St Albans City were sunk by a flood of goals in going down 4-2 to Sutton United on Saturday while club owner Lawrence Levy was drenched by the dreaded ice bucket challenge during a bizarre day at Clarence Park.
Paul Dodswell Sutton side belied their early season form that saw them arrive at St Albans having won just one of the opening four league games, and left the city after recording their highest ever score at the 120-year-old stadium.
Sutton built patiently along the backline, looking to lure City forward, before hitting their hosts with long balls over two full-backs. It was a simple strategy but one that was highly effective and had the U’s attack not wandered offside so often then the margin of City’s defeat could have been far greater.
United were also extremely deadly on the counter-attack, with the first and fourth goals coming in this fashion.
City were unchanged from the narrow reversal at Eastbourne the previous Monday, but any other comparisons between the two games ended there.
Sutton exposed the City backline on numerous occasions and when the Saints got forward too many good chances went begging as the game was allowed to slip away.
Joint-manager James Gray hinted, after the game, that new faces may be on the way to Clarence Park as he and Graham Golds look to cement the clubs position in Conference South.
The opening goal, on five minutes, provided a fair indication of what was to come during the remainder of the afternoon.
Sean Shields, playing wide on the left but still providing City’s biggest threat to the Sutton goal, won the first corner of the game but this was headed away at the near post by U’s midfielder Craig Dundas.
Sutton played a few short passes before Callum Hart knocked a long ball down the right flank that sent Dale Binns clear of the home defence.
With great awareness Binns clipped a perfect first time pass into the penalty area for Jamie Taylor to sweep, left-footed, past City keeper Joe Welch.
City hit back with a swift break themselves that saw Shields put clear through the middle of the Sutton defence by Danny Green.
But as Shields prepared to shoot Michael Spillane slid in with a well-timed challenge and the on loan Dagenham player screwed his shot wide.
The home side looked to be getting the upper hand as Shields tested keeper Alan Julian with a low effort while Steve Wales pulled a shot across the goal and wide.
United skipper Charlie Clough put a tame effort wide before an already familiar quick break saw Taylor denied by Welch.
St Albans did the ball into the Sutton net when a James Comley free kick bounced up off the turf and past Julian, but the effort was disallowed for offside against Lee Clarke who tried, but failed, to make contact with the ball.
City were offered a way back into the game on 35 minutes when Dundas tripped John Frendo and referee Lee Betts pointed to the spot, although the incident appeared to be just outside the penalty area.
Julian correctly gambled that Frendo would fire the spot kick to the keeper’s right and pulled off a fine right-handed save as the striker’s run of eight successful penalty kicks came to an end.
Ten minutes later, as half time approached, a wayward headed back-pass by United left-back Matt Lockwood handed possession to Wales and from his perfectly flighted cross Shields planted a powerful header past Julian from six yards out for his 17th goal in 95 games for the Saints.
City had worked hard to draw level by the interval and 15 seconds into the second period and they almost forged ahead when Shields stole the ball from Clough on the edge of the penalty area and chipped the ball over the stranded Julian only for it to bounce off the top of the crossbar and over.
Unfortunately, St Albans failed to build on this bright start and Sutton, now playing down the slope, were quick to seize the initiative.
A quick throw on the right prompted Spillane to try his luck some 30 yards out wide on the right and his swirling effort had to be watched carefully by Welch before being tipped over the top.
From the ensuing corner, on 49 minutes, Lockwood swung the ball in from the U’s left and Clough rose above the static Ben Martin to head high into the centre of the goal.
The game looked to be slipping from City’s grasp but a half chance came their way when Clarke fed Frendo whose snap shot went not far over the York Road goal.
Another opening went by when a Comley free kick was helped on by Tom Ward and deflected off Martin into the path of Frendo, who was thwarted low down by Julian with Clough putting the loose ball out for a corner.
Seven minutes from time Sutton extended their lead to 3-1 when a long clearance by Welch was quickly played back into the City half to the unmarked substitute Kane Haysman The midfielder used the space well to thread an excellent ball between Lee Chappell and Danny Green for fellow substitute Jessy Reindorf to latch onto and sway to the right of the advancing Welch before sliding the ball into the vacant net.
St Albans now needed to repeat their triumph over Sutton from 1970 when scoring four times in the final ten minutes to overturn a two-goal deficit.
Dreams of matching that feat rose when a second City goal was scrambled in on 90 minutes.
A long throw on the left by Chappell was headed on by Loick Pires to Matt Taylor whose back post volley was well saved by Julian.
The ball fell to Frendo whose goal-bound poke was blocked by the lunging John Louie only for Frendo to tuck away the rebound from close in.
There was still a possibility of City salvaging an unlikely point when, in the fourth minute of added time, Chappell launched a long free kick into the Sutton penalty area.
But City, having pushed up, were caught out when the ball was headed out to the United left and Lockwood raced 40 yards before touching a pass to the influential Marvin Williams.
With a delightful defence-splitting ball Williams opened City up once more for Haysman to burst through and chip a fourth Sutton goal past Welch.
Gray hinted at changes to the City squad in the wake of a second defeat in six days but was keen point out that Sutton are a full time club.
However, the Gander Green Lane are not quite full time in that they do train three mornings a week at the University of Surrey grounds in Guildford but their players do have other full time occupations.
St Albans return to Conference South action next Saturday, 6th September, with a visit to Ebbsfleet United. Kick off at Stonebridge Road, Northfleet, is at 3pm.
During the half time interval of the Sutton match City’s co-owner Lawrence Levy had two large containers of cold water poured over him as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge, which is to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Footage of this can be seen on Youtube.
St Albans City: J.Welch, J.Kyriacou, L.Chappell, D.Green, B.Martin, D.Locke (T.Ward 33), L.Clarke (M.Taylor 70), J.Comley, J.Frendo, S.Shields, S.Wales (L.Pires 70), subs; E.Buchanan, D.Keenleyside.
Booked: Martin, Ward.
Sutton United: A.Julian, J.Evans, M.Lockwood, M.Spillane, C.Hart (J.Louis 67), C.Clough, M.Williams, C.Dundas, R.Wellard, J.Taylor (J.Reindorf 78), D.Binns (K.Haysman 70), subs; L.Ruddick, T.Lovelock.
Goals: 5 0-1 Taylor, 45+2 1-1 Shields, 49 1-2 Clough, 84 1-3 Reindorf, 90 2-3 Frendo, 90+4 2-4 Haysman.
Referee: Lee Betts (Norwich).