St Albans City made light of a dreadful night weatherwise at the Beveree on Tuesday to chalk up a surprising and morale boosting Ryman League victory at the ground where they surrendered so meekly in the League Cup just three weeks earlier. And despite having to field central defender Richard Goddard as a lone striker the Saints were full value for a win which completed their second Premier Division double of the season.
Incessant rain left the Beveree heavy and large areas of deep mud did neither side any favours but it was City who adapted to the conditions best and but for two outrageous decisions by the man in the middle, Mr Buckeridge, the Saints would have had the points in the bag by the interval.
The kind hearted would say that Buckeridge was inconsistent but if that is the case all the inconsistencies went against the Saints who showed remarkable fortitude in not losing their composure once Hampton, having benefited from the officials leniency, drew level early in the second half.
Having struck early through Danny Davis' second goal for the club, City were denied what appeared a perfectly legitimate second when Goddard outjumped the unimpressive Hampton keeper Eric Talbot to seemingly head home his first league goal for the club only for the effort to be ruled out for a supposed foul on the Beavers custodian. City skipper Goddard was further miffed on the stroke of half time when his goal bound shot was blocked by the outstretched arms of Ronnie Girvan but somehow a penalty was not forthcoming.
City started brightly with a couple of long range efforts from David Pratt suggesting that the visitors were not to be such easy meat this time around. Indeed it took John Kendall's side just 13 minutes to hint at ending Hampton's three match winning run. The ball was played up to Goddard whose cushioned header was swept across the edge of the penalty area by Steve Blaney's perfect first time pass to Davis. The 20 year-old former Brighton midfielder coolly steadied himself before switching the ball onto his right foot and sending a precise curling shot into the back of the net via Talbot's left hand upright.
The Saints had a let off on 17 minutes when team-mates Corey Campbell and Ben Andrews collided to let in Craig Maskell but the one time Southampton player overhit his pass to Gary Holloway whose delayed shot was superbly saved by Andy Walker. Goddard went close for City and Leroy Griffiths did likewise for Hampton before Blaney, who had a fine game, forced Talbot into a save.
Talbot was found wanting though on 45 minutes as Goddard beat him to a Mark Rooney cross only for the man in black to come to the keeper's rescue and during added time Buckeridge again frustrated the Saints when Pratt and Blaney combined to feed Goddard whose shot was beaten away by the arms of Girvan without punishment.
Not too surprisingly Hampton began the second period in far more positive fashion than they had shown during the opening 45 minutes and the Beavers took just nine minutes to pull level with Griffiths heading home a Maskell cross which Walker, for once, appeared to completely misjudge.
The tone for the second half was now set and for long periods the Saints found themselves on the back foot but in the difficult conditions some of the defensive work of the Saints relatively young backline was excellent and it was only in the latter stages that Hampton really managed any efforts from close to Walker's goal.
Jason Shaw saw his shot from distance drift wide before Maskell, on the hour, was denied by the diving Walker. Three minutes later Pratt teed up Goddard for a crisp angled drive which Talbot held in some comfort but in the 65th minute the Saints regained their precious lead.
A low ball through the middle by Davis sent Blaney away only for the midfielder to be tripped from behind in the penalty area by Nevin Soroya who unbelievably escaped being shown a card of any description by Mr Buckeridge. Blaney picked himself up and sent Talbot the wrong way to convert what is only the Saints second successful league penalty of the season.
From then on in it was pretty much backs to the wall stuff for Kendall's inexperienced side but other than for a handful of goalmouth scrambles during the final ten minutes - of which six were time added on - Hampton did not appear capable of piecing City's dogged rearguard action. The Saints were not without chances themselves on the break and when Goddard received support from midfield the Beavers backline was stretched.
Report by Dave Tavener