After the elation of an eight-goal thriller in midweek St Albans City came crashing back to earth on Saturday when giving a distinctly inept performance that culminated in a 2-0 Southern League defeat to an impressive Banbury United at the Spencer Stadium.
Saints manager David Howell, with one eye on Monday’s home game with Hemel Hempstead Town, opted for a rotation system and made five changes to the side that started against Hitchin Town.
The outcome, unfortunately, was an unmitigated flop with the midfield seldom in possession and the ball virtually never held onto when played forward.
Banbury showed just one change from the side that defeated Redditch United in midweek with Ollie Stanbridge replacing Sam Youngs. Stanbridge had come off the bench to score the winner against Redditch and then picked up the sponsors man of the match award on Saturday.
City gave a debut to highly rated goalkeeper Nick Jupp, who missed the first four games of the season due to playing in the Great Britain Universities side that reached the final of World Student games in China.
But his first outing in a City shirt is not one that he will reflect on with much joy having been dismissed for hauling down Aaron Woodley midway through the second half.
With no substitute keeper on the bench Ryan Moran went between the sticks, not for the first time during his 151 games for the club, and pulled off an outstanding save from Green’s ensuing spot kick.
But to blame the dismissal of Jupp for the Saints second defeat of the season would be well wide of the mark.
With a strong wind at their backs and, at least for the opening minutes, driving rain behind them, Banbury took the game to City from the start and dominated the half.
City threatened to make a better fist of things after the interval but once the early promise of substitute Jerome Walker had been blunted the Puritans took control and attacked with greater penetration.
A number of early Banbury moves were scuppered by over-hit passes that, pushed on by the wind, ran out of play.
The City woodwork was rattled as early as the 15th minute when a flowing move across the park ended with attack-minded right-back Simeon Williams playing the ball up to Woodley whose angled shot on the turn struck the outside of Jupp’s left hand upright.
One of the most impressive performers was Banbury youngster Ben Polk whose runs from deep and cleanly struck free kicks caused the Saints several problems.
Polk turned Barrie Matthews inside out midway through the half and teed up Green only for the striker to lose possession with a wayward pass.
St Albans first attempt of the afternoon saw former Puritans skipper Nathan Haisley, on his debut, lash the ball high out of the Spencer Stadium.
City’s best chance of the half saw Danny Hart sent clear inside the penalty area by Sakho Bakare but the former Harrow player’s shot was comfortably beaten down by the advancing United keeper Andy Kemp.
Polk caused more problems for the visitors with a good cross from the left that Williams met well at the back post with Jupp stretching well to tip the header over for a corner.
City made two changes at the start of the second half with Rob Haworth and Walker replacing Marvin Alebiosu and Hart. But within a minute Haworth was out of the game with a thigh injury and substituted by Joackim Ehui.
The improvement to City’s play fizzled out by the hour and on 64 minutes an error by Moran, St Albans best player on the day, led to the opening goal.
Woodley flicked on a long goal kick, Moran attempted to clear but completely missed the ball and allowed Green to run through and slot past Jupp.
City should have been level a minute later when Sean Shields cut the ball back from wide on the left, debut-making work experience youngster Nathan Ralph crossed into the penalty area where Walker held off Ben Thackeray before shooting low to Kemp’s left.
The keeper did well to push the ball away but only into the path of Bakare and somehow the Frenchman shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Worse was to come on 69 minutes when Jupp failed to catch a bouncing through ball when under pressure from Woodley and pulled the Puritans striker down as he looked to walk the ball home.
Referee John Mayhew despatched Jupp forthwith but Green missed out on notching his fifth goal of the season when Moran flung himself to his left to save in style.
But three minutes later and Banbury did make the game safe when Joe Coleman played the ball up to Green whose perfect pass into the path of Woodley was swept to the left of Moran as the stand-in keeper fell to his right.
Banbury pressed for more goals but Moran saved well from Justin Dowling and Green to limit the damage.