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09.08.2008 at 15:00 Clarence Park

Attendance : 522

St Albans City

1 - 1

Havant & Waterlooville

Referee : Gavin Muge (Totternhoe) Blue Square South

Simon Martin (2)
Ben Martin (o.g. 72)
Opening squads
Paul Bastock
Hassan Sulaiman
Scott Cousins
Ben Bowditch
Ben Martin
James Quilter
Sean Ridgway
Paul Hakim
Simon Martin
Jonathan Hunt
James Fisher
Kevin Scriven
Jay Smith
Jay Gasson
Jamie Collins ©
Guy Butters
Ian Simpemba
Shaun Wilkinson
Gary Holloway
Luke Nightingale
Craig Watkins
Brett Poate
James Archer
Hamsa Twomey
Tom Youngs
Lee Protheroe
Sam Gargan
Matthew Gray
Gary Elphick
Jay Conroy
Rocky Baptiste
Tom Youngs -> Jonathan Hunt (86)
Sam Gargan -> Craig Watkins (59)
Rocky Baptiste -> Luke Nightingale (59)
Matthew Gray -> Shaun Wilkinson (79)
Yellow cards
Jonathan Hunt (48)
Sean Ridgway (90)
Shaun Wilkinson (64)
Jay Gasson (89)
Red cards
None. None
Match report
SIMON MARTIN got St Albans City’s season off to a sensational start with a goal on 61 seconds on Saturday but Blue Square South championship favourites Havant & Waterlooville salvaged a point with a most fortuitous own goal off the head of Saints Man of the Match Ben Martin.
Resplendent in their replica kit of 1908-09, the Saints stunned the Hawks with some enterprising football during an absorbing, fully committed and entertaining opening 45 minutes. Had St Albans’ finishing lived up to their approach play then the match would have been all over by half time. As it was Shaun Gale’s Hawks piled on the pressure with a succession of second half corners before securing a share of the spoils.
City were without the injured trio of Chris Seeby, Ryan Frater and Lee Clarke, and gave league debuts to Ben Bowditch, Sean Ridgway and striker Tom Youngs who signed the previous night from Cambridge City. The captain’s armband went to Ben Martin for the first time.
With a number of the crowd still heading for shelter from the warm summer rain City opened their account. Receiving possession midway inside the Havant half, Paul Hakim slid a fine ball into the path of Simon Martin who was afford generous space by a Havant defence that did not include former Saint Gary Elphick. With keeper Kevin Scriven possibly a touch too far towards his left hand post Martin shot low from 20 yards and inside the keepers right hand upright for his 76th goal for the Saints.
It was an amazing start to the campaign but was just the tonic required to ensure that the game would be open rather than cagey. Havant were quickly seeking to restore parity with a fierce Brett Poate free kick winning a corner off Hassan Sulaiman. Gary Holloway’s inswinging dead ball kick curled over the possibly impeded Paul Bastock, fortunately for City Scott Cousins stood his ground inside the back post to head clear.
On eight minutes Ridgway announced his arrival at Clarence Park with a stunning through ball that enabled Hakim to cut into the right hand side of the visitors penalty area. But as the City faithful anticipated a second strike Hakim shot wide and into the advertising boards behind the York Road goal.
The high tempo was relentless for 30 minutes with Bastock soon back in action to smother a Jamie Collins free kick that eluded the City wall. But the clearer chances continued to come at the top end of the ground as Sulaiman, set up by Simon Martin and Hakim, broke clear only for Scriven's to spread himself well and use his feet to block the shot at the cost of a corner.
The wet surface came to the aid of Hawks defender Ian Simpemba who missed a long kick by Bastock but was relieved to see the ball skid off the sodden pitch and through to his keeper. Again Havant replied at speed with a flowing move ending with Collins fine ground shot from 25 yards thudding against the inside of Bastock’s left hand post before being cleared.
Less than thirty minutes were on the clock before another chance went begging. James Quilter, part of a highly impressive City back line, won the ball and sent Hakim away but the City striker clearly had not got his scoring boots with him as another effort went wide of Scriven's goal.
City then switched their attentions to the right flank where Sulaiman quite majestically outwitted Jay Gasson and skipped along the goalline before slipping a pass to Hakim whose goalbound shot was blocked by the head of veteran defender Guy Butters.
Some of St Albans attacking moves really lit up a dull afternoon in Hertfordshire and five minutes from the break a short corner routine saw Hunt play the ball to Sulaiman before clipping the return pass into the penalty area where James Fisher’s audacious overhead effort just cleared the visitors goal.
After switching ends the two sides produced an explosive start to the second period that very nearly matched the first half. City were cut open within 53 seconds of the restart but were saved when the free Craig Watkins fired wide after being set up by Holloway.
The second 45 minutes, certainly from the St Albans perspective, failed to match the opening half but credit must again be given to a City defence that stood firm in the face of a reinvigorated Havant side. Despite being on the back foot for sections of the half City, in fact, had several opportunities to secure victory.
Scriven’s moved swiftly from his line to block Simon Martin as the City striker shot on the turn following a pass from Sulaiman while the clearest opening was squandered by Hakim. After playing a short ball to Sulaiman, Hakim took the return back-heel in his strike only for a dire first touch to send the ball gently through to the keeper when a goal appeared the most likely outcome. Another opportunity went begging when Sulaiman’s cross was just too high for the incoming Martin.
At the opposite end Luke Nightingale just failed to reach a Holloway shot into the ground that looped into the penalty area before being grabbed by Bastock, and then stretched to beat Bastock to a through ball with his shot rolling narrowly wide.
Havant maintained the pressure with a string of three successive corners on 72 minutes. From the final one Poate, on the Hawks right, swung the ball left-footed in towards the near post where Bastock punched away but only for the ball to strike the head of Ben Martin with the rebound giving Havant their first goal of the season. Havant defender Simpemba was happy to claim the goal as his despite not getting a touch.
City had one final chance to chalk up a surprise victory when Bowditch, Ridgway and Hakim all combined to send Sulaiman away but his shot from the edge of the penalty area lacked conviction and went harmlessly across Scriven’s goal.
Gale made a double substitution to liven up the Hawks attack early in the half with Sam Gargan and Rocky Baptiste replacing Nightingale and Watkins but neither of the new pairing was truly able to unsettle the resolute City defence although Havant did finish the game strongly.
Bastock made an excellent save low to his right following a firm drive by Gargan from 20 yards but the City custodian was less convincing when racing from his area to clear only to miscue the ball straight to Holloway. The Hawks midfielder steadied himself before attempting to lob the retreating keeper but could only plant the ball gently back into the Bostonian’s arms.
Just before the start of more than five minutes of added time Havant again won three successive corners but this time the Saints held firm to claim a fully merited first point of the season.
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