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Frome swept away by free-flowing Saints
While the weather forced most of the top sides in the Southern League to sit out a frustrating afternoon for the second time in four days on Saturday, St Albans City seized the opportunity to close in the leading pack with a comfortable 4-0 victory over lowly Frome Town at Clarence Park.
A goal to the good at the interval, City threatened to give their goal difference a healthy boost before settling on equalling their biggest win during the three seasons the club has spent in the Premier Division.
The Saints made four changes from the side defeated at Hungerford in their previous outing with injury ruling out Chris Watters and Tom Ward, the latter suffering from a broken bone in his foot and is due to see a specialist on Monday.
James Kaloczi and Mark Nwokeji had to make do with a place on the bench as skipper Ben Martin returned to the starting XI along with Howard Hall, David Keenleyside and Danny Green.
Frome arrived at Clarence Park under the leadership of their third manager so far this season, Adrian Foster, and having collected just two points from their previous nine games.
And despite making a reasonably bright start under a leaden Hertfordshire sky there was little to suggest that the Robins would secure as much as a single point for the first time in five meetings with the Saints.
Also, other than for a couple of decent efforts from Aaron Ledgester, and a shot against the crossbar by Ricky Hulbert, there was not a lot of hope of Frome adding to the one goal they had scored in the previous four encounters with their hosts. A long hard winter looks to be on the cards for the Somerset club.
City, having collected just one point from their previous two matches, made an encouraging start with John Frendo firing over the Hatfield Road inside the opening two minutes.
Frome responded with a good build up ending with a crisply struck Aaron Ledgester effort from 20 yards being pushed over the crossbar by the diving Paul Bastock.
Town keeper Darren Chitty made his first save of the day to deny Jamal Lowe following a short pass from Frendo.
Chitty was given good protection by his defenders early on with Rhys Baggeridge heading out for a corner as Darren Locke looked to pounce on a Ben Martin header, while skipper Josh Ford blocked a drive by Frendo.
Midway through the half Ledgester, from one of a mere four free kicks given by Russian referee Oleksandr Saliy during the first half, flashed a shot just wide of Bastock’s goal.
Frome’s clearest chance of the half fell to Ben Wood but his tame effort was easily gathered by Bastock.
Throughout the game St Albans showed a willingness to keep possession without driving hard at Frome but a good run by Lowe and crossfield ball by Richard Graham allowed Keenleyside to cut inside and get in a shot that went straight at Chitty.
Keenleyside was also involved when City took the lead on 29 minutes with a well crafted and executed goal.
From Keenleyside’s ball out to the flank, right-back Howard Hall broke clear and whipped over an excellent cross that bounced once before being guided into the Hatfield Road goal from six yards by Lowe’s right foot.
Keenleyside’s star was very much in the ascendancy at this point but it crashed on 36 minutes when, after being sent clear by James Comley, the midfielder sliced his shot yards wide of the target.
A spell of City pressure almost resulted in a second goal before the interval as Ledgester blocked a shot by Graham, while Chitty used his feet well to deny the impressive Lowe.
City kept the visitors under pressure when a Keenleyside cross was headed away but returned into the goalmouth by Comley. Frendo stretched to reach the ball but was just unable to steer his flick on target.
Frome closed out the half with an attacking flurry but a shot wide by Wood was the only moment of concern for City.
If there was any concern that City would not start the New Year with a win then it was dispelled with two goals shortly after the start of the second half.
On 50 minutes Lee Chappell picked out Lowe with a header to clear a throw from the Frome right by Wood.
Barnet loanee Lowe attacked down the City left before checking inside and sending a long pinpoint cross to the feet of Keenleyside.
With perfect control Keenleyside, just inside the penalty area, stepped inside onto before scoring with a left-footed shot that looped over Chitty after taking a generous deflection off Ledgester.
Three minutes later the game drifted away from Frome completely when Frendo slipped a short pass to Comley who, from 15 yards, drove through the legs of the debut making Jack Wallis and to the left of the static Chitty for City’s third goal.
The Frome keeper was soon back in action to save from Frendo, and then more impressively from Lowe after Frendo had neatly laid off a chipped pass by Martin.
City’s strike duo of Frendo and Lowe linked together once more on 68 minutes as the Saints moved into a four-goal lead.
Frendo slid a short pass up to Lowe before running on to regain possession and guiding a precise shot low to the right of Chitty for his 24th goal of the season and tenth at Clarence Park.
Frome had a chance to reduce the deficit when Hall and Bastock clashed following Baggeridge’s cross into the penalty area, Wood fired the loose ball goalwards but straight at Hall who cleared easily.
City went close to adding a fifth goal when Martin glanced a header just wide from a Chappell corner.
Frome were out of luck when from Wood’s cross from the left Ricky Hulbert made a good contact with an exquisite volley only for the ball to bounce clear off the face of the crossbar.
The Saints seventh win in the past nine league games has lifted the side to sixth in the table and just one point outside of the promotion play off places.
Weather permitting, City resume their quest for a return to the Conference South on Wednesday, 8th January, when they visit Corby Town.
Kick off at Rockingham Road is at 7.45pm but supporters are advised to check the St Albans City website during the day for confirmation as to whether or not the match will go ahead.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, D.Green, B.Martin, D.Locke, D.Keenleyside (N.Ferguson 61), J.Comley (M.Taylor 74), J.Frendo, J.Lowe (M.Nwokeji 68), R.Graham, subs; J.Kaloczi, T.Coulton.
Booked: Chappell, Ferguson.
Frome Town: D.Chitty, R.Baggeridge, B.Mundy (M.Clark 33, G.Russell 68), A.Ledgester, J.Ford, J.Willis, M.Smith, R.Hulbert, B.Wood, M.Groves, J.Vance (M.Cowler 65), subs; R.Elliott, J.Metcalf.
Goals: 29 1-0 Lowe, 50 2-0 Keenleyside, 53 3-0 Comley, 68 4-0 Frendo.
Referee: Oleksandr Saliy (Enfield).
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