A thoroughly miserable seven days for St Albans City was rounded off in acrimonious fashion on Monday night when a battling second half performance at The Hotel did not receive the reward it merited due in no small measure to referee Martin Yerby declining to award the most clear cut of penalty decisions ever likely to come his way.
Simon Martin in action.
City, ahead inside 40 seconds but behind within three minutes of the second half getting under way, looked on course to salvage a point when Lee Clarke twisted past Jimmy McFarlane and John Purdie before being tripped inside the penalty area by Steve Heffer yet to the amazement of all present Mr Yerby only stopped the game to caution Matt Hann for daring to question the match officials obvious error.
Boosted by the unexpectedly swift return from injury of Clarke and Hann, St Albans got off to a spectacular start when Chris Seeby – switched to left back with Scott Cousins being Patrick Ada’s latest partner in the middle of the defence – playing the ball inside to Nick Roddis who in turn fed Dean Cracknell whose crisp drive from 20 yards nestled neatly low inside Glenn Knight’s right hand post.
With that goal City sat proudly at the top of the Conference South but just ten minutes later the lead and leadership were lost to a horribly soft goal. The ball was zipping backwards and forwards as passes went astray until former Saint Richard Goddard stepped in to hoof the ball from deep in his own half over the heads of Ada and Cousins to entice Paul Bastock from his goal.
Unfortunately for the visitors he was beaten to the ball by the highly impressive Steve Harper who struck a first time half volley past the advancing keeper for his third goal of the season. Matters almost got worse for City when a thunderous shot by David Collis from a short Lee Hodges free kick was parried by Bastock with Craig O’Connor netting the rebound only for a linesmans raised flag to cancel out the goal.
Thurrock should also have scored on 36 minutes when a Hodges cross was spooned over the target from point blank distance by Goddard. City ended the half with a couple of promising moments as Roddis and Hann both went close while Thurrock were denied a goal right on the whistle as Bastock stretched to palm away Harper’s touch from another Hodges cross.
But the City keeper stood no chance three minutes after the restart when O’Connor and Heffer worked the ball wide to Mark Goodfellow who celebrated his 200th game for the club with an enticing deep cross that was met at the back post by Harper, a £4,000 summer signing from Burgess Hill, who sent a fine looping header back across Bastock to clinch the points.
Within the next seven minutes Bastock saved by the foot of the post after Harper robbed Ada to set up O’Connor and then, at the second attempt, smothered Martin Carthy’s near post jab from O’Connor’s cross.
After that City pressed hard for an equaliser and played some decent passing football without quite matching their form of earlier in the season. With three tall central defenders, Thurrock successfully defended a stream of crosses and corners – including four in quick succession – but had luck on their side when Clarke touched on an Anthony Allman free kick for Cracknell to apply the final touch past Knight only for the offside flag to again cut short the celebrations.
By then perhaps City’s best chance had already gone when Martin did well to stretch and head a Cousins free kick across goal to Cracknell who somehow scooped the ball over from just a couple of yards out.
Just when all seemed lost Clarke, appointed captain on the night, produced a piece of magic to weave his way into the area only to be pulled down by Heffer when steadying himself to shoot only for a penalty not to be forthcoming.
Match report by Dave Tavener. Kindly supplied by The St Albans Observer.