The first Blue Square South goal of Jonathan’s Hunt’s long and successful career secured a first away league win of the season for St Albans City on Saturday as the Saints rose to an equal seasons high placing of 13th while Dean Holdsworth’s Newport County slid into the bottom three.
In a match of few thrills and countless errors, City were good value for the first three point haul on their travels since March, but with Hunt’s deciding goal coming from the penalty spot it leaves City to reflect on a record that shows them to have scored one goal in open play in 803 minutes of football on opposition soil.
Despite this, City provided the greater attacking threat throughout and had a shot inside 35 seconds, by Hunt. Given their problems in front of goal this season City’s approach was most encouraging.
With Scott Cousins sidelined due to an ankle injury, the dependable Alex Bailey switched to left back with Lee Protheroe on the right. Paul Hakim returned after injury to join Simon Martin in attack with Gary Cohen placed back on the bench.
The most enterprising move of the day came inside five minutes when Ben Bowditch drove an excellent ball from the middle of the park out to Hakim on the right. After beating Dave Collins the City striker crossed low towards the near post where the outstretched leg of Simon Martin poked the ball just wide of Glyn Thompson’s goal.
Other than for a soft effort from Danny Rose, County’s leading scorer, Paul Bastock enjoyed a peaceful opening 45 minutes although a wonderful tackle by James Fisher on the edge of the penalty area denied Craig Hughes a clear run at goal.
The home goal survived a scare when Thompson, under pressure from Ben Martin, dropped a Protheroe free kick. Simon Martin stabbed the loose ball goalwards from eight yards but in a crowded goalmouth his effort was charged down and hacked away.
A dreadful back pass from distance by Steve Jenkins sent Hakim clear on 35 minutes but his attempt to push the ball wide of Thompson as the keeper raced from his goal failed as the keeper spread himself well and blocked the ball just inside the penalty area.
The second half saw no improvement in the quality of the football but St Albans continued to offer the greater hope. A couple of half chances had already passed before Hunt, from ten yards inside his own half and out by the right touchline, lifted a superb ball through the middle of the home defence only for Hakim to waste the opportunity with a poor second touch through to the relieved keeper.
Newport’s threat continued to be muted as their count of two shots on target and just one corner testifies. Even so, Adie Harris went close with a fine free kick before City old boy Ashley Vickers made a telling contribution as to the destination of the points.
Bailey lofted a high ball down the City left that Cohen did well to win in the air before shrugging off two defenders and cutting into the penalty area. A rash dive by Vickers took Cohen’s legs from under him and after a prolonged delay Hunt calmly clipped the resulting penalty left-footed into the goal via the inside of Thompson’s left hand upright.
City survived an anxious moment when a poor Kevin Cooper free kick went straight to Jamaican international Paul Hall but his snap shot was well blocked by Bailey. A late Newport fight back never materialised and the game finished with City on the attack being prompted by Luke Thurlbourne who, as a substitute, made a welcome return to the side for the first time since April.
City almost added a second goal on 82 minutes when Hakim received the ball from Bailey and smartly twisted past his marker and saw his shot into the goalmouth rebound out to Hunt who, after beating one defender, shot gently through to the keeper.