The Saints first visit to Altham Way on Wednesday evening was not an event that will be easily forgotten as an experimental side not only bowed out of the Herts Senior Cup by a heavy margin to Molten Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division side Oxhey Jets but also suffered the embarrassment of having two players dismissed inside the opening 27 minutes.
A suspicion that this was not be our night was creeping in even before the kick off when Dave Theobald had difficulty in locating the ground and eventually had to settle for a seat on the bench. Seven minutes into the game and he was joined on the sidelines by Nick Roddis who was in charge of the team while Colin Lippiatt tended to training at Clarence Park for those players not involved in this match. Roddis was dismissed for an alleged head-butt on, we believe, Jets striker Garry Beadle.
Roddis was involved in a hefty tackle on the Oxhey player who reacted forcefully and went eyeball to eyeball with the City midfielder before crashing to the ground in front of referee Dave Rock who immediately sent the City coach packing.
Twenty minutes later Ben Martin, a player who has suffered more than his fair share of misfortune over the past 16 months and must surely be due a turn for the good in the New Year, received his marching orders when blocking, on the goalline, a shot from the lively Jamie Arthur. That the ball was heading for the back of the net is not open to question but just how much intent there was in the blocking of the ball - or indeed any knowledge of what happened - is in doubt but again referee Rock went straight for his red card. It is just another in a series of setbacks for Martin who, along with Roddis, will now be banned for the Saints next three games which puts both players out of action until the home match with Exeter City on 30 December.
As for the game itself, Marc Ayres scored the opening goal on 29 minutes from the penalty spot with Sam Warrell increasing the lead on 50 minutes. Ben Walshe reduced the deficit on 68 minutes with an excellent low curling free kick from 20 yards that went wide of the wall and completely bamboozled keeper Kevin Paul.
Although greatly disadvantaged numerically the Saints nine men - four of whom are members of the Oaklands College team - more than held their own for long stretches of the second half but the lack of personnel blunted their cutting edge and Oxhey struck twice on late to secure their place in Friday's 3rd Round draw.
Arthur, having struck the woodwork during the first half, notched the third Oxhey goal with a fine finish on 77 minutes while six minutes from time Tim O'Mara slid in to complete the Saints misery.