The Saints fell at the first hurdle in the Herts Charity Cup having built a somewhat flattering 2-0 lead at half-time but then conceded 3 second half goals to a full-strength Boreham Wood side who impressed throughout.
With their first game in the inaugural Nationwide South League to come on Saturday, City manager Steve Castle took the opportunity to test triallist centre backs Ben Martin and James Smith in a youthful back-line completed by Jake Attwood and Matt Jones from last season's successful Reserve side.
There was experience up front, however, with the fan's favourite Gary Crawshaw and former Saint Spencer Knight given a full run out. The manager's problems on the night came from the midfield which was over-run by the visitors in the second period of the game.
In an entertaining opening period, chances were created at both ends. For the visitors, the veteran Robbie Reinelt failed to hit the target with two volleys in successive minutes before Crawshaw converted a Knight cross in the 13th minute only to be denied by the offside flag.
City took the lead two minutes later when Daniel McBreen, who has impressed pre-season, exchanged passes with Matt Hann just outside the area before rounding his man at pace and hit a firm drive low to Noel Imber's right.
The visitors responded with a sustained period of attacking play during which they had two penalty appeals denied when first Reinelt, and then winger Stuart Lockhead were sent tumbling by last-ditch tackles in the home box. New signing Mel Capleton in the City goal showed his pedigree with fine saves from Lochhead and Danny Cowley and the post denied a Sammy Winston effort.
The Saints extended their lead on 35 minutes when Hann beat the impressive Sherwin Stanley on the right before cutting inside to hit a low pass to Crawshaw who hooked a first-time shot over Imber from 12 yards.
The visitors started the second period with purpose and reduced the arrears on 57 minutes when, after a goalmouth scramble, Lockhead back-heeled a loose ball beyond the despairing fingertips of Capleton into the empty net. The Wood were in control of the midfield with the City strikers increasingly isolated and the equaliser came 9 minutes later. A deep cross from the left
was headed into the area by Ryan Moran, another former City favourite, to be met by Winston's head from close range which gave Capleton no chance.
With extra time loomng, the visitors deservedly secured victory in the 90th minute when a Fergus Moore free-kick was well met by Lockhead with a glancing header beyond the full stretch Capleton.
Report by Tom Lewis
A premature exit from the Herts Charity Cup may not be an overly calamitous result for the Saints but the manner of St Albans City’s defeat to a revamped Boreham Wood at a warm Clarence Park on Tuesday will have given manager Steve Castle a few extra headaches on the eve of the new Nationwide South season.
The Saints were flattered by a two-goal interval lead but had enough experience in the side to have clung onto their advantage but instead Ian Allinson’s Wood deservedly extended their good run against their near neighbours to just three defeats in the past dozen cup meetings at the Park.
Whilst the City midfield and attack contained no shortage of experience Castle opted for a young backline including trialists Ben Martin, from Harpenden Town, and Cambridge United work experience teenager James Smith. Overall the youngsters, in between a few shaky moments, did well but it was in midfield where City had problems as Wood completely dominated that area throughout the second half.
After an even opening spell City looked to have scored on 13 minutes when Gary Crawshaw, upon whose shoulders a great weight is likely to be carried this season should he avoid injury, scooped a Spencer Knight cross into the net only to be ruled offside. But two minutes later City were celebrating their first competitive goal of the season when Daniel McBreen slipped a short ball to Matt Hann before darting into the penalty area to take the return pass and drill it into the Hatfield Road goal.
Before the half was over McBreen, twice, and Knight both had chances to extend the lead, in the end it was 33 year-old Crawshaw, on the half hour, who found the target with a delightful finish from 14 yards after Hann, having neatly beaten the impressive Sherwin Stanley, had appeared to mishit a cross that bobbled into the penalty area.
On the balance of play City’s lead was fortuitous and Wood were more than a touch miffed at the interval as they reflected two extremely strong penalty appeals they had turned down following seemingly clear fouls on Sammy Winston and Stuart Lochhead. Winston also stuck the woodwork after racing clear of the Saints defence and Mel Capleton, suspended for the Saints opening two league games, made a fingertip save from Lochhead.
Wood began their sensational comeback on 57 minutes with three former Saints involved in the build up to the first goal. Ryan Moran played a back pass to Noel Imber whose long kick was headed on by Robbie Reinelt. Winston gave chase and went down under a challenge claiming a penalty but in the ensuing scramble Lochhead poked the ball in.
Nine minutes later, with Wood dominating possession and putting the home defence under sustained pressure, the visitors struck for a second time when Moran headed the ball across the goalmouth for Winston to score with ease with a close range header.
Crawshaw set up McBreen for a shot he directed straight at Imber as City briefly rallied but there was an air of inevitability regarding City’s fate and just as the clock ticked into the 90th minute Fergus Moore swung over a free kick from the Wood left that Lochhead smartly glanced over the full stretch Capleton to seal the visitors tenth success at Clarence Park.
Report by Dave Tavener