been limping towards the exit door.

On paper the side put out by manager Ian Allinson was more than capable of defeating the Bostik League North Division side.

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But they found their hosts in mood to roll over and have their bellies tickled and despite plenty of possession for the National League South outfit, Hertford defended well.

A moment of magic from Cole gave Hertford the lead early on.

With the ball played to the left edge of the six-yard box, and with his back to goal, Cole lifted the ball back over his head, and over the head of James Russell in the City goal, before it dropped into the net via the far post.

Cole was a hot property after a sensational season last year at Essex League Takeley and his glut of goals were enough to earn him a move to Billericay Town, who subsequently sent him out to Hertingfordbury Park.

But that was the main highlight of an ultimately forgettable half.

Saints did have a chance almost immediately to level but Joseph’s header from a deflected free-kick was superbly tipped over the bar by Dent.

The pitch didn’t help, with numerous bobbles and sticky patches of mud preventing the ball rolling true, but City weren’t helping themselves.

There was a lot of huff, plenty of puff, and enough possession but they struggled to get behind Hertford’s defence often enough.

When they did, they looked dangerous and one cross from Rhys Murrell-Williamson was perfect for an onrushing attacker, something Allinson was quick to remind his players when none showed the inclination.

But as the teams trotted off at half-time, you still felt that if St Albans upped the tempo, they would come away with the win.

They certainly started like that.

Murrell-Williamson almost wriggled through in the first moments and then Charlie Walker headed wide.

But then the game settled into the same pattern as the first.

Two free-kicks not far from the penalty area summed up St Albans’ performance.

Both centre-halves moved forward for both set-pieces but on both occasions, the ball was blasted into the inky black Hertford sky.

It did not please the boss one bit.

Hertford’s second started the final act of the drama but it was not to be for City who will now turn their attention back to the league when Oxford City visit Clarence Park on Saturday.

City: Russell, Herd, Eadie (Bender 77), Kiangebeni, Pinney, Joseph, Lucien (Banton 46), Sambou, Walker (Merson 77), Monlouis, Murrell-Williamson

Subs (not used): Moore-Azille, Noble

Goals: Merson 82, Banton 86

Hertford: Dent, Sharman, Foster, Thomson, Beck, Palmer, Edmee (O’Connor 64), Toner, Andreos (Wade 70), Cole (Ruff 78), Hatherly

Subs (not used): Diveney, Light

Goals: Cole 12, Wade 76

HT: Hertford Town 1 St Albans City 0

Referee: Lee Jessop