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Woeful Saints let off lightly by Chesham's Generals
Any confidence St Albans City may have garnered from two consecutive home Southern League victories was not evident at Chesham United on Bank Holiday Monday as the Saints put in a wretched performance en route to a flattering 1-0 Premier Division defeat at Amy Lane.
It would be kind just to say that City have been uninspiring in any of their opening four league games this season and clearly the patience of James Gray is wearing thin as the Saints joint manager made clear when speaking to the St Albans Review after the game.
“We deserved nothing out of that game; we deserved a good hiding really. If they (the players) can’t take simple instructions onto the pitch then they don’t deserve to be here and we’ll have to look at it over the next few weeks.”
City were a goal down inside four minutes courtesy of Inih Effiong’s first goal of the season and had the former St Albans striker been in clinical form then he himself could have condemned his old club to a substantial defeat.
Chesham were unchanged from a most impressive win over Stourbridge on Saturday whereas City can point to having several players injured or unavailable.
Work commitments ruled out Chris O’Leary and Saturday’s hero Chris Henry. Greg Ngoyi is currently in Nigeria while injury accounted for Ben Martin (out for 2-3 weeks), Mark Nwokeji, and Matt Taylor.
Despite all the absentees midfielder Ryan Ashe found himself relegated to the substitutes bench after a quiet start to the season.
Playing up the slope at The Meadow for the first half, Chesham wasted no time in exposing City’s frailties and could have been three goals to the good inside the opening five minutes.
Paul Bastock was again in good form in the City goal and was soon called into action to save from Steve Wales who caused City numerous problems throughout.
United made the decisive breakthrough on four minutes when a ball in from the Chesham left caught City napping and Effiong strode clear before cutting to the right of Bastock and poking the ball home before Ryan Wharton could slide in to make a tackle.
A minute later and again Chesham looked to be in on goal but this time Wharton did intervene in time.
The Generals continued to dominate and Wales sent a sumptuous volley just over the visitor’s goal following a Bruce Wilson cross.
City’s first attempt on goal saw a scuffed effort from John Frendo bounce tamely through to home keeper Shane Gore while Bastock was soon back in the thick of the action to save a dangerous dipping effort from Dave Fotheringham.
Frendo is looking an increasingly isolated and forlorn figure at the head of the City attack but he did force Gore to dive to his left to save a header following Lee Chappell’s cross from the City left.
Frendo may have scored in excess of 40 goals for Hitchin Town last season, but for as long as the service from the flanks, from Aston Goss and Aryan Takbakhsh in particular, remains as poor as it has so far this season then the likelihood of him reaching even half that figure this season recedes with every passing game.
That said, Frendo’s finishing has also been found wanting in the opening games.
From early on it was evident that James Comley was frustrated with what was going on around him and the City skipper vented his feelings with a surging run and shot that Gore saved diving to his left.
St Albans had a let off when Wilson chested down a John Kyriacou cross but saw his point blank shot charged down by Bastock. The ball fell to an off balance James Potton whose sliced shot flew over an open goal.
David Keenleyside, in the starting line up for the first time since April, tested Gore with a fine volley from close on 30 yards that the keeper had to watch carefully before catching.
In the final seconds of the half a long ball from the Chesham left was pulled back at the far post by a stretching Wales and almost walked into his own net by a surprised Darren Locke who cleared his lines at the last moment.
City supporters had a right to expect better from their boys after the break but the side - as unbelievable as it seems after the early performances - tipped as title challengers failed to muster as much as a single on-target shot throughout the final 45 minutes. The white flag had long since been flown.
Fortunately for City the home side were in poor form in front of goal.
Wales was denied low down by Bastock when one-on-one with the keeper; Effiong delayed his shot too long when in a similar position while Wilson and Wales embarrassingly left the ball for each other when clear and allowed Howard Hall to move across and save the day for City.
Wharton made a goal line clearance to thwart Wales while Potton kept the generosity going when stabbing wide following a Toby Little low cross to the back post. Late on Potton also fired wide after an excellent long run.
Richard Graham was sent into the fray on 56 minutes and at last City possessed a player willing to put a foot on the ball, but even the talented Irishman sent the occasional pass astray.
City had strong penalty appeals rejected when Frendo challenged for the ball that then appeared to strike a defender on the arm, as the ball ran free Graham sent an out-swinging effort just beyond an upright.
A rare City threat saw Comley scoop the ball into the goalmouth but behind Layne Eadie and as the City substitute spun round his rushed shot drifted well wide.
During the final ten minutes Effiong really ought to have finished City off but the tall striker put two soft headers gently through to Bastock.
St Albans could have snatched a thoroughly underserved point in the final minute when Goss whipped a good cross over from the right wing that Comley met at the back post with a downward shot that bounced up and landed on the roof of the net.
Prior to the kick off a minute’s applause was held in memory of the former St Albans City and Chesham United fender Ryan Moran who sadly passed away earlier this summer at the age of 31.
During the game collections were made around the stadium for the Isobel Hospice that cared for Ryan during his final weeks. An auction was also held for a City shirt signed by the current St Albans squad; this was won by the Saints chairman Nick Archer.
Chesham United: S.Gore, J.Kyriacou, D.Braithwaite (D.Gordon 75), M.Lambert, L.Stewart, S.Thomas, D.Fotheringham, S.Wales (T.Little 65), I.Effiong, J.Potton, B.Wilson (C.Watters 79), subs; L.Archer, A.Brown.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, J.Kaloczi (D.Green 56), R.Wharton, D.Locke, A.Tajbakhsh (R.Graham 56), J.Comley, J.Frendo, D.Keenleyside (L.Eadie 60), A.Goss, subs; R.Ashe, E.Bailey.
Goal: 4 1-0 Effiong.
Referee: Dave Bushell (Tottenham).