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Rampant Saints in FA Cup rout of Enfield Town
St Albans City roared into the 2nd Round Qualifying of the FA Cup on Saturday with Mark Nwokeji scoring a hat-trick during an emphatic 6-1 dismantling of Isthmian League side Enfield Town at Clarence Park.
A week after notching his first goal for the Saints, 31-year-old Nwokeji rattled up the first English Cup triple by a City player at the Park for 14 years as the Saints sauntered to their biggest FA Cup success in 17 years.
But while the final score-line may sound like an absolute thrashing it must be noted that Enfield were certainly equal to the Saints during the opening half hour.
Had it not been for another collection of outstanding saves by City goalkeeper Paul Bastock, supported by a remarkable goalline clearance by Ryan Wharton, the outcome could have been somewhat different. Even so, City will gladly pocket the £3,000 prize money handed out to the winners of this tie.
St Albans made three changes from the side that won at Totton the previous week with Greg Ngoyi (hamstring injury), David Keenleyside and Layne Eadie being stood down.
Chris Watters, back at the club for a second stint having rejoined in midweek from Chesham United, played on the right of the midfield while Aston Goss took the opposite flank and Nwokeji joined John Frendo in attack.
Enfield have been in inconsistent form this season with their backline coming in for criticism. Certainly they did cause City problems when going forward but once behind their defence became increasingly porous.
Although the play was even, and extremely open which made for an entertaining and fluctuating start to the game, it was actually Enfield that appeared more likely to make the first breakthrough.
City had a let off when Bastock moved swiftly to block a shot from Adam Wallace, and the keeper was relieved to see Jordan Lockie, from outside the penalty area, drill the loose ball across the face of the goal and only just wide.
Wallace went close with a second effort soon after that again only just missed the home goal.
City responded with Howard Hall, who went on to cap a good performance with a stunning goal, whipping over a diagonal cross that the diving Frendo got a touch to but could not divert on target.
Goss was next to tee Frendo up with an excellent cross but the striker’s goal-bound header was blocked by the leg of Town defender Lee White.
A goal, at whichever end, was on the cards and when St Albans did grab the lead on 31 minutes it was a decisive blow from which Enfield, despite receiving excellent support from the terraces, never recovered.
A long ball over the top of E’s defence sent Goss clear but as ‘keeper Noel Imber came to the edge of his penalty area the City winger squared a pass to Nwokeji. In evading a sliding challenge by David Kendall, Nwokeji delicately clipped the ball into the Hatfield Road goal.
Enfield bounced back quickly and Bastock had to fall smartly to his right to save a Liam Hope header from a Joe Stevens cross.
Six minutes from the interval City took a firm grip on proceedings with their second goal.
Frendo, ignoring Enfield appeals for offside following Goss’s through ball, shrugged off former Saint Chris Wild and neatly sidestepped another ex-City player in Imber, before tucking away his sixth goal in three games.
Enfield needed to reduce the deficit before the interval and went pretty close to doing just that, firstly, when Hope curled a free kick just a yard wide.
Bastock then denied the same player, the rebound fell to Wallace who seemed certain to score from a few yards out but somehow Wharton – who was immaculate throughout – stretched to block with his right foot and with that Enfield’s cup dream virtually died.
Frendo almost added a freak third goal right on half time when he blocked a clearance by Imber with the ball then bouncing beyond the embarrassed keeper and just the wrong side of the goalpost.
Enfield boss Steve Newing, a City striker under Jimmy Howard 22 years ago, made a double substitution at half time but found his side four goals adrift within seven minutes of the restart.
On 49 minutes City netted for a third time when Frendo knocked an exquisite first time pass across the edge of the penalty area for Goss to calmly guide, right-footed, past the diving Imber from 15 yards.
Three minutes later and Enfield were facing a rout when Nwokeji attacked down the right before unleashing a stunning right-footed drive across the sprawling Imber for the most spectacular goal thus far.
While their defence was capitulating, Enfield still caused City problems.
Bastock produced a wonderful double point blank save following a near post corner, which was as good as anything he mustered in winning the Player of the Month award for August.
St Albans made three substitutions during the half with Matt Taylor and James Kaloczi, in particular, catching the eye.
Kaloczi filled in admirably for Ben Martin while Taylor could quite easily have claimed a hat-trick himself.
After going close from outside the penalty area Taylor, following a slick exchange of passes with Nwokeji, went clear through on goal but saw his low shot excellently saved by Imber at the expense of a corner. It was the first on-target City shot not to result in a goal.
Fellow substitute Elliot Bailey, fresh from scoring twice in midweek for the Reserves, hammered a shot against an upright with Taylor sending the rebound over the top.
Enfield were denied a penalty when James Comley appeared to barge into Corey Whitely on 82 minutes as the Enfield player headed the ball into the goalmouth where Mark Kirby volleyed over.
Whitely had earlier been booked for a trip on Comley. The winger looked lively and threatening all afternoon but in reality enjoyed little success against City left-back Lee Chappell.
On 83 minutes Goss, on the left, sailed wide of Kendall and cut the ball from the goalline into the goalmouth where Nwokeji lunged in front of Kirby to complete his hat-trick with the fifth City goal.
Following on from Frendo’s four goals at Totton, this was the first occasion in 19 years that City players have scored hat-tricks in two consecutive matches.
Enfield’s persistence in attack finally gained some reward on 86 minutes when Wild’s header from a corner was parried by the diving Bastock who was helpless to stop Kendall from sliding in to claim a consolation goal for the visitors.
But deep into added time City restored their five-goal advantage with a stunning sixth goal as Hall, just like Frendo and Nwokeji, recorded his first goal at the Park in a City shirt.
Wharton broke up an Enfield attack, Comley moved forward before playing the ball to Goss. With a perfect curling pass the width of the pitch Goss picked out Watters who, with one touch, fed Hall.
The right-back took the ball in his stride and from the edge of the penalty area beat a static and bemused Imber with a thunderous drive inside the keeper’s near, left-hand post.
The draw for the 2nd Round Qualifying takes place on Monday, 16th September, and in the evening City return to Southern League action with the visit of Cambridge City.
Cambridge, also in FA Cup action on Saturday, warmed up for the match with a highly impressive 5-1 victory at Kings Lynn Town. Kick off at Clarence Park is at 7.45pm.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, B.Martin (J.Kaloczi 65), R.Wharton, R.Graham (M.Taylor 72), C.Watters, J.Comley, J.Frendo (E.Bailey 58), M.Nwokeji, A.Goss, subs; C.Henry, D.Keenleyside, L.Eadie, T.Coulton.
Booked: Graham, Taylor, Bastock.
Enfield Town: N.Imber, D.Kendall, J.Stevens, L.White, M.Kirby, C.Wild, J.Lockie (J.Elmes 46, J.O’Brien 58), L.Allen (T.Campbell 46), L.Hope, A.Wallace, C.Whitely, subs; M.Bardle, J.Osei, B.Hammatt, J.Chalk.
Booked: White, Whitely, Stevens.
Goals: 31 1-0 Nwokeji, 39 2-0 Frendo, 49 3-0 Goss, 52 4-0 Nwokeji, 83 5-0 Nwokeji, 86 5-1 Kendall, 90 6-1 Hall.
Referee: David Avent (Northampton).
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