St Albans City up to second with battling win at Dartford

PUBLISHED: 21:45 08 November 2016 | UPDATED: 09:40 09 November 2016

Sam Merson puts St Albans City into a first-half lead at Dartford. Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Sam Merson puts St Albans City into a first-half lead at Dartford. Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Robert Walkley

St Albans City got over their FA Cup blues as a 2-0 win over Dartford at Princes Park moved them second in the Vanarama National League South.

Goals from Sam Merson and Tom Bender gave City a half-time lead and despite plenty of pressure from the hosts in the second half, they hung on for the win.

St Albans made two changes from the side that lost to Carlisle United on Sunday; Ben Martin and David Noble replaced by Shaun Lucien and Sam Merson.

The question being asked by Saints fans was whether those exertions in the FA Cup would hinder the visitors.

We soon got our answer.

The press box at Dartford puts you almost on top of the opposition bench and it meant you could hear the Allinsons in the opening exchanges.

And they weren’t happy.

Mind you didn’t have to be on top of them to realise City were not firing on all cylinders.

Passes rarely found their intended targets as Saints made a sluggish opening to the game.

It took 17 minutes to get a real sight on goal with Morias wriggling through the area before Theophanous let fly from a tight angle.

Mind Dartford weren’t much better.

They did have a couple of chances with Ryan Hayes and Luke Wanadio to the fore.

But slowly St Albans grew into the game, without ever finding top gear while the hosts started to become more and more vocal with the officials.

The goals when they arrived both came from set-pieces, although this time from Ben Herd free-kicks, not Lee Chappell’s throws.

The first on the left wing was curled in for Merson to produce his now all-too familiar outstanding leap and head home.

The second came from a more central area, deep in to added time. Flicked on in the box Bender gambled, got there first, rounded the keeper and smashed the ball into an empty net.

The home fans were livid at the award of the set-piece and gave the referee a rough time as he walked off.

The second half started with Dartford very much on the front foot.

City did have a five-minute spell where Lucien twice, Merson and Theophanous had chances but the longer the half went on, the more they retreated into their own box.

It led to a couple of half chances and scrambled clearances. Duane Ofori-Acheampong had the best effort but hit it straight at James Russell from 12 yards.

Then with 19 minutes to go the game entered the twilight zone. Referee Elliot Kaye shouted to his linesman he couldn’t continue and an announcement went out for a qualified official to run the line.

Ten minutes or so later the game restarted with a mystery man on the line.

Dartford still looked dangerous and Elliot Bradbrook clipped the top of the bar with a header.

But City hung on and face Hungerford Town this Saturday at Clarence Park.

City: Russell, Casey, Bender, Chappell, Hill, Herd (Martin 82), Lucien (Akinyemi 86), Thomas, Theophanous, Morias, Merson (Ball 84)

Subs (not used): Swales, D.Noble

Goals: Merson 34, Bender 45+1

Dartford: Vose, Harris, Wynter, Bonner, Gardiner, Brown, Hayes (L.Noble 62), Bradbrook, Ofort-Achaempong, Pugh, Wanadio (Brown 62)

Subs (not used): Wood, Vint, Dembele

Goals:

HT: Dartford 0 St Albans City 2

Attendance: 634

Referee: Elliot Kaye (Michael Heavey 71)

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