A Conference South season rich in high drama and not lacking in success for St Albans City petered out with something less than a whimper on Saturday as the Saints tamely surrendered their eleven-match winning home run when clearly having an eye on next Sunday’s play-off final at Stevenage.
Paul Hakim in action
Against a mediocre Weston-super-Mare side, possessing two very useful strikers in Marvin Brown and John Williams, City started poorly and once news was received that Weymouth were two goals to the good simply fell apart completely.
Three times in the previous four games the agility of the newly crowned Player of the Year, Paul Bastock, carried City to victory but this performance was even beyond the grasp of the brilliant Bostonian. All, however, will be forgiven and forgotten should City be triumphant on Sunday.
City were sluggish from the start with Weston, under the guidance of former Chelsea player David Lee due to manager Frank Gregan away scouting, threatening early on through Darren Hawkins and Lewis Hogg. On 14 minutes a deep cross from the Weston right by Williams saw Hawkins and send a good header back across goal and towards the top corner before Bastock stretched to push the ball onto the crossbar.
Although the play was even City’s attacking threat was limited with just a couple of surging runs by Paul Hakim, neither of which ultimately came to anything, headers from Ram Marwa and Gary Elphick, and a scuffed shot by Matt Hann, being the only moments of concern for the Seagulls.
Indeed, it took a misdirected clearance by Hawkins to give City their best chance of the half with Lee Clarke’s fine header was spectacularly saved low down by Ryan Northmore.
The second half saw City at just about their poorest for the entire season. On the hour Weston closed in on their third victory in four league games between the clubs when Tom Davis carelessly presented possession straight to Brown who sent an excellent diagonal forward ball to the edge of the penalty area. Williams seized control and turned Elphick twice before beating Bastock with a perfectly placed shot across the diving keeper.
An excellent tackle by Elphick denied Williams from adding a second a minute later while Bastock also had to stretch to tip over a cleanly struck half volley from Brown. City immediately hit back with a bouncing cross from Davis that was badly missed by Hakim and Marwa before the equaliser arrived on 68 minutes when Davis found Clarke down the left with the City captains cross being headed in at the back post by Hakim.
Within four minutes the Seagulls regained a deserved lead when a long ball from Northmore was headed on by Brown to Williams whose return pass sent Brown clear to finish in style with a lob over Bastock. Again City responded positively but Clarke, after skilfully drifting into the penalty and exchanging passes with Hakim, shot wide.
Williams ought to have notched a third for the visitors late on when a simple ball by Jon French caught City square but with just Bastock to beat the one-time Coventry City striker blazed high and wide.