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Two more for Frendo but 10-man Bashley frustrate City
St Albans City moved to within three points of the Southern League play-off positions on Monday with a 2-0 victory, but it was a laboured performance that saw off a bottom of the table Bashley side that played practically the entire 90 minutes with just ten men at Clarence Park.
Referee Lee Marshallsay decided that Bashley full-back Adam Flint had blocked a David Keenleyside shot on the goalline with the use of his right arm just 30-seconds into this rain sodden Premier Division encounter, and once that decision had been made the unfortunate on-loan Salisbury player was heading for the earliest of early baths.
Bashley arrived at the Park smarting from a 7-1 defeat at Cambridge City on Saturday and having also recently shipped ten goals at Hemel Hempstead.
When John Frendo converted the ensuing penalty for his 20th goal of the season the Saints lowest league crowd of the campaign sat back and waited for the Bash to be bashed once more.
That the anticipated slaughter never materialised was down to two things.
Firstly Bashley had a debut making 16-year-old goalkeeper, Monty George, who gave an outstanding performance and was rightly applauded as he left the pitch.
Secondly, City were pedestrian in building their attacks and lazy with their passing. It all contributed to a somewhat dull winter’s night at the Park but one which City, after a recent very heavy schedule of fixtures and big matches, were content just to collect the three points.
St Albans made two changes from the side that ran Cambridge United close on Saturday with Ben Martin and Danny Green rested to the bench. Darren Locke and Jamal Lowe were called up as replacements.
Since drawing their first two Premier Division games of the season, Bashley had lost 15 of the next 16 league games and when Lowe and Frendo worked the ball across the Hatfield Road penalty area to Keenleyside, and his shot struck Flint’s arm, the 10-man Hampshire side appeared destined for another drubbing.
As if losing Flint almost as soon as the game kicked-off was not bad enough just moments later central defender Dave Marden received a foot injury in an accidental clash with Lowe. Marden limped on until the 20th minute when he finally made way for manager Paul Gazzard.
To Bashley’s immense credit they defended in numbers and they defended well, they had little option but to try and frustrate City and they achieved it with flying colours.
Bashley were dominant in the air around their own penalty area, which may have contributed to St Albans opting for trying to find a route through on the ground. But it not something that City did with any great success.
En route to a fifth consecutive league win City did have chances but the teenage Bash keeper George was quite brilliant. His shot-stopping and handling were both excellent.
Massed bodies had already blocked several City attacks when George spread himself well to save at the feet of Lee Chappell, who had a more attacking role than normal.
Frendo, who must have fancied adding quite substantially to his season’s haul, headed narrowly wide from a James Comley corner while George did well to deny Tom Ward at point blank range following a clever lob to the back post by City captain Comley.
Good chances went begging as Keenleyside and then Lowe both blazed wide when well placed, while George did well to dive forward and hold onto a firm effort from Frendo.
Although overrun possession-wise for most of the game, Bashley were not without chances.
The highly impressive Manny Soetan put a tame effort through to Paul Bastock before sending a looping header onto the roof of the net following a good ball by George Colson.
The second half virtually mirrored the first with City scoring inside the opening minute and then being frustrated time and again when looking to unpick a surprisingly resolute Bashley defence.
It looked a familiar sight as a City attack was repelled in the 46th minute but the momentum was regained when Comley laid the ball wide to Howard Hall who crossed deep into the penalty area from the City right.
Frendo challenged Gazzard in the air with the ball then falling kindly for Frendo to poke home his 21st goal of the season from eight yards.
George then denied Lowe with his legs and raced to the edge of the penalty area to block Frendo following a wonderful long run by Lowe. The ball broke to Chappell whose carefully placed shot from 23 yards was headed out from under the crossbar by Lewis Buckmore.
Frendo seized upon the loose ball but his shot was well caught by the backtracking George.
Thereafter City’s attacks became increasingly predictable and unthreatening although George did extremely well to deflect a Keenleyside shot out for a corner.
Hope for a third City goal slowly evaporated as Locke headed wide from a corner and Frendo was off target with an overhead kick.
During the final few minutes Bashley bravely emerged from their shell and came close to further embarrassing their more lofty hosts with decent efforts from Colson, Jason Brookes and Buckmore all forcing Bastock to work hard to keep City’s fifth clean sheet in six games.
An excellent exchange between Colson and Soetan put the latter through with only a superbly timed tackle by Locke ending the danger.
Soetan, who joined Bashley from Banbury last week having played against City for the Oxon club in August, ended a lengthy run with a low shot across Bastock that drifted just wide of the far post.
But it was City who almost added a late goal when Mark Nwokeji and Frendo worked the ball into the path of Chappell only for his left-footed shot to beat George but thud into an upright before striking defender Brad Strickland and bouncing out for a corner.
The Saints goal difference may not have received the boost that had been hoped for but City, as manager James Gray went to great lengths to explain after the game, were satisfied with the outcome.
City are back in action on Saturday with a Southern League fixture at Redditch United. The Saints will again be without the suspended Richard Graham while the influential Ram Marwa will miss the next five games due to a family holiday in Thailand.
Talks are ongoing with Tom Ward and Gainsborough Trinity to extend his time at Clarence Park, as his loan period is due to end before Christmas.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, D.Locke, T.Ward (J.Kaloczi 79), D.Keenleyside (C.Henry 61), J.Comley, J.Frendo, J.Lowe, C.Watters (M.Nwokeji 59), subs; B.Martin, D.Green.
Bashley: M.George, S.Roberts, A.Flint, B.Strickland, D.Marden (P.Gazzard 20), B.Morris. L.Buckmore, G.Colson (J.Satterley 82), S.Joyce (J.Brookes 82), J.Odam, M.Soetan, subs; R.Ferguson.
Goals: 2 1-0 Frendo (p), 46 2-0 Frendo.
Referee: Lee Marshallsay (Boreham Wood).
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