With their most emphatic Ryman League victory for more than three years St Albans City chalked up their first Premier Division success of the season on Saturday over a Hampton & Richmond Borough side which, on the evidence of this poor showing, can look forward to several more beatings of this magnitude over the coming months.
City were seldom stretched by the side from the banks of the River Thames yet it could be justly said that the Saints played more impressively when collecting just one point from their two previous matches. Manager Kevin Mudd reacted to the midweek home defeat by Canvey by giving debuts to Al-James Hannigan and Lee Harvey whilst Junior Samuels came into the starting the line-up for the first time.
The Saints made light of the rainy, slippery conditions and within five minutes visiting keeper Ben Miles went full stretch to deny Samuels an early goal, Miles also dived low to his right to smother a Gary Ansell cross as the exciting Spencer Knight closed in. In between times Hampton had a rare sight of goal when a Peter Risley slip let in Warren Williams but Laurence Batty, despite being under pressure, gathered the ball safely. After that incident it was all downhill for the Beavers.
City had to wait only until the 13th minute for opening goal, the 5000th league goal of their 92 year history, and what a gem it was as Harvey and Mark Rooney combined down the right to find Ansell who created space with a majestic turn and from his low ball into the middle Chris Piper crashed the ball into the York Road goal from six yards.
Hannigan went close with a header four minutes later but on 22 minutes Hannigan threatened City's lead when his rash challenge on Martin Carter following a brilliant run by Craig Maskell handed Hampton a penalty. But Batty, who received no shortage of criticism for his part in City's defeat by Canvey, guessed correctly and dived to his right to block Jason Shaw's soft spot kick. The City keeper also reacted well when using his legs to thwart Carter later in the half.
City should have gone two up on 35 minutes when a Harvey cross picked out Ansell but his poor header went wide of the target. The match took a decisive swing in City's favour right on half time when Hampton lost the services of Fiston Manuella following pointless a kick on Samuels. Four minutes after the break Hampton's ten-men fell two goals in arrears when Richard Goddard won the ball well and passed to Ansell who in turn found Samuels. After cutting across one defender Samuels duly opened his account with a low drive.
Having been provider for the first two goals Ansell claimed one himself on 53 minutes with a glorious glancing header from Harvey's near post cross. To their credit Hampton went onto enjoy a good share of the play thereafter but there was no cutting edge to their play and the Saints were able to comfortably keep their first clean sheet of the season.
Hampton's shortage of defenders was exposed on 72 minutes as Knight sent a penetrating long ball down the left to Samuels who held off one defender and played the ball square to Randall. After side-stepping his marker Randall clipped a perfectly placed shot low to Miles' left for his first goal of the season. The Saints concluded their biggest ever win over Hampton in the 79th minute when Knight won a free-kick which he took himself and picked out Hannigan who with a clean close range volley became the fifth different City player to get on the scoresheet - the first time such a feat has occurred for seven years.
Report by Dave Tavener