Rampant Saints stun the Angels with four-goal salvo

Unable to see off a ten-man St Albans City at the weekend, Conference South strugglers Tonbridge Angels were unceremoniously hammered 4-0 in Monday’s FA Trophy 1st Round replay at Clarence Park by a rampant full strength City XI.

City’s astonishing victory was all the sweeter after going through 87 minutes of the first meeting with just ten men following the ridiculous sending off of Richard Graham.

With Danny Green unavailable, the Saints recalled Howard Hall at right-back while Tonbridge also made one change with Mark Lovell replacing former Saint David Ijaha.

The early exchanges were fairly even with both defences looking in dominant mood. A couple of early City forays were comfortably snuffed out by the Angels backline, while a swift Tonbridge counter-attack ended with Lee Browning stabbing the ball wide following a low cross by Chris Piper.

Paul Bastock was in excellent form between the posts for City on Saturday and he continued to frustrate Tonbridge at the Park when diving to his right to beat out a fine header by Lovell following a Nathan Green free kick.

St Albans appeared nicely set to take the lead on 22 minutes when Phillip Appiah committed the first of three fouls that eventually earned the midfielder a booking.

John Frendo, who had an almighty physical battle with Gary Elphick particularly during the first half, lined up the free kick, but curled his shot into the Hatfield Road terrace.

On 25 minutes City left back Lee Chappell, picked out by Tom Ward’s lofted pass the width of the pitch, flew down the touchline before winning the first corner of the game off former Saint Piper.

James Comley, a hugely influential figure in both of these FA Trophy ties, curled the ensuing dead ball kick right-footed into the goalmouth where Angels keeper Lewis Carey, under pressure from Mark Nwokeji, flapped at thin air thus allowing the ball to drop into the goal to open the scoring with a freak goal.

Having played a fairly patient game up to this point Tonbridge now needed to exert their superior standing on the game but as the half wore on it was St Albans, from a Division lower than their guests, who posed the greater threat.

Tonbridge, generally, created little better than half chances although a cross by Henry Muggeridge caused a measure of confusion between Bastock and Hall, and Green was possibly unfortunate not to head home at the back post.

The Angels kept City penned in when winning a succession of throw-ins that eventually led to Muggeridge having a cross headed away by David Keenleyside but only as far as far Browning, whose crisp goal-bound volley was blocked by the again impressive Ward.

Although Tonbridge immediately regained possession City did launch a stunning counter-attack through Keenleyside, Nwokeji, Frendo and Graham whose excellent pass sent the advancing Nwokeji away.

Nwokeji somewhat wasted the good position when shooting wide of the near post when Graham had kept pace with the striker and was standing unmarked on the edge of the penalty area awaiting a simple pass.

St Albans ended the half very much in the ascendancy and began to find an increasing number of holes in the Tonbridge defence.

Hall, enjoying his best game for the club, got forward well and had a shot charged down before Keenleyside exchanged passes with Frendo down the Saints right and cut inside to test Carey with a curling effort.

Carey then needed two goes at grabbing a Keenleyside free kick and the Angels keeper had to be alert to catch a flighted ball from Comley as Frendo looked to pounce.

An excellent five-man move ended with Keenleyside slipping the ball in from the right to Frendo who sought to cut across Tonbridge skipper Gary Elphick but was booked for take a dive when there appeared the possibility that the defender’s right boot may have caught Frendo right foot.

A now fired up Frendo received a defence splitting pass from Graham and with his second touch unleashed a cracking left footed drive from 23 yards that Carey, falling to his left, just managed to palm over the crossbar.

With City now in full flight and tempers a bit frayed the half time whistle came at just the right time for Tonbridge who regrouped well and began the second period looking to haul themselves back into the game.

A Green free kick bounced nastily in front of Bastock who did well to push the ball to his right and was relieved to concede a corner as Elphick and Browning tried to force home the loose ball.

Tonbridge continued to use the slope to their advantage but a good chance went begging when Shamir Goodwin, after going wide of Ben Martin, scuffed his shot across the face of Bastock’s goal.

Moments later Goodwin almost got through again but this time the City skipper won the duel and set up a flowing move that sent Nwokeji clear only for an offside flag to halt his run.

