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05.05.2004 at 19:45 Scraley Road

Attendance : 269

Heybridge Swifts

3 - 4 AET

St Albans City

Referee : Gavin Ward Ryman Premier League / Play Off S/F

Carl Griffiths (39 Pen)
Neil Cousins (90)
Neil Cousins (96)
Miguel De Souza
Adam Parker (49)
Adam Parker (64)
Adam Parker (120)
Opening squads
James Pullen
Stuart Williams
Rory Hutton
Lee Kersey
Daryl Bourgeios
Danny Barber
John Pollard
Shane Huke
Carl Griffiths
Neil Cousins
Adam Gillespie
George Clark
Richard Thomas
Dave Sargent
Derek Brown
Chris Zoricich
Adam Parker
Gary Wraight
Scott Oakes
Lee Clarke
Steve Watts
Greg Deacon
Darren Pearce
James Robinson
Andrew Tomlinson
Ryan Lee
Younes Tajer
Miguel De Souza
Steve Castle
Declan Perkins
Neil Gough
Chris Seeby
Darren Pearce -> Rory Hutton (39)
James Robinson -> Daryl Bourgeios (77)
Andrew Tomlinson -> John Pollard (82)
Declan Perkins -> Steve Watts (44)
Miguel De Souza -> Declan Perkins (84)
Neil Gough -> Derek Brown (88)
Yellow cards
Stuart Williams (25)
Shane Huke (63)
Lee Kersey (92)
Adam Parker (64)
Neil Gough (120)
Red cards
None Chris Zoricich (39)
Match report

City fans congratulate the players at the end of the game
Twice behind, down to ten men for all but thirty minutes, two players taken off injured and still St Albans City somehow nudged Heybridge Swifts out of the race for a place in the new Conference Division One South last Wednesday (5 May) when former City Youth player Adam Parker scored a dramatic hat-trick including the deciding goal just seconds from the end of 120 tension-filled minutes at Scraley Road.
Heybridge, who finished the normal Ryman League season five points clear of the Saints, will never come to terms with losing this crucial match and the possibility of a place in the Conference as City should have been out of contention before half time with Zoricich already dismissed – somewhat harshly it must be said – following a trip from behind on Neil Cousins and Steve Watts hospital bound to tend to bad head wound. As Zoricich headed down the tunnel Carl Griffiths powerfully drove home the resultant penalty.
Instead of bowing to the seemingly inevitable the ten-man Saints, after an extremely dull opening 45 minutes during which neither side really got to grips with a poor playing surface, came out with all guns blazing and turned the tie on its head inside 20 minutes with two identical goals.
Within two minutes of the restart Declan Perkins fired just over and two minutes later he won a free kick from which Oakes and Parker began to take centre stage. Oakes, from 30 yards out, whipped in an inviting cross that Parker met perfectly to send in the equaliser – it was first goal for the club since scoring for the Youth in November 1991.
Fifteen minutes later Parker netted his second with another good header to keeper James Pullen’s left from a second Oakes free kick. Now City were in control and had a couple of half chances to end the Swifts challenge before Heybridge, managed by Colin Hill the brother of former City boss Garry, launched a desperate late flurry on the visitors goal.
The Essex side, having been thwarted by a goalline clearance by Greg Deacon, were rewarded 22 seconds into added time when a long high ball into the City penalty area was left unattended by the defence, Clark failed to come for it and Cousins seized the opportunity to run through and glance a header over the keeper. Moments later Cousins burst into the penalty area but shot over the bar from a tight angle.
Within the minute City breathed a sigh of relief when fussy referee Mr Ward penalised Griffiths for a foul on Clark as Andrew Tomlinson stroked home the loose ball. Sheer grit had carried the Saints into extra time but their hopes looked forlorn six minutes into the extra thirty when Cousins controlled Tomlinson’s through ball and fired an excellent goal to Clark’s right from the edge of the box.
Still City refused to accept they were beaten and just three minutes later Oakes created his third assist of the night when his left sided corner was headed against an upright by Richard Thomas with Miguel De Souza forcing home the rebound.
Parker and James Robinson both had chances to win it for their respective sides before City, in the final minute, landed the sucker punch. From Heybridge pressure Thomas hammered a long clearance down the pitch, Darren Pearce looked certain to launch the ball back towards the City goal but Neil Gough slid in and managed to divert the ball square to Parker. After advancing, Parker drove the ball goalwards from 20 yards out and with the aid of a deflection off Lee Kersey’s outstretched leg the ball beat Pullen’s despairing dive to clinch an astonishing victory in City’s first play-off match for 94 years.
Given the manner in which City capitulated so often earlier in the season it was a tremendous show of determination as they reorganised following the departure of Zoricich, Watts and Brown. Deacon switched from midfield to right back when Zoricich went off while De Souza, after initially replacing Perkins in attack, went to centre half with Brown’s exit.

Report by Dave Tavener
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