Winter bared its teeth for the first time this year but the Saints warmed a small crowd at Clarence Park on Tuesday with a straightforward victory over Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side Royston Town to set up a 2nd Round Herts Senior Cup trip to Oxhey Jets in what will be the first meeting between the two clubs. City's comfortable victory over a predominantly young Royston side included a debut for right back Dane Harper as well as for five boys from City college side, Josh Lamonaca, Jon Sims, Chris Haslam, Hamsa Twomey and Mark Betts. But the player to benefit most from Royston's visit was former City Youth striker Simon Martin (pictured) who notched his second hat trick in 189 first team appearances and his first treble at the Park.
Martin's debut hat trick in senior football, on 6 April 2002, came against a Harrow Borough side that had keeper Keita Karamoko dismissed after just ten minutes but this time Martin had no assistance at all from Royston goalkeeper Chris Chambers who could not be faulted for any of the Saints six goals.
Given that the Saints starting line up contained no less than nine players who are if not first team regulars at the present time certainly pushing hard for a place - and that four of them have played in the Football League - it was of little surprise that City dominated from the off. City won four corners inside the opening ten minutes, the closest they came to a goal from these set pieces was a clever Dean Cracknell flick from Ben Walshe's near post ball that Chris Galdart did well to clear over his over crossbar.
Cracknell's trick then may not have been rewarded but Simon Martin provided the first treat on Halloween night with a fine finish into the Hatfield Road goal on 11 minutes after Nick Roddis won the ball well off Allan Reid and passed to Lee Clarke whose delightful touch sent Martin away. Martin and Clarke were also involved a minute later to send Matt Hann away down the right only for his low shot to be put behind by the diving Chambers. Walshe's perfect inswinging corner beat Chambers but practically bounced off Carl Edwards at the back post and into his keepers' grateful arms.
A long range Walshe free kick fizzed just wide of the visitors goal before the Crows had their first serious foray into the City half with Reid heading over from Edwards free kick. City were soon back into the attack with Martin and Clarke, enjoying a rare run out up front, causing problems. In fact Martin should have doubled his tally on 31 minutes when Hann and Clarke, who pushed through an excellent pass, put him clear only for his attempted lob to be easily gathered by the already grounded Chambers. Four minutes later and it was Clarke, after Martin brought down a cross, who added the Saints second goal with a left-footed finish from close in. It was Clarke's third goal of the season and his first at Clarence Park since 25 March.
A first half corner count of seven to nil in City's favour probably gives an indication of the Saints total dominance but it was only after the break that the goals flowed. Chambers produced a fine save to deny the lively Hann on 47 minutes but the City winger took his revenge on 58 minutes when receiving a long cross-field ball from Walshe and delivering the kind of near post cross striker relish and with all due aplomb Martin headed home the third goal. A minute later an inch perfect through ball by Roddis, starting a match for the first time since last December, sent Cracknell through the middle but after swaying wide of the keeper delayed his shot just a millisecond too long and Geldart was able to retreat and somehow deflect the close range shot over the bar.
City were now warming to the task and on 61 minutes Hann dispossessed Royston skipper Stuart Snowden and ran on to beat Chambers with a fine rising drive from out on the right. Like Clarke, it was Hann's first goal at the Park since the end of March, indeed his first of the season, and will doubtless put him in good heart to repeat the trick on Saturday at Crawley in his 100th game for the Saints.
Royston thought they had scored only their fourth goal in five visits to St Albans when Jason Nash smartly headed home on 65 minutes but an offside flag led to the champagne being put back on ice. A goal maybe ought to have been notched at the opposite end shortly after when Clarke brought down another Hann cross only for his point-blank shot to be blocked by the keepers leg. If it is any consolation to Clarke he did have a hand in the fifth goal when he won a penalty following a trip by Reid although Chambers also appeared to catch him as he seized onto an exquisite low pass from Walshe down the City left. Clarke declined the opportunity to improve his record from 12 yards but Martin did step up to send a low right-footed shot through the sprawling keepers fingers and inside his right hand post. Maybe not the most impressive penalty one will ever see but it gave Simon his hat trick and was his sixth success from the penalty spot in nine attempts during his time with the Saints.
Partly due to the desire to impress of the City youngsters the Saints continued to press for more goals and twice within a minute Walshe shot into either side netting while Ben Martin, making his first starting appearance since April 2005, ballooned a header over the York Road goal that was a menace to passing witches on broomsticks. His claim that the floodlights are at the wrong angle suggested he had celebrated his 50th game for the club with too much pumpkin pie.
Six minutes from time Cracknell, in the middle of the City half, played the ball wide to Walshe on the left who set off on a tremendous run before sending Hann clear. Hann placed his shot carefully to Chambers left but with a fine full length save the custodian kept the deficit to five. While Chambers congratulated himself on that effort City were coming again with teenage substitute Chris Haslam being put through the middle by Cracknell and with a slightly firmer finish than Hann's effort the ball beat the keepers dive and went inside Chambers left hand post to give the youngster a goal on his debut and complete the six-goal rout.