The momentum was starting to shift in City’s direction and on 57 minutes a second goal sparked a burst of three St Albans goals in just 16 minutes.

Comley won the ball off Piper just inside the Angels half and received possession back from Frendo before arrowing a perfect through ball inside Elphick for Nwokeji to stretch and guide his 11th goal of the season past the out-rushing Carey.

For a while the Tonbridge defence was shot to pieces and with City gaining control of the midfield more goals were in the offing.

The outstanding Ram Marwa helped kick start a quick-fire City move that saw Frendo, receiving Chappell’s pass down the left, feed Nwokeji with a delightful first touch and continue his run to take the return pass before shooting straight at Carey.

Nwokeji made way for Chris Henry on 64 minutes and two minutes later the one-time Tonbridge player played a significant part in easing City into an unassailable three-goal lead.

Graham, Marwa and Comley worked the ball across the pitch to Hall who, from ten yards inside his own half, burst between two Tonbridge players and laid the ball wide to Henry.

The City substitute skipped past Elphick and played a good ball in to Frendo who was only denied by Piper’s goalline clearance, but before Tonbridge could clear their lines the still running Hall hammered the rebound into the turf then watched the ball fly up into the roof of the York Road net for a quite memorable goal.

A minute later and Hall was carrying out his defensive duties to block a blistering drive from Green.

City’s copybook was blighted a tad on 72 minutes when Comley was justly booked for diving but just sixty seconds later the hammering of Tonbridge was finalised with a fourth goal.

Graham, possibly savouring every moment of City’s triumph more than any other player, clipped the ball out to Chappell midway inside the City half.

Seeing plenty of open space in front of him Chappell charged almost unopposed down the left flank and could even afford a stumble before gliding past Piper and laying a pass inside to Henry.

Henry twisted to shake off the recovering Piper and then sent a not particularly threatening low left-footed shot across Carey from 15 yards out.

What should have been a routine save for Carey as he dived to his left to save with his outstretched arms became a moment of acute embarrassment as the ball slipped through his hands and just inside the upright for Henry’s 23rd goal in 85 games for the Saints.

Four minutes later and Tonbridge defender Sonny Miles went into the book. Having won the ball cleanly off Comley with his left foot he then brought his right leg through the City midfielder and can have no complaints at receiving a yellow card.

The outcome had already been decided but Tonbridge did at least end the evening with a flourish of attacking football.

Goodwin, a second year professional at Brighton currently on loan to Tonbridge, blazed wide when clear and on 85 minutes the Angels finally won their first corner of the night.

As the minutes ticked by Tonbridge won three corners in quick succession and had a Piper shot deflected just wide while Jon Heath drove an effort not too far off the mark as he sought to score for the first time in 281 games for the Kent club.

Deep into added time Nathan Pinney thudded a free kick against the City crossbar and also forced Bastock to save low down but the result had long since been decided and St Albans comfortably claimed their second Conference South scalp in consecutive Rounds.

City’s reward for seeing off Tonbridge is a home tie in the 2nd Round against Conference National leaders Cambridge United. The match is to be played at Clarence Park on Saturday, 14th December, kick off 3pm.

This coming Saturday the Saints renew their Southern League promotion push with a Premier Division fixture away to Weymouth, kick off at the Wessex Stadium is at 3pm.

City will be without the suspended duo of Lee Chappell and Greg Ngoyi.

St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, B.Martin, T.Ward, D.Keenleyside (J.Kaloczi 69), J.Comley (J.Watson 83), J.Frendo, M.Nwokeji (C.Henry 64), R.Graham, subs; D.Locke, T.Coulton.

Booked: Frendo, Comley.

Tonbridge Angels: L.Carey, C.Piper, J.Heath, P.Appiah (N.Pinney 63), G.Elphick, S.Miles, H.Muggeridge (M.Suarez 69), L.Bowning, M.Lovell (D.Ijaha 78), S.Goodwin, N.Green, subs; L.Blewden, C.Masters.

Booked: Appiah, Miles.

Referee: Steve Daly (Stanwell Moor).

Att: 303.

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