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Perfect City win overshadowed by Ngoyi outburst
St Albans City’s prolific strike-force of John Frendo and Mark Nwokeji provided the cutting edge as the Saints cantered past high flying Isthmian League Division One North side Witham Town on Saturday to book a place in the 2nd Round Qualifying of the FA Trophy with an impressive 3-0 win at Spa Lane.
What was expected to be a tough 90 minutes for St Albans proved to be a comfortable afternoon in Essex although the closing stages were blighted by the dismissal of Greg Ngoyi.
The City striker could face a lengthy ban after remonstrating with spectators as he headed for the dressing room.
But Ngoyi’s dismissal apart, this was as perfect a performance as City’s management team of Graham Golds and James Gray could have wished for as another £2,700 was added to the £15,000 already collected from the FA Cup in recent weeks.
For the third consecutive match City were without the vastly experienced Paul Bastock who continues to nurse bruised ribs sustained at Bedford earlier in the month.
Tom Coulton, Bastock’s stand-in, was again in fine form and when Witham sought to reduce the arrears late in the day the 20-year-old pulled off several fine saves and successfully record his first clean sheet.
City were also without the injured duo of James Comley and Chris Watters, the former is, however, expected to be fit for the visit of Hemel Hempstead to Clarence Park on Monday.
City’s FA Trophy fortunes kicked off under a light shower of rain and threatening grey skies, but on the pitch it was a much tamer affair.
Witham, second in Division One North of the Isthmian League, were surprisingly withdrawn and there was none of the attacking intent from the home side that had been anticipated by the visitors.
The early exchanges were open but there was a distinct lack of penetration from either side. Not that City would have been worried by that, as Nwokeji and Frendo are scoring at will in cup ties at present.
Both sides made an early encouraging foray down the flank but on each occasion the low cross towards the near post by Lee Chappell of St Albans and Tom Wraight of Witham was comfortably gathered by the opposition keeper.
Although City enjoyed a good amount of possession it was Witham who had the first shot on goal through Rob Whitnell but the effort went harmlessly wide. The chance was created by Witham’s best performer on the day Danny Emmanuel.
St Albans looked to have suffered a bad blow when skipper Ben Martin departed on 16 minutes nursing a hamstring injury. Ryan Wharton was sent on to partner Darren Locke in the middle of the defence and the duo went on to dominate Witham’s attack with ease.
After 24 minutes of fairly even play with precious few thrills City closed in on extending their unbeaten run to a sixth match.
David Keenleyside, restored to the side after impressing during the midweek League Cup tie at Leighton Town, whipped over a wonderful cross from the right that Nwokeji met with a powerful header.
Town keeper Danny Sambridge pushed the ball upwards but City took the lead as it struck the underside of the crossbar and went into the goal.
Once ahead City’s dominance was seldom tested although John Watson hammered a shot close to the target from 25 yards.
City ended the half in a strong position with a shot across the face of the goal by Matt Taylor, following Keenleyside’s deft flick, almost adding a second goal.
Witham came out for the second half in as muted fashion as they ended the first and it was evident that one more goal would secure City’s progress through to the next round.
On 49 minutes Howard Hall played the ball in from the right to Keenleyside whose astute through ball found the unmarked Frendo. With one touch City’s top scorer teed himself up for a shot from 18 yards that struck Sambridge’s right hand post.
Having lined up his sights with that effort Frendo fired St Albans into a two-goal lead on 58 minutes.
Richard Graham laid a pass wide to Chappell who advanced before feeding Frendo.
With virtually a repeat of his earlier shot Frendo steadied himself before beating Sambridge with a powerful effort to the right of the diving keeper.
Nwokeji, put through by Graham, squandered a chance to add a third and just after the hour the former Staines striker made way for Ngoyi.
City now attacked with greater freedom that at any other time during the game but a series of half chances came to nothing.
Ngoyi, thwarted low down by Sambridge, went closest to adding a third goal; he also just failed to poke home a crisp low cross from Chappell.
The most pleasing aspect to the Saints game at this time was the near total dominance they enjoyed regarding possession of the ball.
Witham’s attacking strength increased following the introduction of substitute Dean Green, as he soon forced Coulton in making a punched save.
Watson was also denied by Coulton but from a swift counter-attack Ngoyi won a penalty after being pulled back by Stopher.
With a calm left-footed spot kick Frendo, from City’s first penalty of the season, sent Sambridge in the wrong direction to give the Saints a far from flattering three-goal cushion.
The lively Emmanuel sent a drive over the top from a tight angle and then supplied a cross that ended with Danny Lopes’ back post shot being blocked on the goalline by Chappell.
Ngoyi’s chances of strengthening his claim for a starting place received a savage blow on 84 minutes when linesman Gerald Daish grabbed the attention of referee Jon Burridge.
Following a quick exchange Ngoyi was immediately shown a red card for allegedly shoving an elbow into the face of Witham left-back Seb Murfet.
As he headed for the dressing room Ngoyi found his path blocked by a closed gate in the pitch perimeter fencing.
As he wrestled with the gate he was subjected to a comment from a nearby spectator and reacted in an inexcusable manner by going into the sparse crowd to remonstrate with the spectator.
Already frustrated at not being handed the penalty he won, and frustrated at being dismissed, Ngoyi then had two drinks thrown at him before he headed for the dressing rooms.
Players from both teams wasted no time in rushing to the scene but what had been an extremely clean match of precious few kicks soon resumed without anything else untoward occurring.
Playing against ten-men for the final few minutes Witham rallied with Green firing into the side-netting and having a second attempt saved by Coulton who also did well to beat out Emmanuel’s firm effort.
St Albans City are back in action on Monday night, 21 October, when neighbours and Southern League Premier Division leaders Hemel Hempstead Town are the visitors. Kick off at Clarence Park is at 7.45pm.
Witham Town: D.Sambridge, C.Emery, S.Murfet, B.Stopher (P.White 74), T.Devaux, J.Stevens (D,Lopes 57), D.Emmanuel, J.Watson, R.Whitnell (D.Green 69), L.Godbold, T.Wraight, subs; M.Guest.
St Albans City: T.Coulton, H.Hall, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, B.Martin (R.Wharton 16), D.Locke, D.Keenleyside, R.Graham, J.Frendo (V.Osobu 77), M.Nwokeji (G.Ngoyi 61), M.Taylor, subs; E.Bailey, J.Kaloczi.
Goals: 24 0-1 Nwokeji, 58 0-2 Frendo, 71 0-3 Frendo (p).
Referee: Jonathan Burridge (Cambridge).
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