It was not pretty but the growing band of travelling St Albans City support certainly found little cause for complaint at Colston Avenue on Saturday as an opportunist strike from Paul Hakim and a late own goal carried the Saints to the summit of the Conference South.
Paul Bastock pulls off a great save...
The Saints stay at the top may be short lived if they continue to play as sloppily as this but hopefully a sixth clean sheet in the past nine league games, and pole position, will give Colin Lippiatt’s side the confidence to attack with the swagger that enriched the early weeks of the season.
The final score appears convincing but after a competent first half display, during which Lee Clarke’s goal drought was extended to an eighth match when home keeper Stuart Searle saved his spot kick, City gave the ball away with monotonous regularity and would have been punished by any side possessing a strike force more potent than Carshalton Athletic’s lame front line.
Without a win so far this season, Carshalton almost made the perfect start only for Richard Hodgson’s early goalbound shot to be blocked but it was City, with new boys Lee Flynn and Sean Hankin making their debut in defence, who impressed most during the opening 45 minutes.
Clarke may be experiencing an expectedly lengthy lean time in front of goal, but he again worked tireless and set up efforts for Hakim and Chris Seeby that almost produced goals with the latter shaving an upright from 22 yards. On 16 minutes Lee Carey blocked a fine header from Clarke on the goalline with Aaron Barnett’s follow against his old club also being blocked on the line.
Paul Bastock saved comfortably when Luke Fontana broke clear for the Robins before Hakim, on 24 minutes, seized on Dave Richards underhit back pass to fire right-footed, first time, the opening goal low to the left of the outstanding Searle from the edge of the penalty area.
But for a brilliant save high to his right by the evergreen Bastock, Carey would have equalised from a well placed free kick but on 39 minutes the result should have been put beyond doubt when the retreating Stephen Symes, beaten by the bounce of a long Bastock punt, tripped Matt Hann in the penalty area. Clarke’s drought looked to be only until Searle went full stretch to his right to beat away the resulting spot kick and the Robins keeper excelled again to block Hakim’s follow up which ought to have been tucked away.
Carshalton certainly appeared lifted by that escape and came out in far more positive fashion after the break while City became careless in their passing almost abandoned their passing game at the back to replace it with aimless hoicks down the park.
Robins striker Craig Dundas produced two almost inexplicable misses when set up by Marlon Patterson and Carey while Fontana wasted a free header before, later in the half, sliding in only just to be beaten to the ball by Bastock who also conceded a corner to same player following a fine shot.
Further goals were a distinct possibility at either end as both sets of defences struggled in the disappearing sunlight although the nearest St Albans came was a powerful rising drive from Clarke that Searle beat out.
But just as the clock edged towards full time Lippiatt pulled off a masterstroke in replacing the tireless Hakim with Martin, for in the third minute of added time Martin, down the City left, exchanged passes with Mark Graham before the latter attempted to again find Martin with a cut back from the goalline only for Robins skipper Daniel Nwanze to intervene and stab the ball into his own net.
Match report by Dave Tavener. Kindly supplied by The St Albans Observer.