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Saints continue late surge and put Stags to the sword
Two early goals set St Albans City on the path to a comfortable 3-0 victory over AFC Totton at Clarence Park on Saturday and moved the Saints to within one point of the Southern League play-off places.
Overall the game was hardly one to thrill the 328 doughty souls that braved showers and a blustery wind but the City side certainly knows how to grind down the opposition.
Converting three of the six attempts City had on the visitor’s goal is a fine return, and St Albans gave the impression that had more goals been required then they could have been attained against a Totton side that has lost more games on its travels than any other in the Premier Division this season.
That said, the Stags from Hampshire had more than their fair share of the play prior to the interval but had trouble piercing a City defence that cost joint manager James Gray £100 after he challenged the side to keep a clean sheet.
With ankle injuries ruling out Layne Eadie and James Kaloczi, the Saints were forced into making changes. Fabio Bufano was called in at left-back for his first appearance in the First team for two months, while Curtis Shaw made his first start in midfield.
A third change saw Brad Wadkins recalled with David Keenleyside returning to the bench.
Fresh from two wins in the past week City made a flying start with the opening goal coming on four minutes after Totton defender Ross Bottomley headed a Richard Graham cross out to concede the first corner of the game.
City captain James Comley played the corner short to Chris Henry before dropping deeper to take the return.
Comley then drove a bouncing in-swinging cross towards the back post where Greg Ngoyi drifted behind his marker and got the slightest of touches to flick the ball wide of the diving Ross Casey for his 11th goal in 14 games.
Saints keeper Nick Jupp denied Totton a quick equaliser when diving to his right to beat away a well placed Ryan Hill free kick from just outside the penalty area.
St Albans doubled their lead on 16 minutes courtesy of a goal that was stylishly created and finished in grand slapstick fashion.
Comley played a free kick short to the excellent Graham who chipped a forward pass to Wadkins. The bustling Wadkins found Ngoyi on the edge of the box.
The deadly poacher slipped a good ball out into the path of Josh Urquhart who arrowed a low first time cross just inside the six-yard box at the back post.
An ill-advised back pass in the tightest of positions resulted in the ball bouncing from the foot of the surprised Casey into Henry and then into the goal.
Henry has scored several spectacular goals this season but he will be perfectly happy to get his 10th of the season in this manner; it at least provided the cue for him and Ngoyi to perform one of their familiar dance routines.
Totton ended a run of eight consecutive away defeats with a draw against Kettering in their most recent away match and for a while suggested that they may yet be able to salvage something from a fast deteriorating situation.
Recent addition Baily Cargill, on loan from Bournemouth, forced Jupp to save a well struck half-volley and from the ensuing partially cleared corner the industrious Luke Roberts drove a powerful effort narrowly off target.
Casey blunted two City counter-attacks when moving quickly from his goal but most of the action up to the interval focused on the home goal.
Stefan Brown twice failed to take advantage of good positions inside the City penalty area and Cargill curled a free kick over the home goal following a handball by Bufano that did appear to be inside the 18-yard line.
The half ended with Hill curling a Totton free kick over the City goal.
The Stags made a double change for the start of the second period with Luke Whitley and Michael Gosney being sent into the fray.
Gosney had been a thorn in City’s side in the three previous games between the clubs but on this occasion he was surprisingly ineffective.
Wadkins came within a whisker of adding a third goal with a cross out on the right touchline that sailed over the diving Casey and just beyond the far post.
Henry and Ngoyi proved a handful all afternoon for the Stags defenders, and on 56 minutes a shot by Henry was deflected to Ngoyi whose goalbound shot on the turn was superbly turned wide by Casey.
From the ensuing corner Casey was beaten for a third time as Comley’s near post cross from the left flicked off the head of Stags player James Coutts and was volleyed in at the back post by Wadkins.
Totton’s response during the final 30 minutes was somewhat tame with a crisp effort just wide by Brown being their biggest threat to City’s lead.
St Albans looked to have scored a fourth goal on 69 minutes with a move fit to grace any stadium.
Ryan Wharton broke up a Totton attack and City worked the ball forward patiently through Urquhart, Bufano, Graham and Comley whose surging run paved the way for Henry to guide a perfect cross into the path of Ngoyi who, as he put the ball into the York Road net, was flagged offside by the tightest of decisions.
Another good move saw Shaw step aside to let a Graham pass roll through to Elliot Bailey but Casey did well to charge down the teenager’s shot.
St Albans City: N.Jupp, J.Urquhart, F.Bufano (M.Scott 76), C.Shaw, R.Wharton, J.Bruce, R.Graham, B.Wadkins (D.Keenleyside 63), G.Ngoyi (E.Bailey 83), J.Comley, C.Henry, subs; S.Martin, M.Taylor.
Booked: Wharton, Bufano, Keenleyside.
AFC Totton: R.Casey, R.Hill (L.Whitley 46), B.Cargill, R.Bottomley, J.Whisken, S.Brown, L.Roberts, C.Pettefer, J.Coutts, R.Gillespie (C.Feeney 61), C.Mason (M.Gosney 46), subs; J.Rudd, G.Barfoot.
Goals: 4 1-0 Ngoyi, 16 2-0 Henry, 57 3-0 Wadkins.
Referee: Sean Feerick (Peterborough).