St Albans City matched their heaviest defeat at the Beveree on Saturday and but for a succession of outstanding saves by the overworked keeper Nick Eyre Dave Anderson's side would have been hammered by a far greater number than the six bookings they collected as Hampton & Richmond Borough handed City a fifth consecutive reversal.
These are dark days indeed for the Saints and Anderson, after just two games in charge, pleaded ï¿½give me timeï¿½ after seeing his reshuffled pack ruthlessly cut open by a Hampton side that, for 45 minutes, played some of the best football St Albans have encountered since their return to Blue Square South.
City were exposed by top quality through balls from the likes of Elliott Godfrey and Stuart Lake that strikers Lawrence Yaku and Ian Hodges feasted upon only for Eyre to deny them full helpings. Late in the game, at a time when City almost appeared capable of snatching an unlikely draw, Devonshire sent on teenage substitute Elliott Frost with the former Watford youngster tormenting the visitors with some sumptuous close skills.
City, with Damian Batt pushed into the midfield to good effect, almost made the perfect start in Andersonï¿½s first league match since replacing Ritchie Hanlon only for Beavers keeper Matt Lovett to pull off a good save from Lee Clarke following Scott Cousins through ball. But on six minutes Cityï¿½s downfall began as Yaku cleverly laid the ball off to Godfrey who beat Eyre high to the keepers right from 25 yards.
Despite no shortage of good approach work from the home side it was City who had the ball in the net on 28 minutes only for Clarkeï¿½s fine finish to Paul Semakulaï¿½s flick from a Craig Oï¿½Connorï¿½s cross to be ruled out for offside. A thrilling exchange between Yaku and Hughes ended with Eyre spreading himself well to save as Yaku looked for his 10th goal of the season.
Cityï¿½s fate was virtually sealed by a cruel twist on 40 minutes when Gary Elphick looked to have tidied up a dangerous position with a back pass to Eyre that rolled towards the keeper before striking a divot and bouncing over Eyreï¿½s air-shot to put Hampton two up.
The unflappable Eyre bounced back two minutes later to punch away a Godfrey corner and recover smartly to pull off a stunning save from Barrie Matthews half volley from the edge of the box. Hampton maintained the pressure with Godfrey sending Yaku away but again Eyre saved low to his right with Yaku spurning the rebound.
Although on the back foot City continued to battle and three minutes into added time reduced the deficit with a fine goal as Clarke controlled Hassan Sulaimanï¿½s deep cross from the right and fired across Lovett for his first goal of the season and only second in 2,312 minutes.
In the remaining moments of the half the debut making Oï¿½Connor flashed the ball across the face of the home goal when Clarke needed a decent cut back while at the opposite end Eyre, facing a piercing sun, lost the ball from Brian Lakeï¿½s wayward cross but recovered to block Yakuï¿½s close range stab at goal.
The second half failed to match the enterprising football of earlier on but the scrappier the play the more one fancied Cityï¿½s chances of salvaging a point. The abrasive Oï¿½Connor almost marked his arrival with a goal but his snap shot, after Lovett knocked down a Cousinsï¿½ corner, flew into the side netting while a glancing Paul Armstrong header from a Cousins cross drifted a couple of yards wide.
Hampton made the game safe on 78 minutes when Hodges and Stuart Lake sent Frost away down the right, after skipping past Hasim Deen the teenager crossed for Ryan Lake to score with a spectacular diving header.
Semakula denied Frost with a goalline clearance whilst Eyre also thwarted the inspirational youngster but on 84 minutes City were undone once more as the impressive Shaun McAuley streaked down the Beavers left past Elphick and from the tightest of angles beat Eyre with a cracking drive.