The last rites are perhaps being prepared for St Albans City’s championship dreams but goodness gracious what a way to bow out of the race. In front of a record Conference South attendance of 5,022 the Saints, at times, tore apart the now champions-elect Weymouth but were cruelly denied their prize courtesy of three, at best, questionable decisions by referee Eamon Smith.
Gary Elphic scores City's second.
To hark on about the match official after being privileged to have witnessed such a glorious occasion seems churlish but sadly the Surrey-based referee, normally a safe choice, played a significant part in the better side leaving the scene empty-handed.
Weymouth were first to settle on a perfect afternoon for football while City’s early anxiety manifested itself with terrible challenges by Lee Flynn and Matt Hann that received justified yellow cards. Once Colin Lippiatt’s side settled to play football they did it in sumptuous style.
Although the Terras started strongly it took until almost the half hour mark for the first serious effort on goal when Raphael Nade turned well and tested Paul Bastock. Even so it was a surprise and against the run of play when Gary Elphick gifted Garry Hill’s side the opening goal. As the ball ran down the touchline Elphick was uncertain whether to go for touch or Bastock but in dong neither he allowed Nade to pinch the ball and scamper into the penalty area before calmly planting his 12th goal in 15 games past the exposed Bastock.
City did not take kindly to conceding their first goal in 578 minutes and responded with a fine equaliser just seconds later. Clarke played the ball in from the left to Paul Hakim and continued his run to chest down the return and deftly clip home City’s 100th goal of the season.
With Tom Davis winning countless tackles and orchestrating the play from midfield City were calling the tune but a succession of enterprising attacks could only muster near misses for Hann, twice, Amos Foyewa and the excellent Paul Hakim.
Bastock saved a dangerous effort from Jackson but just seconds from the end of almost seven minutes of added time the game shifted significantly against Hill’s former club. Jackson slipped a pass out to the offside Nade but City were in trouble as Smith ignored the raised flag to award the Terras a free kick for a foul on Jackson. The position was ominous for City and Bound confidently stepped up to beat the defensive wall from 20 yards with a scorching drive that went into the net off Bastock’s outstretched left hand.
The Wessex Stadium was in raptures on 52 minutes when Jackson went down in the box following a touch from Davis to win a penalty – City appeals for a foul earlier in the move by Nade on Ben Lewis were brushed aside. Again Bound did the needful with an even fiercer drive into the centre of the visitor’s goal.
Fears of the game petering out tamely were banished on 59 minutes as City scored the best goal of the game. Davis slipped an exquisite ball inside Trevor Challis for Clarke to send a low pass across the face of the goal for Elphick to slide in the second Saints goal.
The final thirty 30 minutes were pure theatre, classic sudden-death cup-tie football with promotion to the Conference almost certainly awaiting the victors. An excellent turn and shot by Jackson brought a fine save out of Bastock before Weymouth lost a touch of discipline with the substituted Lee Alam fortunate to get just a yellow card after shoving City coach Nick Roddis in the face, Shaun Wilkinson was not so lucky as he received a straight red for a ridiculous two-footed lunge on the inspirational Davis.
Nade almost added a fourth for Weymouth with a brilliant turn away from Elphick and shot that Bastock saved with the on loan Carlisle United striker putting the rebound just over the bar. City were swiftly back on the offensive with only a marvellous tackle by Simon Downer thwarting Clarke. From Hann’s corner Foyewa, well positioned in front of Arran Lee-Barrett, headed home yet somehow Mr Smith believed that the on loan Lewes striker had impeded the keeper and disallowed the goal.
Clearly angered, City continued to power forward and in the closing stages added central defenders Lewis and Elphick to the siege on the Terras goal. Clarke was a fraction over with a stupendous overhead effort before Weymouth substitute Darren Wheeler skimmed the crossbar after fine bit of skill.
Weymouth caused problems on the break but during the final ten minutes the home goal was virtually a coconut shy. Set up by Hann, Hakim clipped the ball over Lee-Barrett only for Bound to clear off the line, seconds later, following another piercing Davis through ball, Hakim lobbed a shot over the keeper but onto the crossbar.
Elphick sent a crisp header wide, Seeby tried a couple of desperate long range efforts but City hopes ended with a long Davis free kick glancing off Hakim’s head into the grateful arms of Lee-Barrett.