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14.02.2004 at 15:00 Cressing Road

Attendance : 291

Braintree Town

2 - 4

St Albans City

Referee : N. Kinseley Ryman Premier League

Adam Parker (49)
Adam Parker (54)
Steve Watts (4)
Lee Clarke (20)
Miguel De Souza (62)
Steve Watts (86)
Opening squads
Paul Rutherford
Steve Good
Ray Taylor
Ollie Blackwell
James Ayres
Bradley Quinton
Carl Allison
Dean Parratt
Jamie Richards
Jamie Wallace
Adam Parker
George Clark
Michael Shinn
Derek Brown
Chris Zoricich
Miguel De Souza
Steve Castle
Gary Wraight
Roger Willis
Steve Watts
Lee Clarke
Graeme Butler
Rene Swann
Paul Abbott
Garry Hoy
Adam Furness
Lance Forrester
Wesley Jackman
Richard Thomas
Ben Cogger
Will Davies
Chris Seeby
Rene Swann -> Steve Good (70)
Paul Abbott -> Jamie Wallace (46)
Chris Seeby -> Michael Shinn (88)
Yellow cards
None Steve Castle (19)
Derek Brown (41)
Gary Wraight (58)
Lee Clarke (85)
Red cards
None None.
Match report

Steve Watts celebrates scoring the winner against Braintree Town
Victory over a Braintree Town side that had won just one of its previous dozen Ryman League fixtures may not be cause for a street party but the manner of St Albans City’s first ever win at Cressing Road on Saturday suggests that Steve Castle’s side have at last discovered the heart needed to haul themselves out of the Premier Division bottom four.

In a match of wildly fluctuating fortunes City were good value for their first away success since Castle took charge four months ago with their football, at times, being a welcome improvement on much of the dirge served up so far this season.

Several players enjoyed a return to form with two goal Steve Watts particularly catching the eye during the first half but George Clark warrants special praise not least for his important first half penalty save while Lee Clarke, Miguel De Souza and Derek Brown – whose tackling was, at the least, fierce but clean – also had a good day.

On a nippy overcast day, City were quickly into their stride and within four minutes the Iron were prised open as Gary Wraight launched a long ball over the home defence for Watts to latch onto and send a delightful first time chip over the advancing Paul Rutherford for his first City goal.

Rutherford was kept busy during City’s early dominance with the home custodian clinging onto a well stuck Watts free kick and then tipping over a powerful drive from Harry Willis and a Watts header following a clever overhead kicked cross by De Souza.

St Albans pressure had to tell and on 20 minutes they went two up when Willis, marauding down the left, pulled the ball back to Graeme Butler whose cross to the far post was headed down by Watts to Clarke who did well to get between two defenders and hammer in his opening strike for the Saints.

With some enterprising touches and crisp tackling City were in the ascendancy but on 29 minutes a rash tackle by Butler on Ollie Blackwell presented Braintree with a penalty only for Clark – whilst performing his usual dancing routine when faced with a spot kick - to fall to his right and smother former Saint Jamie Richards low shot. Three minutes later Richards set up Jamie Wallace who, after having his point blank effort blocked by Clark, fired the rebound against an upright.

After a quiet spell City almost grabbed a third goal when a cross-shot by Willis clipped the top of the crossbar but Braintree turned the game on its head within nine minutes of the sides changing ends. On 49 minutes Adam Parker reduced the deficit with a downward header from a Steve Good cross and five minutes later Parker smartly volleyed in a Carl Allison cross to level the scores.

Undeterred, City went close through a Butler free kick and on 62 minutes the Saints regained the lead with De Souza powerfully planting the ball inside Rutherford’s left hand post after Clarke had cut to the goalline and drilled the ball low across the face of the goal.

Other than for tame half chances City’s lead was not seriously threatened again and with their first four goal haul in the league for 16 months St Albans wrapped up the points four minutes from time when Steve Castle hit a hopeful ball skywards and as it came down Town defender Ray Taylor, on the edge of the penalty area, headed past his out-coming keeper but was spared the embarrassment of an own goal as Watts sped in to claim his second goal-bonus of the afternoon from barely a foot out.

Rutherford, who had a fine game in the Town goal, denied City a fifth goal when managing to claw away a Chris Seeby shot that flew sharply off a divot in the goalmouth.

Report by Dave Tavener
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