Goalscoring sensation Anthony Thomas, currently attracting the attention of Luton Town, led an inexperienced St Albans City defence a merry dance before scoring a 13 minute hat trick to wrest, with embarrassing ease, the Herts Senior Cup from the Saints grasp.
When Hemel Hempstead manager Byron Walton withdrew the elusive Thomas just seven minutes into the second half once sensed it was to save the cup holders from any further humiliation but things did not pan out quite like that as Hemel equalled their biggest victory over St Albans and handed the Saints their third heaviest defeat in the competition.
City possessed enough experience to avert such a pounding but for once the Saints commitment was questionable and the support given to a quartet of youngsters making their first team debut was poor, that said, of the new boys only striker Darren Lancaster – on this evidence – looks capable of making a mark at this level.
City’s humbling experience was compounded by a head injury sustained by Simon Martin and a foot injury picked up Chris Seeby who also collected his fourth booking of the season.
St Albans started competently enough against their Southern League Division One West hosts but whenever the Tudors moved forward it was evident that City’s backline, containing debutants Alex Fraser and Colin Cattermole, along with the more experienced Aaron Barnett and Seeby, was fragile and likely to give teenage goalkeeper James Lambley scant protection.
Prior to a huge lump growing above his left eye Martin opened up the home defence only to see his goalbound shot deflected out for a corner by the lunging Perry Norman while Barnett went close with a header and the promising Lancaster, freed by Nick Roddis, clipped a shot well wide as Darren Bonfield raced from his goal.
Although City bossed the opening 30 minutes the threat posed by Thomas was growing and after twice going close he opened the scoring on 32 minutes when drilling the ball through Lambley’s legs following good work by Chris Marsh.
Thirty seconds later Thomas doubled Hemel’s lead with an audacious first time clipped right-footed effort that sailed high to the motionless keepers right and inside the upright. Lambley had to move swiftly to deny Thomas his hat trick on 39 minutes but on the stroke of half time the lively striker, again after good work by Marsh who cut in from the Hemel right, completed his first hat trick for the Tudors and took his seasons tally to a remarkable 25 in just 28 appearances.
Three minutes after the break former Saint Darren Sarll, collecting a poor headed clearance by Barnett, added to City’s woes with a crisp drive that deflected wide of Lambley for Hemel’s fourth goal.
St Albans looked to have finally stemmed the flow on 58 minutes when Mark Graham swung a corner in from the Saints left for Tom Davis to score with a glancing header but Hemel quickly shrugged off that setback, and the departure of Thomas, to score a fifth goal on 76 minutes. Again Marsh played a significant part as his through ball was neatly steered wide of Lambley by Grant Carney for his 13th goal of the season.
On 73 minutes, Hemel matched their only previous five-goal slaughter of the Saints some forty years earlier when Steve Sinclair, left completely unattended at the back post, tucked the ball past the shell-shocked City custodian.
Match report by Dave Tavener. Kindly supplied by The St Albans Observer.