Strikers on target but all square at Thurrock
Thurrock 2 (Akurang 64, 73p) St Albans City 2 (Roberts 49, Effiong 53)
GOALS from Drew Roberts and Inih Effiong got St Albans City’s Blue Square Bet South campaign up and running with a point at Thurrock.
It could have been all three had City not let their two goal lead slip, albeit via a generous penalty award to the home side from referee Jake Hillier, but even then the visitors had enough chances to run out victorious.
City boss Steve Castle gave debuts to David Deeney and Robbie Martin while returning favourites Ben Martin and Hassan Sulaiman both came straight into the starting XI and for an hour City had looked easily the better side, with Effiong and Roberts proving a handful for the Fleet defence. Robbie Martin looks a good acquisition to the City midfield, a player with a bit of quality but not afraid to do his defensive duties either.
Last season’s top scorer Roberts had the first real effort of the new campaign connecting with stand-in skipper James Fisher’s cross but the City striker’s header was off target.
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Effiong’s pace and power saw him latch onto Sulaiman’s ball behind the Fleet defence but as he rounded goalkeeper Andre Charles-Foster, the big striker slipped and the chance evaporated.
The youngster came close minutes later connecting with Pete Smith’s corner but he headed over at the near post.
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City had made an encouraging start without creating real clear cut scoring chances but at the other end Paul Bastock was playing little more than the role of spectator.
It was more than could have been said for Thurrock’s stopper Charles-Foster who made a real hash of Fisher’s weak long range effort, fumbling it behind for a corner.
The goalkeeper made amends shortly afterwards getting down low to push a Fisher free kick out and away from Adam Everitt who was lurking in the six yard box.
Thurrock’s biggest threat looked like coming from right winger Matt Bodkin. The former Grays man offers Hakan Hayrettin’s side real quality down the right hand side and Cliff Akurang should have done better when he headed wide from one of a number of inch perfect Bodkin centres.
As it was the two sides went into the break level but the travelling fans didn’t have to wait long after the restart to cheer their first goal of the season.
The hosts failed to clear a corner with Robbie Martin seizing the loose ball. The midfielder found Smith who whipped the ball into the box and there was Roberts unmarked to glance a header inside the far post just four minutes in.
Many feel City will struggle for goals this season but that seemed far from the truth when Effiong doubled their lead four minutes later.
It was the culmination of some good interplay between Fisher and Deeney on the edge of the Thurrock box. The two exchanged passes and as Fisher got into the box, Kenny Clark tackled the City captain only for the ball to run Effiong’s way and he rifled it home from close range.
It was a confident finish from a striker who really looks to be enjoying his football a present and nothing less than City deserved.
The striker was only denied a second by a wonderful save from Charles-Foster. Smith took advantage of woeful marking in the host’s defence to pick out the unmarked Effiong and his volley was repelled one handed by the stopper.
Smith’s delivery from wide areas was causing havoc in the Thurrock box and on two occasions City should have grabbed a third. The first saw Thurrock once more unable to clear their lines but Roberts couldn’t adjust his feet to get any power behind his effort. The second saw Smith’s free kick find Everitt unmarked at the near post but the defender headed wide from six yards out.
In between these two efforts, Thurrock had halved the deficit. Striker Lee Roache engineered some space for himself on City’s left flank before delivering a quality ball into the City box for Akurang. The striker got in between Ben Martin and Everitt and his header squirmed past Bastock.
The goal boosted Thurrock and nine minutes later they were level courtesy of what seemed a generous penalty award.
The impressive Bodkin crossed from the right and as Smith dived to block his cross the ball hit his hand, with referee Hillier immediately pointing to the spot. Akurang stepped up and sent Bastock the wrong way to draw the two sides level.
Both sides had further half chances to win but Chris Sullivan fired wide for City and Reiss Gilbey was denied by Bastock ensuring a share of the spoils.
Thurrock: Charles-Foster; Pope, Olima, Clark, Flynn �; Bodkin, Okus, Gilbey, Bakare (Collins 55); Akurang, Roache.
Subs not used: Yiga, Stalley, Andrews, Wren.
City: Bastock; Deeney, B Martin, Everitt, Smith; Sulaiman, Magwood, Fisher, R Martin; Effiong (Simspon 71), Roberts (Sullivan 79).
Subs not used: Peters, Urquhart, Kweme.
Referee: Jake Hillier (Hertfordshire)