Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting st albans to 80360, or email us
Chats silenced as City head for the FA Cup 1st Round
Goals either side of half time by John Frendo and David Keenleyside carried St Albans City through to the FA Cup 1st Round proper for the 11th time in the Saints history, but City’s 2-0 victory on Saturday was far from straightforward against Chatham Town at a windswept Maidstone Road.
Chatham, struggling towards the foot of Division One North of the Isthmian League, had the better of the opening 45 minutes but were punished for not accepting any of the half chances that came their way before St Albans got into their stride.
On a bobbly pitch and under leaden skies, supplemented by numerous showers, a cup upset was in the air as Chatham looked to repeat the victory they recorded when City were last in town in 1926.
And until City awoke from their slumber, late in the first half, Kevin Watson’s side was very much in with a chance of progressing through to the competition proper. But once Frendo fired City ahead the outcome had a certain predictability about it.
St Albans were again without their inspirational captain Ben Martin, while a late withdrawal by Howard Hall led to another change to the back four.
Ryan Wharton and Darren Locke lined up in the heart of the defence and were flanked by Lee Chappell on the left and Danny Green on the right.
Green had been hastily recalled from Potters Bar Town, as cover for Hall, having been out of the City side since the end of August.
City were not lacking in experience in midfield, where David Keenleyside, Richard Graham, Ram Marwa and skipper James Comley lining up behind strikers Frendo and Mark Nwokeji.
An early attacking flurry by the Chats failed to seriously trouble the Saints although a clear dive in the penalty area by Lee Hales had City eyes gazing with some concern at referee Nigel Lugg who made eight bookings during the course of the afternoon.
First to go into the notebook was Chappell for a late challenge on Kalvin Morath-Gibbs.
Town’s enterprising right back still managed to get the ball into the visitor’s penalty area where it was missed by Paul Bastock and Chatham’s Austin Gacheru before being hooked out at the back post by Green as Kieran McCann closed in.
Chatham kept City pinned down as from Greg Benbow’s free kick Drew Crush’s back post header hit Locke’s head before going out for a corner.
The pressure was maintained from the corner when Brad Potter’s shot thudded into Gacheru before looping into Bastock’s arms.
Just after the half hour mark Chatham threatened again when Town skipper Gacheru crossed the ball just too high for McCann.
Gacheru, after dispossessing Locke close to the corner flag, repeated the trick when his cross sailed over the head of leading goal scorer Alfie May.
St Albans hinted at what was to come when a counter-attack, begun by Locke and carried forward by Frendo, ended with Nwokeji surprisingly stabbing the ball wide at the back post following Comley’s excellent low cross.
That effort, on 37 minutes, was City’s first attempt at the home goal.
Moments later Matt Solly’s long ball down the Town left found McCann who skipped past Locke and drilled the ball towards the near post where another opening went begging as May put a difficult chance wide.
Four minutes from the interval a clear chance was lost when May was tentative as McCann whipped a firm ball into the City goalmouth. May missed the ball and for good measure picked up an injury when accidentally clipped by the sprawling Bastock.
Four minutes later and City showed how it should be done, although goal scoring is an easier art when Frendo is in your ranks.
A patient build up led to Nwokeji laying the ball to Graham whose through ball teed up Frendo for a crisp drive that Jack Bradshaw did well to get down to save.
When the ball was hacked clear City quickly regained possession and built slowly until Comley’s superb diagonal ball cut the home defence open. Graham took the ball in his stride and from his lofted cross Frendo swept the falling ball into the back of the net from ten yards out.
In the remaining seconds of the half Bradshaw saved well from Frendo after the striker had been sent clear by Keenleyside’s perfect through ball.
City began the second half looking to kill off the tie and within three minutes of the restart they had pretty much achieved their aim with a second goal.
Nwokeji, set up by Graham, had a shot on the turn deflected wide by Potter.
Graham, influential in both City goals, picked out Locke from the ensuing corner and his header into the goalmouth saw Nwokeji, standing in front of Bradshaw, out-jump the keeper and head the ball against the crossbar.
Before Chatham could clear Keenleyside swooped to send a cleanly struck drive through a crowded six-yard box and into the far corner of the net for his first FA Cup goal.
St Albans now appeared well set to end the interest of a second Kent side in the Budweiser sponsored competition this season and went close to adding a third through both Keenleyside and Frendo.
But City did have an anxious moment when a long cross from the Town right by Morath –Gibbs sailed over Bastock on the wind and landed on the roof of the net.
After Chappell fired into the home side-netting Chatham came their closest yet to a goal when Hales, after his first effort was blocked, sent a scorching shot into the underside of the crossbar. The ball shot down perilously close to crossing the goalline before Wharton made a potentially crucial headed clearance.
Chatham came back once more but following Hales through ball Constable was cautioned for dissent after disagreeing with the referee that his had gone wide without clipping Wharton.
In the closing minutes Bradshaw saved from Nwokeji while Constable headed wide and Bastock did well to get down and save Morath-Gibbs’ shot from 25 yards.
City’s win is only their second in nine FA Cup ties in Kent; the previous success was a 1st Round victory at Gravesend & Northfleet in 1980.
John Frendo’s goal ensured that he had scored in all four of City’s qualifying round matches and takes the clubs share of the prize fund from this seasons competition to £27,500.
Ryan Wharton’s booking at Chatham was his fifth of the season and will rule him out of the Saints 1st Round Proper tie on 9th November.
City are back in Southern League action on Monday night, weather permitting, 28th October, when county rivals Hitchin Town are the visitors to Clarence Park. Kick off is at 7.45pm.
Chatham Town: J.Bradshaw, K.Morath-Gibbs, G.Benbow, M.Solly, B.Potter, D.Crush, L.Hales, L.May (A.Constable 61), A.Gacheru (B.Bennett 85), A.May, K.McCann (R.Andre 67), subs; L.Hickey, T.McDonagh, J.Alderman, L.Kidman.
Booked: Solly, M-Gibbs, Constable.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, D.Green, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, R.Wharton, D.Locke, D.Keenleyside (C.Watters 72), J.Comley, J.Frendo (G.Ngoyi 81), M.Nwokeji, R.Graham (J.Kaloczi 87), subs; C.Henry, H.Georgiou, E.Bailey, T.Coulton.
Booked: Chappell, Frendo, Graham, Wharton, Locke.
Goals: 45 0-1 Frendo, 48 0-2 Keenleyside.
Referee: Nigel Lugg (Coulsdon).
Comments are closed on this article.