St Albans City laboured their way to through to the last eight of the Herts Senior Cup at Vauxhall Road last Wednesday before finally seeing off South Midlands League Premier Division side Greenacres courtesy of midfielder Jon Challinor’s third goal in five games.
The first ever meeting between ten year old Greenacres and the more established Saints was as unwelcoming as the cold wind blowing through Hemel Hempstead Town’s fast improving ground but for City there were some good points to be taken from the game most notably the return of several players after injury.
Dominic Naylor, Simon Martin and Gary Crawshaw all their played their first full 90 minutes for some time and appeared to be unscathed by the run out but on the downside Scott Oakes hobbled off after just 25 minutes with a strained hamstring.
Early on Beckett Hollenbach, playing in an unaccustomed right back position, proved a handful at the opposite end of the pitch with a couple of fine crosses, from the second of which Martin neatly controlled the ball but saw his flicked shot go into the side netting. Moments earlier the City striker shot across the face of Wayne Hughes’ goal following a good lay off by Crawshaw.
Midway through the half Ryan Moran headed an Oakes free kick into the goalmouth where Richard Evans shot ricocheted off the head of former City Reserve Jason Coughlan and onto the crossbar before being cleared. Hughes distinguished himself twice before the interval when, firstly, tipping over a cross-shot from Rob Kean and then diving low to smother an effort from Rob Smith. Six minutes from the break Greenacres had their first clear chance of the night when Craig McMahon crossed low to James Armstrong whose point blank shot was blocked by Duncan Roberts for a corner.
Playing down the slope in the second period City began brightly with a good move ending with Smith firing just over and on 50 minutes Smith crossed the back post where Challinor came in to powerfully head home the deciding goal.
The anticipated goal feast failed to materialise after that breakthrough although City went close on a number of occasions. Hughes punched unconvincingly at a blistering Smith free kick but redeemed himself with a vital touch to deny Craig Mackail-Smith his first goal in the first team for exactly a year.
Moran and Martin combined to set up Mackail-Smith for another chance that he placed wide while the Saints had a let off on 81 minutes when a ludicrous square ball by Hollenbach sent Greenacres Craig Bowe clear only for him to shoot wide of Roberts goal. City almost had the final word when Smith won the ball well and found Mackail-Smith whose shot was parried by Hughes and only just put over the bar by Acres defender Ray Howlett