Clinical finishing ensured St Albans City made the perfect start to life in the Southern League on Saturday as the Centurions from Cirencester Town where sent marching back to Gloucestershire smarting from a 4-1 defeat on the opening day of the Premier Division season.
The final score was more than a little harsh on Brian Hughes’s side but City were simply lethal in front of goal with striker Rob Haworth enjoying a glorious goal scoring return to the Park after 11 years away.
And while veteran Haworth, 35, led the front line with genuine menace, in midfield it was another returning old boy, Solomon Shields, 22, who proved that his ruptured Achilles problems are behind him and that he is ready for vintage campaign.
Another to set the pulses racing was Sean Shields, one of precious few survivors from the side relegated from Conference South last season. The teenager tormented Cirencester down their right flank and on the opposite wing Jerome Walker showed deadly flashes of speed and looks set to produce the high quality crosses that Haworth will feast off with glee.
Such glowing tributes would have been difficult to imagine during the opening 12 minutes when City strayed out of their own half just once with any great conviction as Town pressed forward searching for an early breakthrough.
Inside the opening minutes Centurions striker Paul Banks shrugged off Ryan Moran and forced debut making keeper Kyle Merson, on loan from Staines Town, to make a save with his legs with Ellis Dunton sending the rebound high and wide.
City went straight down the other end of the pitch and once Haworth bustled his way through it was disappointing to see him fire wide of the goal.
But most of the attention was on the home goal with Zak Westlake heading against the crossbar and one-time Hampton midfielder Barrie Matthews hacking the ball clear after Merson failed to clear when under pressure from a free kick.
The opening goal, on 12 minutes, was as surprising and it was spectacular.
James Bent, one of 10 players making their St Albans debut, played the ball up to City skipper David Ijaha who quickly swept it out to the right into the path of Walker. The former Harrow winger whipped over a juicy first time that Haworth launched himself at to powerfully head home his 52nd goal for the club.
A lay off by Haworth following another Walker cross ended with Sean Shields having a shot blocked while Mike Tamblin somehow scooped the ball over the home goal from close range after being set up by Paul Banks.
Sean Shields continued to torment the visitors and after having one cross charged down he collected the rebound and chipped it to the edge of the six yard box where Haworth’s header was saved by Danny Greaves.
The Centurions keeper was in action again moments later to turn a Sean Shields free kick round the post but on 27 minutes it was the Shields double-act that earned the Saints a second goal.
Sean’s corner from the City left was punched away by Greaves but seized upon by Solomon some 28 yards from goal. The midfielder’s shot was not particularly powerful but, with his view obscured by Matt Cutchey, Greaves dived late and the ball flew into the Hatfield Road goal.
The high quality of the goals was maintained with City’s third effort, on 37 minutes, although a significant deflection also aided City’s cause.
Sean Shields received the ball inside the penalty area and glided with ease to the goal line past two defenders before drilling the ball beyond Greaves and into the goalmouth where Matt Sysum diverted the ball into his own net.
Before the half was over Sean Shields, set up by Matthews, forced Greaves into another save while Sysum suffered further ill-fortune when sending a header against the City woodwork.
The second 45 minutes was much less of a cut and thrust affair but Sean Shields remained a threat and sent a dipping half volley just over the crossbar.
Cirencester made a double change on the hour with Jody Bevan and Jamie Reid sent into action with the former soon going close.
The visitors notched a long overdue consolation goal on 73 minutes when a cross into the penalty area eluded Bevan but was picked up by Reid who beat Merson with precise shot across the diving keeper.
City had made their first change on 72 minutes with 41-year-old Paul Furlong replacing Sean Shields, Furlong waited three minutes for his first touch but was a devastating one.
Right-back Matt Pooley played the ball towards the edge of the penalty area where the well-travelled Furlong got the better of Westlake and sent a speculative looping effort towards Greaves left hand upright.
The Cirencester keeper appeared to lose the flight of the ball and looked on in horror as it dropped just inside the goal.
Furlong was not far away from adding the fifth goal but Walker’s tempting cross evaded his lunge before being poked wide by the stretching Haworth.
To their credit, Cirencester still looked to reduce the deficit and after having his free kick blocked Reid’s follow up was palmed out for corner by Merson.