Bath City (0) 0 St Albans City (1) 3 – Vanarama National League South – Saturday 13 April 2019 – Twerton Park
A clinical performance from St Albans City left them celebrating a surprise victory over Bath City on a special anniversary for the visitors. It was a happy birthday, 111 years to the day the Hertfordshire club were formed, that they marched into Twerton Park and collected three points for the first time. They’d be forgiven for believing they were cursed at the venue. In eight previous visits, one against Team Bath, they’d claimed two points and scored a solitary goal. From the moment Richie Hanlon was sacked following a 3-0 loss in September 2007, to Sam Merson fluffing a late penalty last season, his only miss from the spot last season, it’s been far from a happy hunting ground.
The Saints defended doggedly and were clinical at the other end, two ingredients left out of City’s recipe for success in an afternoon which started brightly for them. On five minutes, Jack Batten was invited to saunter forward, and accepted such generosity with a stinging shot which Dean Snedker batted away. It fell back to Adam Mann, whose equally powerful effort from the rebound crashed against the crossbar. It’s the sort of luck which seldom falls St Albans’ way in Somerset, and, aptly, their luck was in on the quarter-hour when they were gifted an opener. Khale Da Costa’s corner and Clovis Kamdjo’s header were decent, Ryan Clarke helpless, but the marking was atrocious. For a third home match running, it meant City had to recover from a goal down. There was hope – St Albans has surrendered a hefty 23 points from winning positions this season, and they invited pressure on. Sean Rigg’s effort from distance took a wicked deflection and drifted narrowly wide with Snedker beaten. The Saints custodian had to be at his best just past the half-hour. Mann’s powerful drive was parried into the danger zone, but Joe Raynes couldn’t take advantage from an acute angle, the stopper able to recover and flick his attempt behind for a corner. City pressed but couldn’t find a way through. Rigg tied James Kaloczi in knots before his cross connected with Andy Watkins’ attempt of an overhead kick, but he didn’t get a full connection and it sailed harmlessly wide. An intricate move involving James Morton, Watkins and Raynes saw the latter get the ball stuck underneath his feet, allowing Tom Bender to get in a telling intervention.
The second half started in a similar vain. Tom Smith worked a short corner with Rigg, whose cross was headed over by Mann when he should have tested Snedker. Anthony Straker did his utmost to create an opening. A determined, bustling run saw anyone waiting in his path brushed aside by the Grenadian, who eventually found Mann. His neat shot on the turn slipped through Snedker’s grasp, but again the defence were able to clear up. St Albans’ second was a shock to the system. Michael Clark’s hanging cross from the right located an isolated Sam Merson in the penalty box, still with work to do. His header from a tight angle looped over Clarke, thudded the inside of the post before being grasped by the glovesman, but his relief was short-lived as a referee’s assistant flagged to confirm the ball had crossed the line. Clarke didn’t complain, and the hosts had a mountain to climb. It shook them, passes went astray and St Albans comfortably coped with attacks thrown at them, battling tenaciously to frustrate City’s players and supporters. Their only anxious moment saw Smith cushion the ball inside to Watkins well-placed, but he slipped at the vital moment. Smith took assertive action and hammered the loose ball goalwards, but the perfectly placed Kaloczi headed the goalbound effort away. Ross Stearn and Sol Pryce were introduced for Watkins and Rigg, but neither could make inroads, Stearn sending a low shot straight at Snedker in near desperation with time running out. The Saints had previously been wasteful on the break but with the final attack of the game, they made victory even sweeter. Substitute Luke Joyce-Dwarika did the hard work, his low centre saw Solomon Sambou’s shot blocked, but it fell kindly to Ben Wyatt who slammed home from ten yards.
While three shots equalled three goals for the saints, the maths for City reaching the play-offs isn’t quite as straightforward as the gap is cut to three points from Dartford, who currently occupy eighth. The fate is still in their hands and despite the defeat, they’re in a position they would have taken had it been offered to them in August.
He’ll just hope his side aren’t so profligate in their remaining matches.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke, Amankwaah, Straker (c), Batten, Watkins (Stearn 71), Rigg (Pryce 75), Mann, Cundy, Raynes, Morton, Smith. Subs not used: Pearson, Romanski, Wiles-Richards.
Scorers: City – none; St Albans – Kamdjo (15), Merson (54), Wyatt (90+2)
City Bookings: Batten (76), Mann (89)
Officials: M Buonassisi, R Cheosiaua, C Simpson