With a place in the play-offs already secured St Albans City stumbled to their first defeat in five Ryman League matches on Tuesday when a goal in each half â€“ the first from former Saint Simon Martin â€“ allowed a less than impressive Thurrock to keep alive their dream of grabbing the runners-up spot in the Premier Division.
Miguel De Souza in action at Thurrock
After a bright opening City went on to give their poorest display for some weeks but still did enough to salvage at least a point, however, with Lee Clarke away on international duty with the Northern Ireland Under 23 side the Saints were toothless in front of goal and contributed to their own downfall by wasting a number of decent openings with poor finishing.
In place of Clarke, City started with Neil Gough alongside the hardworking Steve Watts but this was to be another in 11 appearances for the club in which he has made little impact. But Gough was not alone in having an off day as the Saints supply from either flank was well below the required standard with Scott Oakes, Richard Thomas and Dave Sargent all consistently sending over substandard crosses as indeed did Steve Castle with two free kicks from good positions late in the game.
After a run of good performances Adam Parker was some way below his best, alongside him Gary Wraight battled hard without matching his recent displays. At the back Chris Zoricich and Chris Seeby did little wrong, while Greg Deacon, in midfield, linked well with those around him but was under used.
Against a Thurrock side showing one win from its previous six matches City appeared the more confident and positive XI early on and should have gone ahead on three minutes when a weak David Collis clearance from a long kick by George Clark went to Watts who miscontrolled the ball but managed to stretch out a leg and send the sphere bouncing into the face of Paul Gothardâ€™s right hand post.
After good work by Thomas and Watts a poor touch by Gough seemed to have lost a good chance but he almost atoned with a freak goal as the attempted clearance by Collis rebounded just wide off his midriff. Although Thurrock threatened danger on the break it was still a surprise when they went ahead on 16 minutes. Cliff Akurang crossed from the right and under pressure from Martin, Clark fumbled the ball. Both Martin and Tresor Kandol had efforts blocked but at the third time of asking Martin forced home his sixth goal for his latest club â€“ one more than he has scored for St Albans in the Ryman League this season.
Cityâ€™s best chance of the half went begging when a dreadful attempted clearance by Gothard was seized upon by Watts who closed in on goal but despite trying to trick the keeper with three dummy shots he finally had has goalbound effort pushed around the post for a corner by the sprawling Gothard.
A couple of long-range efforts by Wraight went wide while Gough also squandered a free header. At the opposite end the long serving Jimmy McFarlane got on the end of a Collis corner only to see his downward header not only bounce up and over the goal but also the covered terrace behind the goal.
At times during the first half, while Thurrock relied virtually solely upon the long ball game, St Albans produced several decent passing moves but after the break the game simply disintegrated as a spectacle. Both sides conceded possession with monotonous swiftness and while City still created a number of half chances the better openings were to be found in the visitors penalty area.
Clark did well to deny the clear Tresor Kandol with his legs while a good shot by Paul Linger struck the woodwork with Terry Bowes turning in the rebound only to be ruled offside. City hit back with a Miguel De Souza half volley from a Sargent cross being comfortably saved while the Saints had a couple of handball penalty appeals rejected.
Martin almost added a second with a clever overhead effort after Clark had spilled another Collis corner but in added time there was no let off for City as Kris Lee squared a pass to the unmarked Cliff Akurang who fired his 24th goal of the season into the centre of the Saints net.
Report By David Tavener