Stubborn St Albans lose in scrappy game to Ebbsfleet

PUBLISHED: 21:47 16 February 2016 | UPDATED: 08:49 17 February 2016

Josh Staunton started in a new look back-five for St Albans City. Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Josh Staunton started in a new look back-five for St Albans City. Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Robert Walkley

A solitary goal by Aaron McLean decided a scrappy game – one which St Albans could have got something out of.

Ebbsfleet United are the runaway leaders of the Vanarama National League South but Saints, embroiled in a relegation battle, made it very difficult.

And although St Albans didn’t threaten Brandon Hall in the home goal, Ebbsfleet, who were not at their fluent best, will be happy with the 1-0 win.

McLean’s goal came as the clock ticked into added time at the end of the first half.

A cross from the right was cleared by City but it was sent back on the half-volley and crept inside Joe Welch’s left-hand post.

And the Saints custodian may feel he could have done better.

Aside from the goal, the first-half was more notable for the referee’s whistle and the frustration of fans, players and managers alike.

Those frustrations had spilled over in the tunnel as the players left the field with plenty of pushing and shoving.

St Albans had started with a new 5-3-2 formation with Ben Martin, Eddie Oshodi and Josh Staunton playing as three centre-backs.

And while the formation meant forwards Charlie MacDonald and Michael Thalassitis were often isolated, the defence kept the Ebbsfleet strikers quiet for the majority of the half.

Welch had made one good save at his near post from a Godden header but that was as close as anyone had come to testing either keeper before the goal.

The feistiness carried on in the second period.

And if bookings were goals, the first 10 minutes would have been a cracker.

Sam Corcoran, Emmanuel Udoji and Al Bangura saw a yellow card for City with Anthony Cook and McLean earning the referee’s displeasure for Fleet.

Once the players got the aggression out of their system, a football match threatened to break out.

Welch made one fine save from Matt Godden while a Louie Theophanous shot was deflected behind at the other end.

In the end neither side looked likely to get another and Ebbsfleet continue their march to the National League.

For St Albans City, relegation is still a very real possibility but this performance should give them some hope.

City: Welch, Staunton (Bender 71), Chappell, Bangura, Oshodi, Martin, Udoji, Corcoran, Thalassitis, MacDonald (Theophanous 66), Thomas (MacDevitt 81)

Subs (not used): Gibson, Locke

Goals:

Ebbsfleet: Hall, Fish, van den Bogaert, Lewis, acheampong, Bonner, Rance (Kissock 77), Godden, Kedwell, McLean, Cook

Subs (not used): Miles, Howe, Sheringham, Parkes

Goal: McLean 45

Attendance: 1,089

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