Goals in either half by Ryan Ashe and Greg Ngoyi secured a hard fought 2-1 victory for St Albans City over a youthful Leyton Orient at a warm Clarence Park on Friday evening.
The Orient side consisted of five trialists in the starting XI with the remainder of the team being made up of youth players and first year professionals.
As for the Saints, joint-managers Graham Golds and James Gray went, for the opening hour, for a side that is likely to be close to the one that starts the new season.
City gave a positive response after being a distant second best during a defeat at Concord Rangers three days earlier, although it was the O’s that pretty much dominated the opening 45 minutes.
St Albans gained the upper hand the longer the game went on and, generally, joined the O’s in playing a passing rather than long ball game.
But early on it was Orient, under the watchful eyes of manager Russell Slade and coaches Kevin Nugent and former Saint Andy Edwards, who posed the greater threat.
The first chance came the way of Adda Djaziri who went clear through the middle of the home defence only to pull his shot wide of the target.
City keeper Paul Bastock pulled off the most spectacular save of the night when diving full length to his right to push around the post Scott Donnelly’s well-placed and cleanly struck free kick. Unfortunately trialist Donnelly injured himself when taking the set piece and was substituted soon after.
Harrison Georgiou caught the eye in midfield for the O’s and from his through ball Djaziri again went clear only for his shot on this occasion to be blocked by the legs of Bastock.
Georgiou maybe ought to have got on the score sheet midway through the half when turning swiftly inside the penalty area but shot somewhat wastefully over the Hatfield Road goal.
St Albans were experiencing great difficult in forcing any pressure on the visitor’s goal and the Saints had another let off when a patient Orient build up ended with Djaziri curling an effort just wide of the home goal.
Just after the half hour Bastock failed to hold a Jack Sherratt corner and Alex Finney headed goalwards. David Keenleyside hacked the ball off the goalline but his clearance thudded against the head of fellow Saint Chris O’Leary before looping over the crossbar.
Against the run of play City opened the scoring on 39 minutes with a fine goal.
O’Leary arrowed a long diagonal ball from the left hand side of the halfway life to the far corner of the penalty area. With a precision first touch Chris Henry cushioned a pass into the path of Ashe who beat O’s keeper Jake Larkins with a crisp low drive.
Neither side made any changes during the interval and for a while it looked as though the second 45 minutes were going to be a repeat of what had gone before as Orient soon put pressure on the City goal.
Inside the opening seconds Sinclaire Sandy and skipper Harry Lee went close and soon after Sherratt drove a shot over the target.
Gradually though, City gained the upper hand and former West Ham United keeper Jake Larkins was tested by a firm drive from Keenleyside.
But Larkins was beaten for a second time on 67 minutes when Aston Goss, after playing a short corner, received the ball out on the City right and crossed towards the near post to Ngoyi.
The striker’s first attempt was charged down but City’s top scorer for last season reacted quickly to scoop the ball inside the near post for the second St Albans goal.
That goal appeared to knock some of the spirit out of the east-enders and despite making seven changes during the half City controlled the latter stages.
City had a couple of half chances to extend their advantage, most notably when Goss was well placed but shot over, but also enjoyed good fortune on 85 minutes when Georgiou cut the ball back to Sherratt whose powerful shot flew past Bastock only to crash into the face of the crossbar.
A consolation goal was the least Orient deserved and on 90 minutes Georgiou headed a late effort into the York Road goal from a Sherratt corner.
City are back in action on Saturday, 27 July, when they face Colney Heath at the Recreation Ground. Jimmy Gray said that the Saints will be taking their full squad to face their close rivals. Kick off is at 3pm.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell (L.Eadie 62), C.O’Leary (J.Kaloczi 57), B.Martin, D.Locke, R.Ashe (R.Graham 66), J.Comley (J.Frendo 66), G.Ngoyi (E.Bailey 68), D.Keenleyside (G.Price 68), C.Henry (A.Goss 57).
Leyton Orient: J.Larkins, D.Vanderhyde, B.Sampayo, H.Lee, A.Finney, J.Kizzi, H.Georgiou, S.Donnelly (S.Sandy 21, J.Uzon 62), A.Djaziri, R.Jenkins (D.Louhoungou 67), J.Sherratt, sub; B.Card.
Referee: David Rock.