St Albans pass Stortford test

Ben Martin scores the winner for St Albans against Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Bob Walkley

Ben Martin scores the winner for St Albans against Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Bob Walkley - Credit: Archant

St Albans City passed their sternest test of the year to beat Bishop’s Stortford 2-1 at Clarence Park.

James Comley scored his second goal in as many games to give St Albans a deserved first-half lead. Spencer McCall repled in the 35th minute and from then on Stortford were on the front foot.

However, City showed their ability to steal a victory with a goal from Ben Martin against the run of play in the 71st minute. More good news for Saints was Sean Shields, who this week signed on a two-month loan from Dagenham and Redbridge, was second debut and impressed.

Elliott Buchanan led the line in the absence of John Frendo while Shields started on the bench.

St Albans threatened early with Steve Wales lifting the ball over the bar and John Kyriacou firing straight at Joe Wright after James Comley found him on the right side of the box.

At the other end, Mikel Suarez headed over Joe Welch’s goal from a good position.

City were dealt a huge blow in the 12th minute when Sam Corcoran, Saints’ most consistent performer so far this term, was injured and couldn’t continue. And they could have been down to 10 at the same time after a reckless challenge from David Keenleyside but the referee decided a talking to was sufficient.

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In the 15th minute James Comley scored his second goal in as many games to put City in front. Wright was guilty of been too casual on the ball and Comley dispossessed him before curling the ball in from the left touchline.

Comley almost set up a second soon after as he whipped in a free-kick but Darren Locke headed straight at Wright. Wales then whipped in a dangerous ball but there was no one running in.

Wales had a chance to add City’s second in the 30th minute. A short corner to Kyriacou was crossed to Wales at the back post but his rising shot missed the upright by a fraction.

The complexion of the game changed in the 35th minute when Spencer McCall latched onto a brilliant flicked ball from Mikel Suarez to scuff the ball into the bottom corner.

Suddenly, Stortford were asking all the questions and only an intervention from Keenleyside stopped Anthony Church getting the ball behind the back four.

In injury time, Ismael Kamara did get behind the defence but his shot, while under pressure from Chappell, was tame and Welch collected easily.

He also had the last chance of the half after miscommunication from Chappell and Keenleyside but he fired high and wide.

Stortford carried on from where they left off as Suarez controlled the ball the ball and found McCall but his shot was off-target. At the other end, Comley made a marauding run forward and set up Kyriacou who had two opportunities to put a good ball in but failed to do so.

Wrigth was then caught in possession by Comely for a secod time but his blushes were saved as Buchanan’s lob bounced the wrong side of the post.

City’s management decided 55 minutes was long enough without Shields and he was brought on for Keenleyside. Buchanan also made way for Loick Pires.

Green gifted Stortfford a chance as he gave the ball away to Kamara when he was last man. However, McCall couldn’t delay his run and the linesman’s flag brought and end to the chance.

In the 66th minute Wales could have scored his third goal of the season when Chappell’s long throw was headed back to him but he sliced his shot over the bar while under pressure.

The game took another twist in the 71st minute when, against the run of play, St Albans took the lead for the second time, and it was another goalkeeping mistake. Wright came to collect a Chappell free-kick, collided with his own man, dropped the ball at Ben Martin’s feet and the centre-back tapped home.

With 15 minutes remaining, Stortford introduced George Sykes and Harry Baker to the game in place of Suarez and Ryan Melaugh.

With 10 minutes left Shields started to find more space. In the 79th minute he beat the offside trap to collect the ball on the left, played the ball to Comley, ran to the right, received the pass but he pulled his shot wide.

Shields should have put the game beyond doubt in the 87th minute after Pires controlled the ball up top and back-heeled the ball to him. Shields drove at goal and turned the goalkeeper inside out but his shot was over the bar.

Green put his body on the line for the cause, drawing fouls in the final minutes, as City saw out the remainder of the 90 minutes to pass their sternest test of the season.

St Albans City starting line-up: Welch, Chappell, Kyriacou, Martin, Locke, Green, Corcoran, Comley, Wales, Buchanan, Keenleyside. Subs: Taylor, Shields, Pires, Clarke, Coulton.

Bishop’s Stortford starting line-up: Wright, Auger, Herd, Tabiri, Allen, Fitzsimmons, Kamara, Church, Suarez, McCall, Melaugh. Subs: Sykes, Anderson, Miller, Baker, Sellears.

Attendance: 461