In foul weather conditions of driving rain and a fierce wind, struggling St
Dean Hooper on the attack
Albans City showed grit and determination but fell to a hat-trick from the League's top scorer Luke Nightingale who took his tally to 14 goals from as many games. The score-line flattered the home side and City manager Steve Castle will take some comfort from his troops undoubted work-rate for the tough fixtures to come over the coming weeks.
Castle selected himself alongside popular youngster Chris Seeby in the centre of modfield, and there was a welcome return for Scott Cousins and Dean Hooper from injury and suspension respectively, wide on either flank in defence. The Saints unveiled new signing from Cambridge United, Tom Beech, a strapping, 18 year old striker who will, presumably, be partnering the suspended Lee Clarke up front.
Both sides play a passing game and the opening half hour saw Bognor increasingly frustrated by the tight marking of the hard-working visitors. Goal mouth action was scarce and each keeper was hardly tested by the occasional shot from distance, most notably a trademark strike from 30 yards from Castle which skidded on the wet turf before being well-gathered by Will Packham in the home goal.
The Rocks broke the deadlock on 34 minutes with a swift contolled attack on the City left. Kevin Murphy found the home skipper David Piper on the bye-line and his meaured clipped cross found Nightingale who volleyed home from 10 yards.
In the third minute of added time, the home side stretched their lead when Jamie Howell found too much space on the edge of the area to meet a David Birmingham cross and hit an unstoppable shot past Capleton with his second touch.
In a bold move at the start of the second half, Castle replaced Richard Thomas with Miguel de Souza who joined Beech and Ben Walshe up front. Gaps were left behind and chances began to fall to both sides. In the opening minutes, Capleton saved well from Watson and Nightingale beat the offside trap before sending a low shot past the City keeper which rebounded to safety from the inside of the far post.
City pressed and enjoyed and after a dominant 10 minute spell were rewarded when Seeby spread the play wide to Walshe, and continued his run to take a short pass from Beech before crahing a shot high to Packham's right, the youngster's second goal of the season.
The home side were rocked and fell back into defence leaving possession to the visitors who pressed for the equaliser. 5 minutes later, however, and the game was put beyond doubt by Nightingale. In their first attack following the goal, the Rocks broke and the former Portsmouth and Weymouth striker hit a firm low shot which cruelly squirmed beneath Capleton.
Three minutes from time, Nightingale notched his third to secure the match ball when he volleyed home a well placed free-kick by Hudson from close range at the back post to consign The Saints to thier heaviest away defeat this term. Town climb to 6th in the table and City are rooted at the wrong end.
Report by Tom Lewis