Two exquisite goals from the in-form Paul Hakim and a cruel own goal by Dons skipper Barry Moore helped St Albans City quell an industrious AFC Wimbledon on Saturday in front a partisan crowd of almost 2,000 at Kingsmeadow and move through to the 2nd Round of the FA Trophy.
Paul Hakim celebrates his goal!
City headed to Surrey expecting a tough time against the side created by Dave Anderson, a former coach at St Albans under Bob Dowie. Wimbledon certainly did not disappoint although for all of the Dons enthusiasm and grit it was the Saints who provided the subtler and ultimately telling moments.
Facing a piercing setting winters sun, City keeper Paul Bastock was called into action inside three minutes as he punched away Moore’s inswinging corner with Wes Daly’s follow up being deflected just over the goal.
City responded with a good run and shot by Hakim that went wide while quick thinking by Moore with a short low free kick would have resulted in a goal had not Bastock reacted so instinctively in moving swiftly to block Richard Butler’s flick as the City defence stood motionless.
Although Wimbledon were enjoying the greater share of the play City appeared more than capable of unpicking an unconvincing Dons defence as proven by a rasping Dean Cracknell drive that Andy Little required two attempts to smother as Lee Clarke closed in.
On 25 minutes the Ryman League Premier Division side, playing in a game rated as the biggest in their short existence, went ahead with a simple goal. Butler held off Aaron Barnett to a long ball and turned the City defender with ease before slipping a low soft right-footed shot to the right of Bastock desperate dive.
Two minutes later Barnett almost stumbled the ball over the line but was denied by Little but on 28 minutes the keeper, stranded in no mans land, could only look on as Hakim’s perfect lob from Tom Davis’s excellent ball over the home defence bounced into the goal sited in front of the packed home terrace.
Wimbledon hit back with a penetrating run by Butler that was thwarted by the most outstanding player on the park, Nick Burton, whose well-timed challenge ended the danger. With chances being created at either end Scott Cousins traded passes with Mark Graham before seeing his low shot blocked by the sprawling Little.
The Dons wasted a golden opportunity when Dave Sargent’s long ball sent Michael Harvey clear but his square pass was completely fluffed by the free Shane Smeltz. City went ahead for the first time on 38 minutes with the highest quality move of the entire chilly afternoon. Davis played the ball up to Clarke who ran forward from his own half and slid a glorious pass into the path of Matt Hann, his ball into the box stylishly tucked away by Hakim for his seventh goal in nine games.
St Albans’ lead survived just eight second half minutes before referee Alison Chapman – whose performance was far better than the constant baying of the home support suggested – declared that Barnett handled whilst on the ground and pointed to the penalty spot. An audible sigh of disbelief could be heard as former Saint Sargent stepped up to take the kick but he almost raised the roof with a fine left-footed effort inside Bastock’s right hand post.
For the next tree minutes the Dons laid siege to the City goal with Smeltz twice going close as City defended in numbers but the final twist came at the opposite end of the pitch in the 58th minute. Harvey went in heavily on Clarke but only succeeded knocking the ball down the right for Chris Seeby to retrieve by the goalline and drill low towards the near post where Hakim’s clever dummy led to the ball bouncing off Antony Howard onto the retreating Moore and into Dons net.
City had an amazing let off when Clarke clambered all over Harvey without conceding a blatant. Saints continued to threaten on the break and during more than seven minutes of added time were content to hold the ball by the corner flag only to lose possession and be caught on the break themselves and during a frantic finale were thankful to see another Dons attack flounder as Butler’s header came back off the crossbar.
Match report by Dave Tavener. Kindly supplied by The St Albans Observer.