With less than a third of the season gone it may be too early for St Albans City to press the panic button but Saturday’s lame 3-0 Southern League defeat to AFC Totton at a cold Testwood Stadium offered little evidence that the Saints are on the verge of ending their current run of just one win in seven outings.
City were two goals down inside 20 minutes and even when David Howell’s side saw a lot of the ball after the interval virtually no threat was offered to the home goal.
Instead of looking refreshed after having a free Saturday the previous weekend, City looked lethargic early on and Totton, playing only their second league game since mid September, were only too happy to take full advantage.
The Stags gave an early warning of what was to come when Ryan Hill’s long ball sent Dave Allen clear of the City backline but Curtis Ujah recovered to block the shot for the first corner of the game.
City, having started poorly, had an opportunity to open the scoring when a Danny Gordon pass down the left allowed Lewis Toomey to touch the ball wide of keeper Gareth Barfoot and clip it into the middle where it was cleared only as far as Sean Shields.
The City winger’s shot was blocked with Ryan Watts also unable to turn the ball in.
Watts, though, had an unwitting hand in the opening Totton goal on nine minutes when he fouled Michael Gosney out on the Stags right flank.
Gosney curled a left-footed free kick towards the back post where two Totton players roamed unmarked with Jamie Whisken sending a glancing header past the unprotected Nick Jupp.
Boosted by the early breakthrough Totton pushed forward with conviction and after Jonathan Davies flashed the ball across the face of the goal, the elusive Richard Gillespie robbed City captain James Gray and fired just over the Saints goal.
Whisken went close with another header before Dave Allen’s flicked headed sent Gillespie charging into the penalty area where he was adjudged by linesman Nigel Baker to have been fouled by Ujah.
From the resulting penalty, on 20 minutes, Gosney sent Jupp the wrong way to maintain his record of scoring in all three games between the two clubs.
Gillespie squandered a chance to add to his tally of 14 goals for the season when shooting over whilst David Ijaha, on 31 minutes, mustered the Saints first on-target effort of the day although it lacked any power to seriously test Barfoot.
A minute later City’s best chance of the day went begging when Barry Hayles, with his best pass of an off-colour performance, sent Toomey through the middle.
The Saints leading marksman neatly sidestepped the advancing Barfoot but shot wastefully over the target from just inside the penalty area.
A couple of tempting crosses by Watts suggested City could yet find a way back into the game while Sean Shields did well out on the right before having a crisp low shot saved at the near post.
Just prior to the interval Totton almost added a third when a James Coutts shot deflected wide of the goal off Gray but was collected by Gillespie whose first time effort was blocked by the diving Jupp.
Both sides created half chances soon after the restart with Barfoot and Jupp moving quickly to make timely interceptions before Toomey, receiving a pass from Chris Seeby, spun quickly on the edge of the penalty area only to fire wide.
On 70 minutes the game was put well out of City’s reach with Totton scoring a classic counter-attacking goal.
Three times in quick succession Watts had crosses cleared and from the third Whisken helped the ball up to Davies who collected possession inside his own half.
Racing clear the midfielder demonstrated great composure to evade Gordon’s desperate lunge before beating Jupp with a smart right-footed shot to the keeper’s right from 17 yards.
With Simon Martin out injured, Richard Graham having failed a late fitness and Chris Henry unavailable, the City bench lacked experience, giving Howell limited options when looking to make changes and the Saints boss admitted that this was the their poorest away performance of the season.
The Saints are back in action on Tuesday evening, 6th November, with a trip to Redditch United in Southern League, kick off 7.45pm.
AFC Totton: G.Barfoot, R.Hill, L.Whitley, R.Bottomley, J.Whisken, D.Allen, C.Pettefer, J.Davies (L.Roberts 90), J.Coutts, R.Gillespie (C.Mason 85), M.Gosney (J.Rudd 79), subs; J.Odam, R.Casey.
St Albans City: N.Jupp, C.Seeby, D.Gordon, D.Ijaha, C.Ujah, J.Gray, Se.Shields, M.Hyde, L.Toomey, B.Hayles (J.Onieva 62), R.Watts, subs: T.Charles, M.Diarra, H.Carr.
Goals: 9 1-0 Whisken, 20 2-0 Gosney (p), 70 3-0 Davies.
Referee: Tony Foster (Fareham).