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City win again as Henry cuts through the Steelmen
Chris Henry was the toast of St Albans City as the elusive winger, for the second time in a week, came off the substitutes bench to plunder the goal that clinched three hard-worked for Southern League points with a 1-0 win over Corby Town at a sunny Clarence Park on Saturday.
Henry’s decisive blow, just two minutes from time, maintained the Saints 100 percent winning home record this season and the clamour to give the Londoner a place in the starting line up is sure to grow after he once again handed his goal-shy team-mates victory.
The injection of pace and goal-threat that Henry brings to the team adds to the pressure that is building on the two men currently filling the wide positions, Aston Goss and Aryan Tajbakhsh, although the management team still appear reluctant to start with Henry.
Corby arrived at the Park having picked up four points from their two previous games under the caretaker leadership of Mark Peters, the former assistant manager at St Albans.
Given that the only shot City mustered on target was the one that secured the win, then Peters can already have been said to have done a good job in strengthening a defence that conceded nine goals in its first two games of the season.
At the other end of the pitch City were thankful once more to the excellent form of the ageless Paul Bastock, who pulled off two crucial saves during the first half when faced with one-on-one situations, and in the second half when he dived full length to keep out a free kick with his most spectacular save of the day.
Strangely City, missing the injured Darren Locke, Ben Martin, Chris O’Leary, Mark Nwokeji, Matt Taylor and the absent Greg Ngoyi, dominated the possession, particularly during the opening 45 minutes, but it was Corby, with an on-target shot count of 7-1 in their favour, who possessed the penetration.
St Albans, playing down the slope during the first half, ought to have taken an early lead when James Comley cut the ball back from goal line to John Frendo but last season’s top goal scorer in the Southern League remains looking for his first Premier Division goal of the current campaign as his shot flashed wide from 15 yards.
Frendo was out of luck on two further occasions during the half when just unable to turn in crosses from Tajbakhsh and Howard Hall.
Bastock first came to the fore when moving swiftly from his line to save point-blank from Tom Berwick and later in the half the City keeper used his legs well to deny the Steelmen’s striker for a second time.
Six minutes from the interval Peters’ made a bold double substitution when withdrawing Tom McGowan and Tom James for the lively Josh Moreman and on-loan Peterborough United player Claudio Dias.
The influential McGowan was suffering from injury while James’ departure was a tactical switch.
St Albans had bossed the play for much of the opening half but there was precious little threat close to goal and Town keeper Paul Walker was faultless in plucking the ball from the air on the rare occasion when the home side whipped in a dangerous looking cross.
The second half was a more open affair, particularly during the latter stages.
Corby could have taken the lead within 18 seconds of the restart when joint-manager James Gray, in the starting XI for the first time since February, carelessly put an attempted back pass straight to Berwick who shot wastefully into the side-netting.
Henry replaced Goss on 56 minutes but it took some time for him to begin to terrorise the visitors.
A powerful run by Moreman won Corby a corner and from Liam Hurst’s in-swinging cross Paul Malone sent a clever over-head effort a few yards wide of the target.
Corby’s good patch continued with Bastock forced to punch away a firm effort from Moreman while the Town substitute almost found a way through after a long run only for Hall’s outstretched leg to send the goal-bound shot out for a corner.
From Hurst’s corner Bastock saved Sam Ives’s header easily.
City continued to struggle to seriously trouble the visitor’s keeper as looping headers from Hall and Gray landed on the roof of the net.
Henry began to liven up proceedings when out-stripping Nabil Shariff and then cutting the ball to Frendo, whose deflected shot flew across the face of the goal.
City tended to over elaborate close to goal when a few more shots might have brought better rewards. Ives’ demonstrated a more direct method for Corby although his effort from 20 yards went just over the home goal.
As the game moved into the final ten minutes Henry looked to have set up Frendo only for Walker to once more pull off an excellent catch to the winger’s cross.
Four minutes from time a long pass by Richard Graham was superbly brought down by Henry and after drifting away from Shariff he threaded the ball to Frendo.
The City striker’s goal drought looked to be over as his first time left-footed shot beat Walker, only to thud into the keeper’s left hand upright and bounce all the way across the face of the goal before going out for a goal kick.
Gray, who generally had a decent game, was booked a minute later for hauling down Berwick. The Town striker took the free kick himself and only a fully extended Bastock kept the ball out with a wonderful right-handed save close to the post.
At last, the play was now open and flowing and on 88 minutes City cracked the decisive blow.
Frendo shrugged off Malone in the middle of Corby half and fed a good ball up to Henry inside the penalty area.
After feigning to cut inside Shariff, Henry drove the ball inside Walker’s near, right hand, post to score for the seventh time as a substitute.
The relief was almost as evident as the celebrations and a minute later Henry was only a whisker away from winning a penalty when the beleaguered Shariff upended him right on the edge of the penalty area. Fortunately it mattered not a jot as City were already home and dry.
The Saints win lifts them to ninth in the Southern League and on Monday night, 2nd September, they visit sixth-placed county rivals Hitchin Town.
There is more than just local bragging rights at stake as the two clubs are currently the lowest scorers in the top half of the Premier Division. That is something that John Frendo, scorer of 44 goals in 48 games for Hitchin last season before moving to St Albans in the summer, will doubtless be looking to correct.
Kick off at Top Field is at 7.45pm.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, J.Gray, R.Wharton, R.Ashe (E.Bailey 80), R.Graham, J.Comley, J.Frendo, A.Tajbakhsh (D.Keenleyside 72), A.Goss (C.Henry 56), subs; J.Kaloczi, L.Eadie.
Booked: Gray, Graham.
Corby Town: P.Walker, S.Ives, G.Jellyman, T.McGowan (C.Dias 39), P.Malone, T.Ingram (C.Carruthers 75), N.Shariff, L.Hurst, T.Berwick, D.Mayo, T.James (J.Moreman 39), subs; A.Viera, M.Arber.
Goal: 88 1-0 Henry.
Referee: Paul Howard (Lewisham).
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