St Albans City’s play-off hopes ripped apart by rampant Torquay United

St Albans City formed a guard of honour for champions Torquay United prior to their National League

St Albans City formed a guard of honour for champions Torquay United prior to their National League South game. - Credit: Archant

Ian Allinson spoke passionately of his belief they could do it and the St Albans City fans turned up in their droves to see their heroes try and clinch the final play-off place in the National League South – and within 10 seconds against Torquay United those dreams and hopes were up in smoke.

The official time may show slightly more than that although not by much.

But fans had barely took their place on the terraces when Kalvin Kalala bent the ball round Dean Snedker.

It was the first of what ended up as a 4-0 win for the Gulls but the quite literal stunning start was key.

And Torquay could have had doubled their lead just over 60 seconds later.

This time a curling effort rebounded off the crossbar and moments later Snedker had to make a big save to keep it at one.

It was only a temporary respite as Jamie Reid pounced on indecision in the City defence to beat Snedker with little more than eight minutes showing on the clock.

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There could have even been a third but Snedker stopped Reid’s penalty on the half-hour, kicking the ball away after Scott Shulton had bundled over his man in the box.

It was definitely not in the script but in front of the biggest crowd of the season at Clarence Park, Saints were like rabbits caught in the headlights.

Torquay were impressive, of that there is no doubt, but were they that much better? And the simple answer is probably not.

Saints had formed a guard of honour prior to the game to welcome the champions onto the pitch but at times it felt like they were given the freedom of the Park.

Too many times the City defence were guilty of leaving space in behind and not controlling their penalty area.

And what made it even more frustrating is that there were chances at the other end.

Michael Clark took far too much time in the six-yard box when the ball fell to when under the circumstances, a first-time shot, regardless of how difficult, would be have been preferable.

David Moyo had two chances, three arguably, but couldn’t find the net.

The first was his best, jumping on a bad pass from the Gulls to race in on MacDonald.

He never looked totally set and ready to shot and the keeper was able to divert it behind with his foot.

The second saw the ball run loose on the edge of the box but his turn and swing didn’t carry enough power or control to beat MacDonald who dived to his right to smother it.

To call the third a chance is harsh as a back-pass to the keeper was thumped against the City man and rebounded straight back into MacDonald’s arms.

Sometimes it just isn’t your day and that suggested exactly that but at half-time the same scenario faced Saints, win and they would be in the play-offs.

They certainly came out with renewed vigour and that should have grown with news of Bath’s two goals against Billericay.

Solomon Sambou burst through and only a fantastic last-ditch tackle denied him a shot on goal.

Then Liam Sole fired a half-volley through a crowd of players that MacDonald fumbled twice but grasping it.

But the thin hopes were extinguished on 63 minutes when Olaf Koszela cut in from the left with yellow shirts conspicuous by their absence and his low pass was fired into the roof of the net at the back post by the equally unmarked Opanin Edwards.

Kalala got the fourth, the ball running loose to him and he had the simple task of guiding it home.

It was as disappointing an end to the game as it had been a disappointing start and it brought the curtain down on what ultimately has been a disappointing year.

Saints took it to the very last game but the strength of the league had probably been overestimated and they should really have made the post-season festivities.

A long and busy summer awaits if they are to change their fortunes next time around.

St Albans City: Snedker, Kaloczi, Wyatt, Shulton (Diedhiou 68), Knight (Joyce-Dwarika 73), Clark, Sole, Sambou, Da Costa, Moyo (Geller 78), Kamdjo.

Subs (not used): Bonfield, Merson.

Torquay United: MacDonald, Wynter, Davis, Lemonheigh-Evans, Vincent, Koue Niate (Sendles-White 69), Dickson (Edwards 59), Cameron Andrews, Reid (Koszela 52), Kalala.

Subs (not used): Hall, Burton.

Goals: Kalala 1, 90+2, Reid 9, Edwards 63

HT: St Albans City 0 Torquay United 2

Attendance: not announced

Referee: Mark Howes (Solihull)