Just a week after suffering an embarrassing defeat to lower level opposition in the Herts Senior Cup, St Albans City were on the receiving end of another upset on Tuesday night as Division One South Ryman League side Dulwich Hamlet chalked up their first victory at a sodden Clarence Park for just over 14 years to dump the Saints out of the Bryco (League) Cup.
City can have no complaints in Hamlet ending a barren run of ten winless visits to the Park as the south London club adapted well to the conditions and posed by far the greater attacking threat. Fielding an experienced backline City should have been able to contain Hamlet without too much difficulty but instead Richard Wilmot had a surprisingly busy evening while his opposite number left the pitch with barely a speck of mud on him despite the rain that fell throughout the game.
The Saints gave a debut to the former Bedford Town striker Kevin Slinn who endured a pretty dismal personal performance and it was surprising to see him rather than the far more lively and impressive Craig Mackail-Smith stay on the pitch when Simon Martin entered the fray 15 minutes from time. City also welcomed back central defender Derek Brown following his return from China while Miguel De Souza also returned to the starting line up.
The game, played in front of virtually empty terraces all around the ground, took time to find any pattern and it took a complete fluke of a goal to liven up proceedings on 22 minutes. From a free kick on the Dulwich left Omari Coleman stooped to head the ball some 20 yards out and must have been as bemused as anyone as the ball looped high over Wilmot before dropping almost in slow motion into the back of the York Road goal.
A minute later Eben Allen had the ball in the City net for a second time but not for the only time a linesmanâ€™s flag for offside frustrated the visitors. It was not until the 37th minute that City really troubled the Dulwich defence as Slinn controlled a kick from Wilmot and passed to Jon Challinor who ran at the heart of the Dulwich backline before slipping the ball out to Mackail-Smith. After cutting in from the right the teenagerâ€™s near post effort was blocked by keeper Scott Ward who also deflected wide the City strikers follow up effort.
Three minutes later City did draw level when an enticing near post corner from the left by the industrious Rob Kean was neatly glanced home by De Souza. The stage was now set for the Saints to underline their superior ranking and six minutes into the second period a long ball by Richard Evans was brought down smartly by Mackail-Smith only for his shot to fly high and wide.
A positive surge down the Dulwich left on 66 minutes by Peter Adeniyi ended with his shot being deflected out for a corner from which the long serving Luke Anderson scored a bizarre second Dulwich goal.
As the ball came to Anderson just outside the penalty area he stretched to reach it with his right foot and somehow the ball flew at pace high to Wilmotâ€™s right and just under the crossbar. That goal came after a spell of keep-ball by the Saints which saw them string together any number of passes without venturing more than 20 yards into the Hamlet half of the pitch. Somewhat dishearteningly City failed to muster any kind of fightback in open play with their main hope being of someone taking advantage of Jude Stirlingâ€™s wonderful long throwâ€™s into the goalmouth.
Indeed it was left to Wilmot to keep the tie alive with two fine saves from Coleman and one from Allen. The Saints only real chance should have led to a carbon copy of their first equaliser but this time De Souza failed to apply the touch needed to Keanâ€™s near post corner.
Report by Dave Tavener