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Saints Super-sub Henry leaves Banbury cross
John Feneley, the St Albans City kit-man, suggested that the City players should enter the National Lottery on Saturday night after seeing the Saints pull off an extraordinary 3-2 Southern League victory over a superior Banbury United at a drenched Clarence Park.
City rode their good fortune in securing a second successive home win to end the first week of the new season, but those present also witnessed a staggering end to the game that saw all five goals scored within the final 17 minutes.
That the Puritans of Banbury were not comfortably ahead before City turned the game on its head with the introduction of Chris Henry early in the second half, owed much to an excellent display by St Albans evergreen 43-year-old goalkeeper Paul Bastock.
The Bostonian saved a first half penalty, and the point-blank follow up, and also pulled off two other excellent saves to keep the home side in the hunt when a dismal team performance – at least for more than an hour - deserved nothing more than a first home defeat to an impressive Banbury side.
After the game Ed Stein, the Banbury manager and one time City assistant manager, declared himself pleased with his team’s performance adding that the better side lost. Few would argue.
City were unchanged from the win over Hungerford but lost skipper Ben Martin with a hamstring injury on the stroke of half time. Ryan Wharton stepped in ably for the remainder of the game.
Banbury included new signing Anderson Pinto and the 6’9” former Saints striker Leon Simpson.
Banbury threatened early on through troublesome Kynan Isaac while Pinto, from close on 30 yards, sent in an effort that Bastock needed two attempts to collect in the teeming rain.
John Frendo, still searching for his first league goal in a City shirt and posing little threat during this game, had a soft shot saved by Puritans keeper Ben McNamara before City defender Darren Locke was booked for upending Isaac.
From the ensuing free kick Bastock denied Isaac when making his first spectacular intervention to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Midway through the half a quick throw by Adeyinka Talabi sent Isaac away and the 20-year-old arrowed his low shot across Bastock and just beyond the far post.
Banbury’s dominance ought to have been rewarded with a goal on 31 minutes when referee Neil Davies adjudged City defender Locke to have impeded Kyal McNulty inside the penalty area with a raised foot as the Banbury played headed goalwards.
Scott Bridges struck the penalty low to Bastock’s left but the keeper beat the ball out and then blocked Simpson’s weak follow up with his knees before Bridges’ second attempt was deflected out for a corner.
Bastock frustrated the Puritans once more just before the half came to a close when springing high to his right to palm away a header from Wayne Blossom following a Pinto corner.
St Albans provided more of a test for Banbury after the interval but Bastock continued to be the busier of the two keepers as he dealt with a long range effort from John Mbamarah and then got the faintest of touches to concede a corner to a shot from Simpson that really should have resulted in a goal.
It was soon to be St Albans turn to squander a succession of chances as the arrival of Henry at last added fire to a pedestrian City performance.
Henry slid a fine cross over from the left flank that the incoming Aston Goss ought to have drilled home but instead hammered it high over the target.
Frendo was next to let Banbury off the hook with two poor efforts when well placed. City will hope that last season’s leading goal scorer in the Southern League will find his touch soon and return to his Golden Boot form.
City opened the scoring on 73 minutes with a move begun inside their own penalty with Bastock kicking the ball out to right-back Howard Hall who in turn played it wide to Aryan Tajbakhsh.
Quickly the play moved inside to Frendo who cut Banbury open with a low through ball to the possibly offside Goss who raced clear before squaring a pass for the unmarked Henry to score his first Premier Division goal of the season.
Unabashed, Banbury drew level from the penalty spot on 78 minutes when Talabi fired low to Bastock’s right after James Comley was deemed to have pushed Blossom to the ground.
The outcome looked to have been decided on 80 minutes when United took the lead with a fine goal.
Mbamarah spread a good ball out to the feet of Isaac who cut inside and ran at Locke before sending in a left-footed shot that Bastock did well to beat out at full-stretch, but as the home defence stood static the Brazilian-born Puritans substitute Juliano Menezes hammered the rebound into the Hatfield Road net.
In what was to ultimately prove to be their undoing Banbury went in search of a third goal when securing the lead they had may have been more rewarding.
Five minutes from time Tajbakhsh, after a quiet second half, was replaced by David Keenleyside and within four minutes the former London Colney player hauled City back on to level terms with glorious rising effort from 20 yards that flew to the right of McNamara.
Two minutes later City grabbed a sensational victory with a goal on the counter-attack that will surely haunt Banbury all season.
Locke headed clear a Bridges’ corner. Goss challenged for the falling ball that broke kindly to Comley who went forward before putting a good ball through to the advancing Henry.
The City winger twisted inside then outside as Puritans skipper Luke Cray stayed close by and even forced Henry away from goal. But with a quick turn Henry was back on track and beat McNamara at the foot of his near, right-hand, post with perfectly placed left-footed shot.
But the drama was still far from over and during almost seven minutes of added time City survived an anxious moment when Isaac broke into the box from the right flank.
Isaac’s ball into the goalmouth was clawed away by Bastock but only to Manny Soetan whose volley clipped the top of the crossbar before going over the target.
And with that a truly absorbing finale came to an end with City three points to the better but, bizarrely, the vanquished Puritans taking most heart from the sodden afternoon.
St Albans City return to Southern League action on Bank Holiday Monday with the short trip to Chesham United. Kick off at Amy Lane is at 3pm.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, C.O’Leary, B.Martin (R.Wharton 45), D.Locke, A.Tajbakhsh (D.Keenleyside 85), J.Comley, R.Ashe (C.Henry 57), A.Goss, subs; D.Green, E.Bailey.
Booked: Locke, O’Leary, Frendo.
Banbury United: B.McNamara, L.Cray, J.Mbamarah, S.Bridges, W.Blossom, T.Ryan, A.Talabi (M.Soetan 83), K.McNulty, L.Simpson (J.de Menezes 65), K.Isaac, A.Pinto (A.Morgan 70), subs; B.Nikansah, K.Westwood.
Goals: 73 1-0 Henry, 78 1-1 Talabi (p), 80 1-2 Menezes, 89 2-2 Keenleyside, 90 3-2 Henry.
Referee: Neil Davies (North London).
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