Lee Clarke tries a shot at goal. For more pictures click on Photo Gallery at the top of the page.
VIDEO Eight goals in forty-six minutes washed away the memory of a tedious opening half at Clarence Park on Saturday and left St Albans City licking their wounds after suffering a first defeat in the Nationwide Conference to a high-rated Aldershot Town side. City went to their first meeting with Terry Brown’s Shots for three years with two good results behind them but missing the central pairing of Ben Martin and Gary Elphick through injury and suspension respectively. Their absence allowed Ben Lewis to make an earlier than anticipated return after injury and line up alongside Dave Theobald against the much-vaunted Aldershot attacking duo of Marcus Gayle and John Grant. Honours were even during the first half but a savage four goal burst in 18 minutes secured victory for the full-timers from Hampshire. Attacking a sizeable Aldershot contingent, St Albans were swiftly onto the offensive with Matt Hann firing over the Hatfield Road goal and then supplying a cross from which Adam Wilde chested the ball down to Lee Clarke whose shot after a quick swivel failed to trouble Shots keeper Nikki Bull. On eight minutes Wilde maintained City’s bright start with a well-struck 20-yard free kick that just missed Bull’s left hand upright. Although both sides were guilty of sending aimless balls all over the pitch chances continued to be created with Paul Bastock smartly tipping over a powerful drive from Marcus Gayle. Bastock also smothered a firm drive from Louis Soares before an excellent ball from Paul Hakim sent Hann away and from his low cross from the City right Rhys Day diverted the ball towards his own goal with Bull desperately clawing it away as Clarke closed in. A superb tackle by Tom Davis denied the clear and dangerous Soares but on the stroke of half time Aldershot made a decisive break down their left with the outstanding Ryan Williams taking a return pass from Gayle before going to ground as Bastock flung himself towards the ball only to be penalised for taking out the Shots winger. After an inordinately lengthy delay Darren Barnard sent Bastock the wrong way from the spot kick to open the floodgates. Aldershot replaced the injured Molesley at half time and were rocked four minutes later when a good City move saw Davis play the ball out to Wilde whose pass into Clarke before the City skipper found his path blocked only for Ram Marwa to scoop the ball beyond the startled Bull. Barnard grazed the top of the City crossbar from a free kick before the Shots regained the lead on 57 minutes when Williams skilfully turned the ball past Bastock following a near post cross from Soares. That strike sparked a rush of four Aldershot goals in 18 minutes. John Grant, a potentially significant summer signing from Halifax Town, added the third goal on the hour with an acrobatic scissor-kick from a Ryan Scott cross. City rallied with Clarke just failing to reach a low cross by Hakim - who had a good second half after a low-key opening 45 minutes – and Bull also had to move sharply to push over a drive from Clarke. Bastock was kept busy with firm effort from Scott before the Shots struck for a fourth time when a headed through ball by Scott sent Grant clear. After being forced wide by Bastock Grant drove the ball home in some style from a tight angle. A minute later, the 75th, Gayle notched the Shots fifth goal with a blistering header from a perfect cross from Soares. With City facing a rout Colin Lippiatt made a successful triple substitution with all three newcomers making a telling contribution although young Rob Norris, with several darting runs and a header that Bull excelled to palm away, doing most to catch the eye. The deficit was reduced on 88 minutes with Tom Davis opening his account for the season from the penalty spot after Mark Pritchard had impeded him and two minutes later Dean Cracknell celebrated his first appearance of the season when scoring from close in after Norris’s shot from a Dave Theobald cut back had been half blocked.