David Tavener reports from Clarence Park...
Matt Hann, scorer of the first City goal in action
On the back of a superbly struck Matt Hann free kick and a second half brace by leading scorer Lee Clarke, St Albans City closed in on their first Herts Senior Cup final appearance in five years on Tuesday night with a comfortable quarter final victory at Clarence Park over Ryman League Division Two leaders Hertford Town.
St Albans gave a debut to 17-year old Carl Kavanagh who slotted in well alongside far more experienced players than he is accustomed to when playing for the Saints Reserves this season. City recalled Chris Zoricich following the end of his loan period at Boreham Wood, and brought Hann and Tom Beech back into the starting line up.
After an even opening the Saints took the lead on ten minutes when Town defender Adrian Robinson fouled Chris Seeby some 20 yards out and to the left corner of the penalty area. Spotting ample space to keeper Lee Robinson’s right, Hann stepped in from the main stand side of the pitch to strike a perfect right-footed shot high inside the keeper’s near post.
Beech almost added a second when he broke clear of the defence only to see his low shot ricochet off the diving Robinson and just over the bar. Later in the half Robinson made an excellent instinctive save as Beech shot on the turn but the well-built City striker was also guilty of squandering two clear openings as his goal drought continued.
Although City generally controlled proceedings and went close prior to the interval through Zoricich, Hertford had two good chances to pull level only for Kevin Cooper to clip the first opening over the bar while the second saw Saints keeper Paul Bastock beat out a crisp drive from Phil Goss.
Hertford also went close during the early stages of the second half with Zoricich blocking Curtis Johnson’s goal bound volley and Bastock saving a volley from Billy Wingrove while Goss just failed to turn in a low cross from Johnson that flummoxed both Bastock and Ben Martin.
Hann was proving to be one of the most effective players on the pitch but City only really threatened to increase their lead when Clarke replaced Lee Charles midway through the half.
Seeby, set up by Ben Walshe, forced Robinson into a good save low down before Clarke, just five minutes after coming on, took Beech’s touch in his path and fired low into the Hatfield Road goal via the inside of Robinson’s left-hand post on 70 minutes.
Walshe had a decent effort comfortably taken by Robinson before Clarke sent a measured shot into the crossbar with Beech’s follow up header easily saved. Moments later Beech, set up by Hann, shot tamely through to Robinson and Hertford threatened to punish that miss on 83 minutes when Lane headed home from a Liam Errington cross.
But any thoughts of a surprise where dismissed two minutes later when Beech headed down a Hann corner from the Saints right with Clarke neatly twisting and firing the loose ball in for his 20th goal of the season.