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Poppies wilt in the snow as City hit six
Trouble-torn Kettering Town provided rich pickings for St Albans City at a cold and white Steel Park on Wednesday night as the Saints chalked up their second away Southern League victory in five days with an emphatic 6-2 triumph.
The final outcome, however, is somewhat misleading as City, on a pitch covered by snow in several areas, benefitted from a series of kind breaks.
Poppies central defender Henry Eze certainly did the Saints cause no harm with an ill-judged headed back pass that led to the second City goal, and then six minutes after the interval his own goal pretty much secured the destiny of the points.
Up until the own goal Kettering had fought hard to pull back a two-goal deficit and for a lengthy spell the Saints were clinging on desperately under growing Poppies pressure.
But once the two-goal advantage had been restored City regained control and went on to record their highest league score in 11 years.
In fact, St Albans only had five shots on target in getting their six goals and their discipline was equally clinical with a total of six free kicks conceded during the game leading to five cautions.
Unchanged from the weekend win at Barwell, City received an early warning when Aman Verma shot wide for Corby Town’s tenants.
But on six minutes the Saints set the tone when James Comley swept the ball across from the left to right back Josh Urquhart who, from just inside the penalty area, sent a perfectly placed drive high to keeper Michael Quirke’s left for the opening goal.
City suffered a blow on 17 minutes when Layne Eadie, after a prolonged delay, was helped from the pitch with a badly twisted ankle. Eadie’s misfortune allowed 18-year-old Myles Scott to make his first league appearance since December 2011.
Already Kettering were making light of their hopeless plight at the foot of the table and were causing the City defence several problems although the closest the Poppies came to an equaliser was when Nick Jupp parried a Mark Ford free kick with Lewis Wilson firing the rebound into the side-netting.
From another Ford free kick Verma glanced a header into the goalmouth where the ball bounced kindly through to Jupp off Daniel Crowie.
A goal looked to be coming but a dreadful error by Poppies defender Henry Eze led to it being scored at the end of the pitch furthest from where most of the action was taking place.
Eze misjudged an intended headed pass to his keeper and presented City skipper Comley with a simple opportunity to clip the second goal past the stranded Quirke.
Kettering returned to the attack with Wilson wasting a free header from the impressive Ford but on 34 minutes the Poppies finally located the target when Verma headed home from a Ford corner on the Town right.
Wilson had two good opportunities to pull Kettering level, and it would have been no more than Thomas Baillie’s side deserved, but also only good work by home keeper Quirke in blocking Comley and Keenleyside in quick succession denied City from adding a third before the interval.
Half time could hardly have come at a better time for St Albans as the management team reminded the players that any hope of grabbing a play-off place would vanish unless victory was secured.
Within 12 minutes of the restart the outcome was virtually guaranteed as City moved into a 4-1 lead.
Eze, whose contribution flitted between the inspired and the ridiculous, had the misfortune to score City’s third goal, on 51 minutes, when looping a header over his own keeper following a long free kick by former Poppy Richard Graham.
Six minutes later Graham and Chris Henry combined to thread the ball through the middle of the home defence for Greg Ngoyi to send Quirke the wrong way with a calm right-footed finish.
Ngoyi’s excellent goalscoring record since joining the Saints in December saw him score his 10th goal in just 13 games on 78 minutes with a fine left-footed shot across the sprawling Quirke after Henry and substitute Curtis Shaw opened up the home defence.
City’s deadly finishing was hard on the Reds but Kettering did hit back to score a second goal.
Will Muzvimbiri played the ball across the edge of the penalty area for Ford to beat Jupp with a low angled drive on 85 minutes.
But such are Kettering’s fortunes it was only another two minutes before they conceded a sixth goal for the fourth time this season.
A shot by Henry from 20 yards thudded into Quirke’s left hand upright and City substitute Elliot Bailey was quickly on to the rebound to fire in his first senior goal for the club having already scored 17 times for the City Youth and Reserves teams this season.
There was just sufficient time remaining for Comley to send a powerful effort a yard wide with the Saints only off-target shot of the match.
Kettering Town: M.Quirke, T.Johnston, N.Fox, C.Logan, H.Eze, D.Crowie, L.Hamilton (W.Muzvimbiri 60), N.Hicks, L.Wilson, A.Verma, B.Ford, subs; A.Bradshaw, K.Glen, A.Talbot.
St Albans City: N.Jupp, J.Urquhart, L.Eadie (M.Scott 17), J.Kaloczi (C.Shaw 55), R.Wharton, J.Bruce, R.Graham (E.Bailey 74), J.Comley, D.Keenleyside, G.Ngoyi, C.Henry, subs; B.Wadkins, S.Martin.
Booked: Wharton, Henry, Kaloczi, Scott, Jupp.
Goals: 6 0-1 Urquhart, 27 0-2 Comley, 34 1-2 Verma, 51 1-3 Own Goal (Eze), 57 1-4 Ngoyi, 78 1-5 Ngoyi, 85 2-5 Ford, 87 2-6 Bailey.
Referee: Paul Burnham (Norwich).