By David Tavener
A second goal in two games for James Fisher and a brace each for Paul Hakim and Jonathan Hunt carried St Albans City to an emphatic 5-0 victory over relegation bound Bognor Regis Town at Nyewood Lane on Saturday as the Saints chalked up their biggest away win for over three years.
In reclaiming a place in the top half of Blue Square South City were ruthless in their destruction of the excessively young and inexperienced Rocks side.
Such is the confidence sweeping though the City side following big wins over lowly Basingstoke and now Bognor, that manager Steve Castle is no longer gazing over his shoulder at the relegation trap door but instead talks optimistically of snatching a promotion play-off position.
Castle was forced into one change from the XI that beat Basingstoke after a bout of food poisoning struck down left back Scott Cousins. In came Alex Bailey who is back for his second stint with the club after a spell in Aldershot Reserves.
But any selection problems City may have pale into insignificance compared to the troubles facing their south coast hosts.
Earlier this season a vital source of income was lost as the clubhouse burnt down, the clubs management team resigned after a series of bad results, the club had seven points deducted for playing an ineligible player and, in recent weeks, the clubs as been forced into fielding a side of teenagers after crippling budget cuts.
Despite all of this, recent results have been surprisingly encouraging and for the opening ten minutes on Saturday Bognor looked capable of giving St Albans an uncomfortable afternoon with striker Jahson Downes posing several problems.
But the wind was taken out of the Rocks sails on 12 minutes as City opened the scoring with what proved to be the best goal of the game. Hassan Sulaiman, continuing his run of good form at right back, played a ball from close on the half way line up to Paul Hakim on the edge of the penalty area.
With a well-cushioned touch Hakim laid the ball inside to Fisher who beat home keeper Anthony Ender with a stunning first time right-footed drive low to the custodians right.
Once behind it seemed likely that Bognor's youngsters would struggle but to the credit of manager Darin Killpartrick the young Rocks continued with a passing game that has been the clubs trademark for many years.
City were equally keen to play with the ball on the ground and, to a degree, the two sides cancelled each other out.
But City were rewarded with a second goal on 37 minutes. Hakim had a shot charged down with the ball ricocheting out to the left to Hector Mackie whose low crossed was partially knocked away but only as far as Hakim.
This time the Saints leading scorer added to his tally with a shot past Ender that took a generous deflection.
Bognor made a double change at the interval but were effectively put out of the game in the 49th minute when Jonathan Hunt swept home a left-footed penalty after Duncan Jupp, in trying to shut out the impressive Solomon Shields, inadvertently fell on the ball and handled.
Two minutes later Bognor skipper Danny Smith and City's Fisher were both cautioned for some off the ball shoving. Smith was one of five Bognor players booked by referee Harry Lennard. The showing of so many yellow cards to Bognor players seemed excessive, especially as both sides were penalised for 13 free kicks in a match containing barely a single challenge of malice.
At two goals to the good City were now playing with increased confidence and went four up on 66 minutes. City skipper Ben Martin launched the ball down the Saints right for Hakim to give chase. Town defender Michael Byrne sought to see the ball out for a goal kick only for Hakim to dart along the goalline and from a tight angle struck the ball into the goalmouth.
Ender fell onto the ball but could only help it roll agonisingly over the line for the striker's 16th goal of the season.
Four minutes later City's first win at Nyewood Lane in 16 years was cemented by a fifth goal.
Jupp was cautioned for a foul out on the City left on Mackie, Hunt curled in the free kick right-footed with the ball just eluding Hakim and drifting inside Enders left hand upright for the midfielders second goal of the afternoon.
Bognor's torrid day got worse on 75 minutes when Ender rushed from his goal to thwart Cohen as the striker burst through the middle. Cohen was first to the ball, Ender had the misfortune to catch the bottom of Cohen's boot with his foot and writhed on the ground in agony.
Ender left the pitch on a stretcher and was taken to hospital with a suspected broken right ankle. The Rocks saw out the rest of the game with defender Andrew Pearson between the sticks and other than for watching a scuffed effort from Shields go wide the stand-in keeper was untroubled.