St Albans City ended the home leg of their second season in the Southern League with a comfortable 3-0 win over relegation-bound Bedworth United at a sunny Clarence Park on Saturday.
The Saints were far from their best but once teenager Elliot Bailey had marked his first start in the Southern League with a ninth minute headed goal there was little prospect of anything other than City’s first win in seven games.
St Albans’ joint management team of Graham Golds and Jimmy Gray tinkered with the line up and formation following a drab display at Bedford in midweek.
In addition to Bailey, Fabio Bufano and Curtis Shaw returned to the starting line up with Josh Urquhart and Goal of the Season winner Layne Eadie playing as wing-backs in a 3-5-2 formation.
The change appeared to suit City early on and for the best part of 20 minutes the visitor’s goal came under sustained pressure. After that spell though City limped through to half time and only awoke from their slumber following the introduction of Chris Henry just prior to the hour.
City won four corners inside the opening ten minutes while the first genuine attempt on goal saw Bailey head wide from a James Comley corner.
Comley, an inspiring figure in the City ranks since rejoining the club in December, had a cross partially blocked with the dropping ball helped into the penalty area by Shaw. The ball then ran through to Bufano whose low shot was parried by keeper Andrew Kemp.
Greg Ngoyi tried to pounce on the loose ball but Chris Tullin cleared for a corner.
United’s survival hopes dipped on nine minutes when Comley swept a pass out to Eadie on the left and from his dinked cross, towards the near post, Bailey stooped in front of Rikki Bains to the head ball inside Kemp’s near post and into the Hatfield Road goal via the upright.
The pressure was maintained with Eadie sending a bouncing effort across the goal and wide while Bailey tried a spectacular volley that went over following a Comley cross.
Bedworth threatened on the break with Aaron Donaldson sending Ashley Cain away but his effort on goal from a tight angle was well gathered by City keeper Nick Jupp.
The Greenbacks were desperate for a break to get back into the game but all they got was a bad one.
A cross from the right by Martin Hutchcox sailed over Jupp’s head and struck the crossbar and then the post before falling into the path of leading goal scorer Mitchell Piggon whose half volley was superbly blocked by the lunging Ryan Wharton.
The City defender made a another similar such block after the interval to ensure that there was no way back for Steve Farmer’s side and Eadie also made a crucial tackle when his speed enabled him to recover lost ground and deny Alex Dean.
Having ended the opening half in the ascendancy, Bedworth resumed after the interval in an encouraging manner with two quick shots being charged down but, in truth, the United attack did not really look to have a goal in it.
A shot on the turn by Piggon, after David Blenkinsopp had glanced on a Hutchcox throw-in, was easily collected by Jupp while Dean shot into the side-netting having quite superbly tricked his way between Eadie and Richard Graham.
City’s attacking potency increased on 58 minutes when Chris Henry and James Kaloczi replaced Bufano and Shaw.
Playing wide on the left Henry caused Bedworth countless problems.
Within minutes of entering the fray Henry cut in from the right and stung Kemp’s hands with a low drive that Tullin hoiked to safety and on 71 minutes he put the Saints in complete control with his 11th goal of the season.
Joe Bruce, playing his final game for City before returning to Hemel Hempstead, headed the ball forward and Henry seized possession. After going wide of Ben Thackeray, Henry shot left-footed inside Kemp’s near post.
With one goal already to his name Henry had enough chances to score a hat-trick as Bedworth became resigned to their fate.
Freed by Graham, Henry clipped an effort over the target as Kemp raced forward to meet him.
Kaloczi was next to test Kemp with a gentle header while Bedworth responded with a firm drive by Tullin that went not too far wide of Jupp’s right hand post.
The Greenbacks final hope evaporated when Blenkinsopp sent Piggon away only for Jupp to get down well and deflect the low shot out for a corner. Moments later Tom Liversedge shot in the side-netting.
As the clock ticked into the final minute City broke away to score their third goal.
David Keenleyside headed the ball away following a Bedworth corner and Graham played it into the path of Ngoyi.
Starting his run from inside the City half, Ngoyi shrugged off Richard Wesley and, from the edge of the penalty area, shot low past Kemp for his 15th goal in just 21 games for the Saints.
St Albans City may have completed the home leg of their league season but they are back at Clarence Park on Thursday, 25th April, when Conference North side Bishop’s Stortford are the visitors in the final of the Herts Charity Cup.
Kick off is at 7.45pm.