VIDEO VIDEO St Albans City’s bid for a shot at the Big Boys in the FA Cup floundered with the dampest of damp squibs at Clarence Park on Saturday as Concord Rangers, through Joe Gardner’s fine strike, encountered few problems in removing City at the final qualifying round stage of the competition. City went into the game on the back of two good wins and roared on by the largest crowd seen at Clarence Park for a qualifying round FA Cup tie for exactly 20 years. Everything was in place for a memorable afternoon. The memorable bit certainly happened, as Concord Rangers moved through to the competition proper for the first time in their 45 years history. But for City there was nothing more than frustration and bitter recriminations. The frustration was borne of putting in a low-key performance on a very big occasion. The bitter recrimination was aired by some supporters at the absence of star striker John Frendo who was at a ‘family function.’ With Frendo elsewhere, City fielded Lee Clarke in attack with support supplied by the in-form Sean Shields. Unfortunately for the home side Shields was kept out of the play for far too much of the game and Clarke was left with precious little to feed off. In the middle of the Park City were very much second best in terms of winning the ball and using it positively. Concord, making their first visit to the Park, showed themselves to be a neat passing side. Indeed, if there is a criticism of the way Rangers played, then it would be that they were over-elaborate in the City half of the pitch, and chances to seriously test the home side were lost as they looked for the perfect opening that seldom came their way. Against a backdrop of glorious autumnal colours from the trees that surround the football stadium at Clarence Park, the match got underway with the visitors being quickest to settle and go on the offensive. That said, Shields tried his luck inside the opening 15 seconds but his effort at the Hatfield Road goal bounced harmlessly wide. The first genuine goalscoring opportunity came from a familiar route for City this season as Lee Chappell arrowed a long throw into the penalty area. Ben Martin jumped but the ball clipped the head of Jack Lampe and went to Clarke at the back post. Clarke’s header back into the goalmouth was knocked over the bar by James Kaloczi. Another aerial attack almost led to a goal when a Shields corner was glanced on by Steve Wales and hit Rangers player James White, forcing the debut-making keeper Joe Wright to pull off an outstanding tip over for another corner. City also went close to claiming a freak goal when Charlie Gorman, who was highly impressive during the first half, whipped over a cross that Wright allowed to drop behind him when it, in fact, missed the target by not many inches. It was a rare blip by Wright who, otherwise, was in good form and banished from the memory a nightmare afternoon he endured when visiting St Albans with Bishop’s Stortford in August. Concord finally threatened the home goal late in the half when the industrious Gardner had a shot charged down and seconds later Steve Cawley flashed a good effort just over the home goal. The pressure was maintained with Lewis Taaffe heading over from a cross by Gardner. Possibly City’s best chance of the day went begging when Clarke cushioned a James Comley cross into the path of Wales, but the former England Non-League international had to stretch to reach the ball and could not get any power behind his shot. In open play City continued to struggle to find any rhythm and it was of little surprise that the next threat again came from the air, as Kaloczi headed on a Chappell throw and Wright made a second flying punch away high to his left. The visitors forced Welch into his first save of the day almost on the stroke of half time when Sam Collins sent a low shot towards goal. Concord stepped up a gear straight after the interval and St Albans struggled to contain Danny Cowley’s side. A lofted ball forward by White saw Taaffe get the better of Martin as the ball landed, but after being forced wide the Concord striker turned and curled a fine effort just beyond the far post. City continued to live dangerously with Taaffe stretching to clip a volley just over the top following another Gardner cross. For a while it seemed just a matter of time before Rangers would score, and on 64 minutes history was created when a cross by White ballooned off Ward at the near post and was superbly volleyed home by Gardner some 12 yards out. Cawley, sent clear by Gardner, had a great opportunity to increase the lead but slashed his rushed shot into the band of travelling supporters. Another chance was squandered when Welch clawed away a Cawley cross only as far as Gardner whose half volley went comfortably wide. City have made good use of their substitutes this season but, for once, the three new faces – Sam Corcoran, Geoff Mitchell and David Keenleyside – failed to make a significant impact. Even sending the giant Martin into the attack for closing stages failed to ruffle Concord’s feathers. At the opposite end of the pitch Concord continued to pose problems with Jeremy Walker sending a long range shot just over the goal. Despite bringing Shields more into play as the half wore on, St Albans still struggled to find a way through a most efficient Concord back line. City joint-manager James Gray admitted that Concord deserved their victory and when speaking after the game hinted that the absent Frendo will have some explaining to do when he returns to Clarence Park during the week. ‘He let me down, he let the boys down. He is a talisman and will have given Concord a big boost to have seen the team sheet and see that he’s not on it,’ said Gray. St Albans now have a free week in which to put their cup exit behind them and prepare for next Saturday’s (1st November) Conference South fixture away to Bath City.