Conference strugglers yet FA Cup heroes Tamworth brought St Albans City’s barnstorming run of late to an abrupt halt at The Lamb on Saturday but the Saints exit from the FA Trophy was of scant concern to the Conference South leaders after defender Scott Cousins suffered a sickening broken ankle in the dying moments of an otherwise quickly forgotten 2nd Round tie.
Matt Hann round's Tamworth's Adie Smith
With added time almost complete Cousins, in outstanding form this season, flew full throttle into a tackle in front of the main stand with Tamworth’s Nathan Jackson but when he tried to stand saw his left foot hanging almost at a right angle. Even before referee Roger Vaughan could stop play individuals were swarming from all areas to assist the stricken defender.
But City’s afternoon had gone badly wrong long before Cousins injury. Colin Lippiatt’s side gave no hint of their recent form and but for Paul Bastock could have been buried under an avalanche of goals in the closing stages.
Without hitting any real highs St Albans appeared capable of defeating Mark Cooper’s side during the opening half hour but with little creativity in midfield and Eddie Anaclet doing a magnificent job in shutting out Matt Hann City laboured badly once behind to give one of their poorest displays of the season.
From early on it was evident that City were struggling to impose their normal game against more physical and quicker opposition but after a scrappy opening, that set the tone for the afternoon, St Albans enjoyed their best spell.
On eight minutes Hann picked up a loose ball and ran at the Lambs defence with his low cross-shot being smartly taken by Mark Gayle. But City’s best chance came on 15 minutes when Tom Davis and Mark Graham combined to find Cousins whose cross was poorly headed wide by the unmarked Lee Clarke.
A City goal was seemingly edging ever closer and on 19 minutes Gayle again did well to save low by his near post as Hann, sent away by Davis, cut in from the right and shot crisply. Simon Martin had a volley blocked from a Hann corner while only an excellent tackle by Cousins denied Tamworth at a swift counter attack.
But the writing was on the wall as City, somewhat surprisingly, looked low on self-belief and struggled to contain the towering Jackson although Ben Lewis was superb at the heart of the Saints defence.
Twice Jackson forced Bastock to save before Tamworth scored the decisive goal on 39 minutes. Patrick Ada, not enjoying one of his better days, stumbled on the ball and was robbed by Jackson who teed up the free and debut making Daniel Davidson to almost scuff a shot past Bastock and into the visitors goal.
City hopes dipped further a minute later when another good Cousins tackle won the ball and gave possession to Davis whose pass down the Saints left sent Martin away. After beating Gayle to the ball outside the penalty area Martin rolled his shot painstakingly goalwards only to see it rebound to safety of the foot of the back post.
Thereafter City fell away disastrously and but for a string of wonderful saves by Bastock Tamworth would have run riot. Three times Bastock thwarted Jackson while Carl Heggs and Nick Wright forced outstanding saves from the brilliant Bostonian. City also had some unbelievable escapes as Davidson and Wright wasted two guilt edged chances before the game came to its sickening conclusion with Cousins completely innocent injury.
Match report by Dave Tavener. Kindly supplied by The St Albans Observer.