St Albans City’s remarkable form in the knock-out competitions this season received another boost on Saturday as they added to the woes of struggling Conference South side Chelmsford City with a fine 2-1 victory at a cold Melbourne Park.
John Frendo scores from the penalty spot.
For the first time in 21 years the Saints have successfully come through all the qualifying rounds in both the FA Cup and the FA Trophy, and City are also still involved in three other cup competitions as joint managers Graham Golds and Jimmy Gray seek to add to last season’s Herts Charity Cup success.
Certainly the significance of this result, which sees the Saints extend their unbeaten run in away games to ten matches, is far more memorable than the game itself.
Also, another £4,000 in prize money was added to the not insignificant sum of £33,000 already collected from the FA competitions this season.
Having fielded an experimental side during the midweek county cup win at Royston, the Saints reverted to their strongest possible starting XI available on Saturday as Chelmsford slid to a fifth defeat in six games.
Danny Green retained his place in the side but was given a rare, and successful, run out in midfield as Chris Watters filled in at left back.
Chelmsford showed three changes from the side that went down 5-0 at Bromley in their last outing but there was no place in the side for former Saint Tom Davis.
The opening exchanges were distinctly lacking in goalmouth activity and the tendency of both sides to concede possession cheaply was set from an early stage.
There were spells when the two teams were able to play a passing game but generally it was a match that saw the backline of both outfits in control of proceedings.
Chelmsford, who failed to get a shot on target until added time at the end of the second half, did conjure up the first meaningful effort of the day with Bagasan Graham’s shot deflecting high off the efficient Ram Marwa before dropping just wide of Paul Bastock’s goal.
City hit back with John Frendo and David Keenleyside exchanging passes with Keenleyside’s return pass sending Frendo away but his shot from a tight angle thudded into the side-netting.
Frendo’s next involvement, on 19 minutes, was more decisive.
Fellow striker Mark Nwokeji sent Frendo through the middle of the home defence before being forced wide by Clarets keeper Carl Pentney.
But as Frendo pushed the ball wide of the diving Pentney the hand of the custodian caught Frendo’s right foot and the Saints top goalscorer tumbled to the ground.
From the resulting penalty Frendo carefully notched up his 17th goal of the season, making him the Saints highest scorer for five years with approximately 40 games still to play.
Chelmsford rarely threatened to pull level before the break although Tom Derry went close with a long range effort.
Lee Chappell, having switched from his more familiar left-back position to right back, set off on an attacking run before taking a pass from Richard Graham and unleashing an excellent shot from around 25 yards that went narrowly wide.
A reasonable spell of pressure by the visitors ended in a Chelmsford breakaway that should have resulted in as goal.
An excellent through ball by Derry sent Graham away and as Bastock raced from his line Graham slid the ball past not only the Saints keeper but also the goal.
After the interval the Essex side had a couple of decent spells of possession and put the Saints goal under pressure without really suggesting that a goal was imminent.
Sam Long caused Bastock a brief moment of concern with an effort that went just over, while Jeff Goulding and Derry were both denied by good defensive work by Darren Locke and Marwa.
Overall the football continued to be blighted by far too many misdirected passes but one of St Albans best moves of the day, involving Frendo, Graham and Frendo again, ended with substitute Chris Henry getting a fine shot on target that Pentney saved superbly close to his right hand upright.
Chelmsford, desperate to avoid losing to Southern League Premier Division opposition in both national knock-out competitions, went close to drawing level when a Christian Smith free kick into the Saints penalty area led to a frantic scramble.
Frendo was given a rare breather with five minutes to go when he made way for Greg Ngoyi and, having scored at Royston, Ngoyi again took his chance well.
Locke intervened to break up a Chelmsford attack and played an angled ball into the path of the advancing Henry.
With only two minutes remaining, the City winger could have opted to waste time by the corner flag but took more decisive action in gliding a perfect low cross into the centre of the penalty area for the incoming Ngoyi to despatch first time past the diving Pentney.
Ngoyi’s relief at scoring a significant goal after a frustrating time on the periphery this season was evident as he celebrated with the good number of St Albans supporters that had travelled to Melbourne Park.
In the limited time remaining Henry curled an effort into the arms of Pentney before Chelmsford launched a belated fightback two minutes into added time.
Substitute Clarets striker Rob Edmans forced Bastock into his first save of the afternoon and then latched onto the rebound to set up Goulding for a simple tap in from point blank range.
Moments later Chelmsford went very close to forcing a replay when a Derry cross clipped the head of Locke and fell kindly to Bertie Brayley whose fierce volley fizzed just wide of the St Albans goal.
Straight from the goal kick the final whistle sounded and the Saints passage through to the competition proper had been secured.
St Albans return to action on Wednesday, 20th November, with a Southern League Premier fixture against Cambridge City who currently play their home games at Histon’s ground in Bridge Road, Impington. Kick off is at 7.45pm.
Jimmy Gray expects to have Ryan Wharton available for selection after injury but Ben Martin is not expected to return until next weekend.
Greg Ngoyi’s participation is uncertain as the club await to hear from the FA of a ban he is likely to face for going into the crowd after being sent off during City’s FA Trophy win at Witham Town in October.
Darren Locke will be missing at the start of a three-match ban received for his dismissal at Billericay two weeks ago.