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Spot on Saints clinch another cup win
By virtue of four clinically executed penalties, following 90 minutes of untidy football on Wednesday that produced a 2-2 draw at Leighton Town’s Lake Street home, St Albans City retained their interest in every competition that the club has entered this season.
City’s 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory somewhat glossed over a poor performance by the makeshift visitors who comprised of players unfamiliar with each other and certainly uncomfortable on a bobbly pitch.
Leighton may be bottom of the pile and without a win this season in Division One Central of the Southern League but Craig Wells side really ought to have rectified that record after dominating for long stretches of this 1st Round Red Insure (League) Cup tie.
St Albans used the game to give a run out to players on the fringe of the First team and others from the Reserves. Whilst there can be no criticism aimed at fielding such a side disappointment can be voiced at the product being so disjointed.
As indifferent as City may have been they could have taken an early lead when home keeper Matt Griggs ran to the edge of his penalty area to intercept a through ball only to fumble it as Elliot Bailey closed in.
Victor Osobu collected the loose ball only to hammer his shot straight into the unfortunate Bailey.
But soon after Leighton began making the more decisive inroads.
Ryan Plowright shot powerfully, but straight, at City keeper Tom Coulton, while Keiron Doughty stabbed a good chance wide after getting behind the visitor’s backline.
Plowright forced Coulton into making another save before the home took a fully deserved lead on 22 minutes.
Jack Downes cut in from the Town right and, from 18 yards, sent in a shot that swerved viciously away from the diving Coulton who did well to beat it out but only into the path of Aaron McKee who duly tucked away a simple finish.
While Coulton was kept busy throughout the half his opposite number had a far quieter 45 minutes. A low save from the industrious Harrison Georgiou and a cracking drive by the erratic Osobu were the only shots on target he had to deal with, as five other efforts went in the general direction of the clubhouse behind the goal.
City made an attacking substitution during the interval with midfielder Matt Taylor making way for striker Greg Ngoyi as he continues on the path towards full fitness.
Teenagers Joel Watson and Danny McCarthy were sent into the fray later in the half but both had the misfortune of marking their debuts with a booking.
St Albans started the second half poorly and for 30 minutes it looked just a matter of time before Leighton would secure that elusive first win of the campaign.
Coulton did well to save low to his left from Ben Gallant before McKee flashed a shot across the face of the goal. Grant Fryer maintained the pressure with an effort from an acute angle that only just went over the crossbar.
City suggested that they might yet put up a fight with a decent shot from Georgiou that Griggs scampered across to his right to save, but it was still a bolt from the blue when St Albans equalised on 62 minutes.
Leighton struggled to clear their lines from a rare City corner – the Saints won just two all night – and from an extremely tight angle on the left David Keenleyside, who impressed throughout, cracked a superb shot across a crowded goalmouth and into the far top corner of the net.
But within a minute the Saints again looked to be heading for the exit as Town regained the upper hand.
From the kick off the ball was played short to McKee and from on the halfway line he drilled a stunning effort towards the City goal that looked destined to drop in just under the crossbar before the alert Coulton flicked it over the top.
From the ensuing corner, struck low towards the near post by McKee, Town skipper Sam Chapman hammered the ball goalwards only for it strike teammate Doughty. But before Mark Boyce could make a challenge Gallant pounced to restore Leighton’s advantage from close range.
The influential McKee went close with a volley following a pass from Jake Bewley but the home side were rocked on 76 minutes when City drew level for a second time.
Keenleyside chipped the ball out to the City right to Bailey whose low cross towards the back post was met by Chris Henry. The wingers first shot, with his left foot, was blocked but his second, with his right, entered the goal to the right of the diving Griggs.
Boosted by that goal City ended the match the stronger of the two sides, although they did also pick up three bookings in quick succession with Boyce, most fortunate to have survived until the 84th minute without seeing a yellow card, joining Watson and McCarthy in the book.
Henry, coming in from the City left, forced Griggs into saving by the foot of his near post while the keeper made an excellent save to deny Ngoyi and, in the closing minutes, was relieved to see a lofted effort by the City striker dip just the wrong side of the crossbar.
Deep into added time it was Leighton who almost snatched a not undeserved victory when Doughy challenged for a flighted McKee free kick, and it was only when James Kaloczi cleared their lines after a frantic scramble that City were able to believe that defeat had been averted.
With there be no extra time in the League Cup this season the match went straight to a penalty shoot out.
City struck the first blow through Ngoyi while Leighton replied successfully through McKee. Bailey and Keenleyside scored either side Craig Maisiri hitting the woodwork for the home as City moved into a strong position.
Ryan Wharton beat Griggs to further strengthen City’s position and when Coulton flung himself to his left to save, double-handed, from Chapman then it was all over for the home side.
Wharton did well to come through the entire 90 minutes having had just four hours sleep since returning from Crete where he had been playing for the England 5-a-side team in the MiniFootball European championships.
Wharton played in all of England’s games as they progressed through the Group stage and the second round before bowing out in the quarter finals to the eventual winners.
Leighton Town: M.Griggs, J.Downes (C.Maisiri 64), J.Bewley, G.Fryer, S.Chapman, B.Mailey, A.McKee, S.Bishop, B.Gallant, K.Doughty, R.Plowright (J.Pursey 64), subs; J.Gray, S.Leggett.
Booked: Downes, Plowright.
St Albans City: T.Coulton, R.Carroll, M.Boyce, J.Kaloczi, R.Wharton, M.Taylor (G.Ngoyi 46), D.Keenleyside, H.Georgiou (J.Watson 62), E.Bailey, V.Osobu (D.McCarthy 71), C.Henry, sub; M.Tewkesbury.
Booked: Boyce, Watson, McCarthy.
Goals: 22 1-0 McKee, 62 1-1 Keenleyside, 63 2-1 Gallant, 76 2-2 Henry.
Penalties: SAC scored: Ngoyi, Bailey, Keenleyside, Wharton. Leighton scored: McKee. Leighton missed: Maisiri, Chapman.
Referee: Dan Leach (Oxford).
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