Following a mid-winter resurgence St Albans City suffered a painful hangover on New Year’s Day as Chesham United stormed to an emphatic 6-2 Southern League victory at Clarence Park on the Bank Holiday Tuesday.
Chesham arrived at the Park on the back of a run that had seen Andy Leese’s side win just one of their previous 13 Premier Division games; they departed having doubled their number of away wins for the season and came within one goal of doubling their tally of away goals.
And had the Generals added to their six goals then City, who were in disarray at the back for most of the afternoon, could not really have complained.
Instead of being buoyant following the thrilling draw at Hemel Hempstead on Boxing Day St Albans had suffered a couple of significant blows with two more departures from Clarence Park.
Midfielder David Ijaha quit to join Conference South strugglers Tonbridge Angels while Sean Shields is believed to have played his final game as he ponders an anticipated move into the Football League. Six of the squad have left in recent weeks and more departures cannot be ruled out.
As for the game, City welcome back Richard Graham but the effects of illness over the Christmas period clearly hindered the Irishman’s contribution.
Chesham included former Saints Chris Watters and Inih Effiong, the latter signed from Boreham Wood towards the end of December, and he marked his return with a second half brace.
The game overall was an entertaining affair, one that Chesham, save for a ten minute spell during the first half, held the upper hand. City did play good football at times but over the 90 minutes this was a pale imitation of recent performances.
Within the opening minute City keeper Nick Jupp was tested by a speculative long range effort by James Potton while good work by Matt Taylor won the Saints their first corner of the day.
For a side that has been goal-shy on its travels up until this match, Chesham displayed a great willingness to pepper the home goal with shots as Potton forced Jupp into another save while Watters fired the ball teasingly at an angle across the face of the home goal.
A Chesham goal was on the cards but they, literally, were given a helping hand in getting it on ten minutes.
Moussa Diarra had a shot charged down following Graham’s free kick into the Chesham penalty area but with tremendous awareness the Generals broke at speed with Potton’s raking pass sending Bruce Wilson away.
As left-back Layne Eadie stumbled Wilson moved towards the penalty area but his progress was stopped by the sliding James Comley with the ball hitting the knee and then arm of the City midfielder.
Referee Chris O’Donnell, brother of the former City midfielder Jonathan, pointed somewhat harshly to the penalty spot and quite needlessly booked Comley.
Simon Thomas ignored the City complaints to send Jupp the wrong way and open the scoring.
Although the game continued to move from end to end, Chesham remained the more threatening and City were fortunate to escape when Jupp completely misjudged a Wilson corner from the United right and Taylor cleared at the back post after the ball appeared to strike the inside of the upright.
But just when Chesham looked to be taking a grip on proceedings City struck back, on 31 minutes, with a goal that will not be bettered this season at Clarence Park.
Diarra won the ball well off Thomas and played it across the penalty area to Eadie who exchanged passes with Chris Henry before continuing his run into the Chesham half.
Eadie then played the ball up to Lewis Toomey and after a touch by Henry, Eadie, who by now was inside the left-hand side of the visitor’s penalty area, unleashed a stunning drive across Shane Gore and into the far corner of the Hatfield Road net.
In the ensuing minutes St Albans threatened to take control as Gore saved well from Chris Seeby while Toomey sent an over-head kick just wide.
For a while the Chesham goal came under sustained pressure but City squandered their improving position with some quite dreadful defending on 40 minutes.
A quickly taken United free kick found Effiong unmarked wide of the penalty area and from close to the goal line he chipped the ball to the back post for the equally unattended Thomas to cushion home past the static Diarra and Jupp.
Potton forced Jupp into another save just before the interval while Thomas also went close for the Generals and Seeby nodded wide at the opposite end.
The defensive frailties that dragged City down before the break became vast chasms after the interval and as the home midfield appeared to want to do little more than sleep off the previous night’s excesses Chesham attacked at will.
Within seven minutes of the restart the game was over as a serious contest as Chesham moved into a 4-1 lead.
On 47 minutes Thomas received a throw from John Kyriacou and turned Diarra with embarrassing ease before laying a pass into the path of Effiong who fired left-footed beyond Jupp’s dive from 10 ten yards.
A cross by Eadie grazed the Chesham crossbar but it was nothing more than a minor irritation for the Generals who added their fourth goal on 52 minutes and again it came from a slick and deadly counter-attack.
Potton was instrumental once more as he played the ball up to Thomas whose perfect first time pass was swept, right-footed this time, by Effiong past Jupp from 15 yards with consummate ease.
However unlikely, City could yet have hauled themselves back into contention had Matt Bevans and then Wilson not made potentially vital goal line clearances from Henry and Toomey.
But the game was well and truly over on 63 minutes when Diarra brought down Potton and Thomas completed his hat-trick when thumping the resulting penalty high past Jupp.
St Albans, courtesy of a header by Toomey after a ball from David Keenleyside, did reduce the arrears on 72 minutes but with so many spaces in the City half of the pitch Chesham surely had to score more goals and a sixth duly arrived in added time, but not until the Saints had missed the fourth of their last five penalties.
A foul by Dave Fotheringham on Henry saw referee O’Donnell point to the spot for a third time but on this occasion the keeper came out on top with Gore diving to his left to save from Toomey.
As City bemoaned their ill-fortune Chesham stormed away with Steve Wales’ excellent long ball sending Michael Chennells clear and with two City defence giving chase the Generals substitute calmly slid the sixth United goal into the home net.