A headed Simon Martin goal deep into added time at Clarence Park on Tuesday secured a welcome victory for troubled St Albans City as the Saints defeated a Watford Development side 2-1 in the 2nd Round of the Herts Senior Cup.
On a pitch that was turning increasingly white Martin’s goal spared the few hardy souls that braved a cold night from the prospect of an extra 30 minutes and a penalty shoot-out.
In fact, it was quite ridiculous that City had to wait so long before recording their first ever victory over the Hornets having dominated the game from start to finish.
Caretaker managers James Gray and Graham Golds experimented to fine effect that was not reflected in the final score.
City Youth central defender James Kaloczi, 17, came in for his First team debut alongside Moussa Diarra, while striker Giovanni Lee-Baptiste, also a product of the Midweek Youth team, impressed when sent on for the final 30 minutes.
Having struggled miserably to trouble opposition goalkeepers in recent league games, City gave notice of their intent against Watford on 11 minutes when David Ijaha, receiving a short free kick from Richard Graham, drove in a 30-yard effort that grazed the crossbar.
Graham, playing in a slightly more withdrawn and central position than usual, was involved in most of City’s better moves.
Fellow winger Sean Shields was also tried in the middle of the park, just behind the frontline, with mixed results until he created the winning goal.
St Albans took the lead on 22 minutes with a move started on the halfway line with Kaloczi winning possession and laying a short pass to Graham.
The Irishman sent Chris Henry charging towards the goal-line where he cut the ball back to another City Youth player, Matt Taylor, whose deflected shot was fumbled by the diving Hornets keeper Daniel Wilks.
Jordan Wilmore attempted to hammer the loose ball clear only for it to thud into the legs of City striker Juan Onieva and rebound into the keeper’s left hand upright.
In attempting to redeem himself the retreating Wilks could only help the ball over the line.
St Albans were good value for their lead, with their first goal in 294 minutes, but were stunned two minutes later when a good ball sent Jamie Calvin clear and with a well-placed right-footed effort across Nick Hardy the Hornets were level.
The goal took some of the wind out of City’s sails for a short time but by half time the home side had again taken control of the midfield, leaving Watford’s attack isolated.
Kaloczi fired a speculative effort just wide and a Shields cross just eluded Henry while a chipped Onieva effort drifted wide, as did a curling effort from Ijaha.
Playing down the Clarence Park slope during the second half Watford’s youngsters still failed to make much impression on the game and St Albans dominated possession to an even greater degree than they had before the interval.
Soon after the restart Ryan Watts, getting forward to good effect down the City left, shot powerfully towards the near post where Wilks did well to beat the ball away for a corner.
Despite their territorial dominance the Saints problems in front of goal persisted with substitute Simon Martin squandering clear headed opportunities following crosses by Lee-Baptiste and Chris Seeby, while Diarra also failed to head home from a Graham free kick.
As the temperature dropped the possibility of extra time grew stronger, especially when Taylor, picked out by Shields low cross on 88 minutes, saw his close range shot blocked.
But in the third minute of added time City struck a decisive second blow.
Graham played the ball inside to Shields who lost possession before winning it back off Oliver Crowley and chipping a cross into the six yard box where Martin, the oldest player on the pitch, peeled away from Josh Doherty to glance a gentle header past Wilks’s despairing dive.
St Albans win ended a run of five games without victory and also brought to an end a run of seven consecutive home cup defeats.