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Super-subs scatter the Poppies as City beat Redditch
Clinical second half finishing carried St Albans City to a hard earned 3-0 Southern League victory at Clarence Park over a lowly yet determined Redditch United on Saturday.
The visitors from Worcestershire ought to have seized control before the interval but were made to pay for failing to take their chances before City, following an inspired double substitution early in the second half, stepped up a gear or two en route to completing four straight wins in games between the two clubs.
St Albans showed one change from the XI that started at Arlesey the previous week as a shoulder injury to James Gray ruled out the joint manager and paved the way for Matt Taylor to return to the midfield.
But it was on the bench that City’s trump cards were to be found in goal scorers Brad Wadkins, a recent addition from Chalfont St Peter, and Chris Henry. The icing on the cake third goal was stabbed home by a limping Greg Ngoyi, as he atoned for an earlier penalty miss.
City were slow to get going on a heavily overcast afternoon where as Redditch, without an away success since mid-November, pressed forward with surprising confidence only to be undone by tame finishing.
Poppies skipper Josh Quaynor saw a couple of early efforts go wide of the target before team-mate Connor Deards shot powerfully but straight at Saints keeper Nick Jupp.
City struggled to get into any rhythm and playing Ngoyi as a lone striker was, from an early stage, clearly unlikely to cause too many problems for the Poppies.
But St Albans did almost breakthrough when Chris Seeby laid the ball wide to David Keenleyside whose low cross from the right went across the face of the goal before being scooped high over the top from a tight angle by Richard Graham.
Graham played in a wider role than of late and seemed to see less of the ball, which undoubtedly contributed to City’s lack of attacking threat.
Redditch rued their misfortune on 16 minutes when the lively Will Richards chested down a long punt by keeper Bradley Catlow to Dean Bennett whose fine drive from well outside the penalty area thudded into Jupp’s right hand upright.
The pressure was maintained with Jupp tipping over the crossbar a crisp effort from Quaynor while two dangerous crosses had City at full stretch.
St Albans responded by winning a couple a corners, when the second was only partially cleared skipper James Comley floated a cross to the back post but it was just too long for the lunging Joe Bruce to reach.
City had a let-off when Richards dispossessed Ryan Wharton and ran into the penalty area but slightly overrun the ball and allowed Jupp to intervene close to goal.
Redditch continued to search for a goal right up to half time but in the closing minutes Deards sent two cleanly struck efforts straight at the faultless Jupp.
But all of Redditch’s good work should have been undone during added time.
Comley latched onto a through ball only to be sent sprawling inside the penalty area following a clumsy challenge by left-back Asa Charlton. Referee Rob Smith immediately pointed to the spot but took no further action against Charlton who was dismissed when the sides met at the Valley Stadium back in November.
As disappointing as it was for the home support there was, maybe, a measure of justice as Catlow dived to his left to beat out Ngoyi’s penalty with Mark Hands moving swiftly to put the loose ball out for a corner. For City to have led at the break would have taken some believing.
Even after the interval St Albans were some way off their best and Jupp pulled off another save as he scooped up a dangerous McDonald free kick that kicked up just in front of him.
But a minute later the game turned significantly in City’s favour when wide men Graham and Keenleyside were replaced by Henry and Wadkins.
Henry provided the darting thrust down the flank that City had been lacking and Wadkins added the muscular assistance that Ngoyi had been in need of. Suddenly, it was a different game.
An indication of what was to come was given when Henry crossed from the left, Ngoyi cut the ball back and Comley curled an effort just wide. Confidence started flow into City’s play and the midfield looked a cohesive unit.
On 66 minutes the game began to slip away from the Poppies as City counter-attacked to deadly effect.
As a Redditch attack broke down the ball was moved forward via Josh Urquhart, Ngoyi, Henry and Matt Taylor before a diagonal ball by Comley split the visitors open.
Central defenders Calum Flanagan and Zac Costello both missed the ball, enabling Wadkins to take possession on the edge of the penalty.
Although seldom looking in complete control, Wadkins side-stepped a couple of defenders before beating Catlow with a cleverly placed low left-footed shot to the keeper’s left. It was a fine way for the 19-year-old to mark his debut.
Redditch, though were far from finished and Jupp, after saving from Bennett, then did well to beat out a fierce drive from Poppies assistant manager Charlton.
But City still moved into a commanding position on 82 minutes. Bruce won the ball inside the City half and fed Comley who capped a fine performance by advancing and touching a pass to Wadkins. With an excellent cross-field pass the free Henry was picked out by Wadkins.
Henry cut into the penalty area from the left and fired towards the near post with the ball flying into the York Road net off the legs of Catlow who made a rare error in failing to cover his near post correctly.
St Albans were attacking freely now with Henry being denied by Catlow while Urquhart headed wide from a Comley corner.
A third goal was on the cards and three minutes into added time it arrived when Henry again found acres of space on the left.
From his low cross the ball flicked off Costello into the path of Ngoyi for the battered striker to poke home his sixth goal in just eight games for the Saints.
St Albans remain in seventh place in the Premier Division table, just four points outside the play-off places.
Joint manager’s Graham Golds and Jimmy Gray continue to add to their squad and in addition to giving debuts to Wadkins and fellow substitute Charlie Dove, ex St Neots Town, have added Hitchin Town midfielder Liam McGovern to the squad.
St Albans City: N.Jupp, C.Seeby, L.Eadie, J.Urquhart, J.Bruce, R.Wharton, D.Keenleyside (C.Henry 55), M.Taylor (C.Dove 83), G.Ngoyi, J.Comley, R.Graham (B.Wadkins 55), subs, S.Martin, J.Kaloczi.
Redditch United: B.Catlow, G.Moran, A.Charlton (L.Dovey 83), C.Flanagan, Z.Costello, M.Hands, C.Deards (J.Hylton 68), L.McDonald, W.Richards, D.Bennett, J.Quaynor (G.Washbourne 77), subs; L.Oshungbure.
Booked: Moran, Charlton, McDonald.
Goals: 66 1-0 Wadkins, 82 2-0 Henry, 90 3-0 Ngoyi.
Referee: Rob Smith (Letchworth).