Unlucky 13th game for Saints’ as unbeaten run ends

THE home leg of St Albans City’s 2011/12 campaign ended on a sorry note on Saturday afternoon as a significantly weakened side was soundly beaten 4-1 by Chippenham Town at Clarence Park which ended their 12-game unbeaten streak.

The visitors were inspired by the performances of Alan Griffin and Ross Stearn, who helped themselves to a brace each, with the latter having a hand in all four of the Bluebirds’ goals.

An ominous instance of miscommunication between James Gray and goalkeeper Nick Jupp resulted in the Saints falling behind inside two minutes of the game’s kick-off.

The City captain allowed a long ball to bounce over his head towards his goalkeeper, but Jupp was caught off guard, allowing Stearn to reach the ball first and stroke the ball into an empty net.

The away fans’ celebrations proved to be short-lived, however, as St Albans forced an equaliser just five minutes after the re-start.

Forward Chris Henry found enough space in the penalty area to fire low beyond the reach of Chippenham goalkeeper Kevin Sawyer and score his third goal in two matches.

The game’s lively start continued, but not in the fashion Saints fans would have wanted as Stearn won a corner at the Hatfield Road end.

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James Guthrie’s delivery – which was threatening all afternoon – induced a goalmouth scramble that allowed Griffin to turn home his 15th goal of the season.

When the match finally settled into something of a rhythm it was St Albans who enjoyed the upper-hand, with the lively Howard Newton testing the increasingly uncomfortable Sawyer once with a teasing free-kick and then with a dangerous cross that the Bluebirds stopper was able to claim at the second time of asking.

However, it was Chippenham who found themselves with a two-goal advantage going into the break when Stearn engineered himself a yard of space on the edge of the City box before steering the ball beyond Jupp’s reach.

Coming on the stroke of half-time, Stearn’s second was a hammer blow to City’s chances of taking three points from the game, and they failed to regain their first-half vitality after the interval.

The absence of key players such as Sean Shields and Sakho Bakare became painfully obvious as the half wore on.

In fact, the Saints failed to create any more chances of note until the game was effectively killed off as a contest when Griffin added his second goal.

When Stearn was fouled in a dangerous position, Guthrie’s once again provided Griffin with the opportunity to head home on the hour.

The heavens then opened over Clarence Park in a sad reflection of the home side’s performance and the mood of the home fans.

The crowd huddled under the Coca-Cola stand did, at least, have something to cheer when veteran forward Rob Haworth arrived off the bench to make his 200th appearance for the club.

His introduction failed to have any real impact on the game however, as the game petered out into a first defeat for the Saints in 13 games.