Miguel De Souza may not be around to lead St Albans Cityâ€™s battle against relegation from the Nationwide South but as temporary manager the Saints current longest serving player played a part in ending the poorest run of results at Clarence Park in the Saints history with an entertaining victory over Ernie Howeâ€™s Basingstoke Town.
Basingstoke 'keeper Scott Tarr gets down well to save from Tom Beech
De Souza, who has announced that he is to retire at the end of the season to concentrate on his new career in physical training, took charge of team affairs against the third in the table Hampshire side and saw the Saints record only their fifth league win at the Park in almost 14 months.
Both sides had early chances with Tom Beech sending a header onto the roof of the net while Martin Whiddett seized on a fumble by the debut making City keeper John Armand only to shoot tamely over. That slip proved to be Armandâ€™s sole error of the day as the teenager, previously on Yeadingâ€™s PASE scheme, gave a highly accomplished performance.
St Albans took the lead after just 12 minutes following a spell of pressure on the visitorâ€™s goal. Stoke keeper Scott Tarr punched away a Ram Marwa corner only for the ball to be swiftly returned to the far post by Ben Walshe where Beech headed down for Ben Martin to guide the ball home from ten yards with the aid of a slight deflection.
The Marwa, Walshe, Beech combination worked again five minutes later only this time Lee Clarke saw his shot on the turn blocked and the Saints leading scorer only just missed out when Richard Thomas set him up. Basingstoke began a good spell with a free kick from Argentinean Sergio Torres that Armand parried before blocking Whiddettâ€™s follow up.
City survived a couple of close calls as Armand saved again from Whiddett before Martin appeared to upend Neville Roach and then take the ball, the young keeper also denied Liam Parrington.
City finished the half with an attacking flurry. Beech had a shot blocked while Dean Hooper, Chris Zoricich, Beech, Richard Thomas and Adam Parker created an opening for Walshe whose curling effort went narrowly wide.
Basingstoke started the second half on top but caused City few problems, indeed it was the Saints who threatened with Parker freeing Hooper who went on a powerful run before slipping the ball out to Thomas and hitting a first time shot from the return pass that Tarr saved with his legs.
Stoke drew level on 72 minutes following a free kick from their left by Nathan Stamp that Christian Levis headed back across goal for former Saint Neville Roach to beat Armand with a looping header. Levis failed to accept two opportunities to put Basingstoke ahead before City returned to the offensive.
Beech had a shot deflected wide and was then denied an almost certain goal courtesy of Parringtonâ€™s brilliant intervention but City regained the lead on 82 minutes when Beech held off Parrington and glanced the ball into Clarkeâ€™s path following Armandâ€™s punt downfield. As Tarr raced from his goal Clarke neatly guided a left footed shot just inside the keeperâ€™s left hand post.
The final minutes belonged to Clarke as he smartly brought down a Parker cross only to see his shot charged down but deep into injury time he almost notched the goal of the season as he dispossessed Torres wide on the left and weaved his way past three players only to scoop his shot a hairsbreadth wide of the target.
Report by Dave Tavener