Savaged by a late onslaught by the Stags on Saturday, a much changed St Albans City bounced back to chalk up a fine 3-1 Herts Senior Cup 1st Round victory over Southern League rivals Royston Town at Garden Walk on Tuesday.
On a cold evening in north Hertfordshire the new-look City side put in an impressive 90-minutes to come back from a goal down and, ultimately, comfortably see off the Crows that are currently in third place in the Southern League Central Division.
City’s starting XI showed eight changes from the side that kicked off against Mansfield Town and after the game joint manager James Gray, with one eye on the future, was quick to point out that during the course of the evening the Saints used six teenagers.
St Albans had intended to field a completely different XI to the side that played at the weekend but circumstances prevented this from happening.
A knee injury to Ryan Wharton resulted in James Kaloczi playing in the centre of the defence, while James Comley played due to him being suspended for this coming weekends FA Trophy tie at Chelmsford City, and the late arrival of Chris Henry – due to problems with the trains - forced City to start with David Keenleyside.
During the opening 45 minutes St Albans played plenty of neat passing football but had little cutting edge and it was a Royston side, under the leadership of caretaker-manager Duncan Easley, that always looked the most likely to score.
After just six minutes Carl Edwards went close for the hosts and soon after Tom Coulton saved at virtually point blank range from Taylor Parr.
The City keeper then scooped the rebound away from the same player with Kaloczi completing the clearance as Luke Robins closed in.
Elliot Bailey headed over from a Keenleyside free kick before Jack Bradshaw and Robins linked well to free Mitchell Bryant whose soft shot failed to trouble Coulton.
Royston took the lead on 22 minutes when Antonio Murray raced down the Crows right flank before cutting inside, past Kaloczi, and drilling the ball low into the goalmouth where the just onside Bryant appeared to apply the final touch.
City’s continued participation in the County Cup looked to under some threat as Royston pressed forward and a spell of sustained pressure ended with Robins firing narrowly wide.
Another good move saw Rob Mason play the ball in from the left to Murray whose shot on the turn was cleanly gathered by Coulton.
St Albans looked to have been handed a way back into the game on 41 minutes when referee Mark Mellor awarded the visitors an extremely soft penalty.
Matt Taylor played the ball forward to Harrison Georgiou who, under the watchful eye of Leyton Orient coach Andy Edwards, threaded a pass through to Greg Ngoyi.
Town defender Billy Baird stepped across to challenge, maybe a little clumsily, and as Ngoyi went down Mr Mellor pointed to the spot.
Maybe there was a touch of justice as Ngoyi, desperate for his first goal of the season, saw his low shot from the penalty spot pushed out for a corner by George Lawton who dived full-length to his right and injured a hand in the process.
Royston ended the half with a flourish as Coulton saved from Bryant, and Edwards, following a long run by Bryant, chipped an effort over the target.
City, looking to get forward with greater purpose after the break, pulled level on 56 minutes.
Chris Watters, playing at left-back, clipped an excellent ball over the home defence for Bailey to latch onto and go wide of Lawton before sliding the ball into an open net.
Ten minutes later and Watters, after being fed by Henry who had replaced the lively Keenleyside on the hour, was again the provider, as his cross from the left towards the back post was put away with a diving header by the relieved Ngoyi.
St Albans determination to take the game to their hosts was encouraging to see and more goals looked to be in the offing as City dominated the midfield and virtually snuffed out the Crows attack.
Receiving a Watters throw-in, Henry crossed to the near post where Ngoyi headed just wide.
Youngsters Joel Watson and Rian Carroll were given their second run out in the First team on 72 minutes as Ngoyi and Georgiou made way.
Just three minutes later Carroll won City’s second penalty of the night when he was unceremoniously shoved in the back.
Watters, having been provider for the first two goals, claimed the third one himself with a left-footed spot kick high to the left of Lawton, who had moved in the opposite direction.
A free-flowing City move ended with Comley firing into the side-netting while Coulton protected the lead with a fine save at the feet of Bradshaw.
Royston ended the game on the attack with a rising shot by experienced substitute Adrian Cambridge clipping the head of Kaloczi on its way over the crossbar.
Comley will miss City’s 3rd Round Qualifying FA Trophy tie away to Conference South side Chelmsford City on Saturday through suspension.
Greg Ngoyi, back in the side at Royston after serving a three-match ban, is also likely to miss the trip to Chelmsford as he faces a second ban due to going into the crowd after being dismissed at Witham Town in the previous round.
City captain Ben Martin will also be absent against one of his former clubs due to injury.