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Saints out of their depth in Poole
‘We were second best’ was the blunt assessment of St Albans City joint-manager Graham Golds following the Saints deflating 2-1 opening day of the season Southern League defeat to Poole Town at a rain-swept School Lane on Saturday.
Fleetingly, and it was all to briefly, City held the upper hand early on against the newly promoted Dolphins but like an early morning mist they were blown away by the rising sun as Poole got their campaign off to a winning start.
Poole, winners of the Southern League South & West Division by 14 points last season, played with the confidence befitting a successful side and possessed a desire to succeed that was badly lacking in their guests.
City conceded possession cheaply but more tellingly were second best when tussling for the ball. A repeat performance at home to Hungerford Town on Monday would be unthinkable.
St Albans sorely missed central defender and skipper Ben Martin against a side that will trouble the best that the league has to offer but also missing from City armoury was speed.
Even the introduction of Chris Henry at half time failed to boost the City threat with the flying winger deprived of service from a midfield that was completely outshone by Poole’s impressive middle quartet.
The front pairing of John Frendo and Greg Ngoyi were similarly starved of service but were also found wanting in retaining possession when the Saints did get forward.
Aside from Frendo striking the crossbar, City’s accurate attempts on goal were limited to Poole defender Lamin Dibba, under pressure from Ngoyi, heading a fine cross from Frendo into his own net to give the visitors a 10th minute lead.
It was a lead that was held for just seven minutes until a brief spell of pressure brought Poole level.
Carl Preston skilfully evaded a challenge from Ryan Wharton and surged down the Dolphins left flank before cutting the ball back to Jon Davies whose first time shot was clawed away by City keeper Paul Bastock.
City failed to clear the loose ball and Carl Pettefer, one of four summer signings from AFC Totton, swooped to sweep a right-footed effort into the Saints net via the diving Bastock.
S Albans almost regained the lead with a spectacular effort from Frendo from 25 yards that sailed over home keeper Nick Hutchings only to thud into the face of the crossbar.
From then on the Dolphins had the better of things but a second goal did not appear imminent prior to the interval.
However, after the break Poole attacked with greater venom and won far more convincingly than the final score suggests and deservedly took the lead on 52 minutes.
Dan Cann slid a good pass into the path of the troublesome Preston. The Town striker clipped the ball over the diving Bastock for Devlin, last season’s top league goal scorer for Poole, to lunge in at the far post to open his Premier Division account.
Town substitute Richard Gillespie should have put the result beyond doubt when freed on the counter-attack by Davies but after going wide of Bastock carelessly sliced his shot high and wide.
Gillespie’s fortunes hardly improved when an excellent cross from the Town left was met at the back post by the former AFC Totton striker whose header struck the crossbar before finding its way back to the now offside forward.
Bastock remained the busier of the two keepers as the veteran custodian made routine stops to save the Saints from any further damage.
City will aim to bounce back quickly with the visit of Hungerford on Monday. The side is likely to undergo several changes and the squad will be boosted by the return of five players missing for the trip to Poole.
Ben Martin will return from suspension to captain the team while James Kaloczi is also available after attending a family wedding on Saturday.
Aston Goss and Matt Taylor missed the Poole match through illness and injury respectively while City also hope to have received clearance from Banbury United to add Aryan Tajbakhsh to their squad.
Kick off at Clarence Park is at 7.45pm.
Poole Town: N.Hutchings, S.Clarke, W.Cummings, L.Dibba (J.Rowe 66), J.Whisken, C.Pettefer, E.Elliott (R.Gillespie 55), S.Devlin, J.Davies, C.Preston, D.Cann, subs; W.Byerley, D.Thomas, I.Oliver.
Booked: Devlin, Davies, Rowe, Whisken, Clarke.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, D.Green, L.Chappell, C.O’Leary (D.Keenleyside 58), D.Locke, R.Wharton, R.Ashe, J.Comley, J.Frendo, G.Ngoyi, R.Graham (C.Henry 46), subs; H.Hall, L.Eadie, T.Coulton.
Booked: Locke, Ngoyi.
Goals: 10 0-1 Own Goal (Dibba), 17 1-1 Pettefer, 52 2-1 Devlin.
Referee: Aaron Moody (Chandlers Ford).
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