From two-goals down inside five minutes at Burnham’s bog-like Gore home on Tuesday, St Albans City underlined their promotion qualities when three spectacular long range goals secured a highly praiseworthy 3-2 Southern League victory that lifts the club into the Premier Division top four.
The match got off to a sensational start with Burnham racing into a two-goal lead inside the opening five minutes, and that was after Jamal Lowe had won a corner for the Saints in the opening minute from which the outstanding James Kaloczi headed just over.
But, following that promising start, the Saints then endured a torrid spell in which Burnham looked perfectly at home on the difficult playing surface and threatened to tear City apart.
In the third minute an in-swinging Josh Webb corner from the Burnham left was headed just inside the near post by the stooping City defender Tom Ward for an own goal that is always likely on such a surface.
Moments later City ‘keeper Paul Bastock saved a crisply driven low strike by Myles Hyppolyte, the nephew of Maidenhead United manager Johnson Hyppolyte.
From the ensuing corner, again swung in towards the near post by Webb, Hyppolyte rose in front of Bastock and easily headed The Blues into a two-nil lead.
With players sliding before stopping after going on a run, and losing their footing when attempting to kick the ball from a standing position, City were facing a task as tough as any they have encountered this season if defeat was to be averted.
But, to their immense credit, City had got the measure of Burnham long before half time.
This was achieved by sacrificing their normal patient keeping possession type of game, and opting for a get it forward as quickly as possible method.
This may not be such a technically correct style but St Albans proved to be highly proficient at it and dominated the second half to such a degree that Burnham could not register a single on-target shot after the interval.
City hardly peppered the home goal with direct shots, but with the ball spending a prodigious amount of time in the home half the possibility of goals for the Saints was omnipresent.
Ram Marwa, whose influence on City’s season is not lost on the supporters, was first to test home keeper Matthew Collis with a rising effort.
Collis then had to beat away a Lee Chappell free kick and in the scramble that followed both Peter Dean and Lowe both had efforts charged down.
Although City were, by now, very much on top Burnham were not without chances and went close with Nikke Kebamba heading over from an Aaron Couch cross.
The match turned significantly in City’s favour on two incidents late in the half.
The first saw Kebamba, on 40 minutes, battle his way through the middle of the pitch and once a fortunate ricochet took him past Chappell there was just Bastock between him three-goal lead for the home side.
Kebamba hit his shot well but Bastock pulled off a crucial save and in the final minute of the half its importance became clear.
A long throw from the City right by Chappell was kicked away but only as far as James Comley just outside the penalty area.
The City captain steadied himself before drilling the ball high to Collis’s left and despite the keeper getting a hand to the ball City were back in the game.
A goal on the stroke of half time altered the course of the game and a stunning John Frendo effort six minutes after the restart shifted the balance of power completely.
Kaloczi hooked a long high diagonal ball from just inside the City half and close to the touchline across the pitch to City’s leading marksman some 25 yards from goal.
Frendo let the ball bounce once before unleashing a dipping half volley that sailed to Collis right and dropped inside his near post for the striker’s 30th goal of the season. That goal was a gem but the best was still to come.
Collis had to be alert to claw away a Chappell free kick for a corner while the introduction of Chris Henry and Mark Nwokeji for Lowe and Dean added greater potency to the City attack.
The goal that stretched City’s superb run to just one defeat in 17 league games came in the 69th minute and while it was scrappy in its creation, the execution of it was breathtaking.
A throw by the excellent Chappell started a spell of sustained pressure that also saw Henry send over a dangerous cross and Darren Locke have a shot charged before Chappell, wide on the left, played a short pass into Kaloczi’s path.
Playing in midfield, the 18-year-old, dragged the ball closer to him before sending a sensational right-footed shot from around 25-yards over the static Collis and, by a coat of paint, just under the crossbar for his sixth goal of the season.
In front at last, City sought to make the game safe but, strangely, did not seriously trouble Collis again with a shot.
That said, Comley hit the outside of a post straight from a corner and when Emmanuel Sam and Collis left the ball for each other close to a corner flag, Nwokeji nipped in to take possession and clip a curling shot across the face of the goal and just beyond the back post.
The Saints had to survive one mildly anxious moment in the closing seconds when Hyppolyte flicked on a through ball but Bastock moved quickly to smother the ball and City were able to celebrate their first meeting with Burnham by moving past the 50-point barrier.
St Albans are without a fixture on Saturday but return to Southern League action next Tuesday, 4th February, with the return meeting with Arlesey Town. Kick off at Hitchin Road is at 7.45pm.
City hope to have the injured trio of Ben Martin, Chris Watters and Danny Green fit for that game, but midfielder David Keenleyside is facing a couple of months on the sidelines due to a ligament injury.
Burnham: M.Collis, A.Smith, S.Boultwood (E.Sam 74), R.Jeffrey, C.Bell, L.Togwell, J.Webb, A.Sear (D.Molloy 68), M.Hyppolyte, N.Kebamba, A.Couch (T.Williams 86).
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, T.Ward, D.Locke, J.Kaloczi, J.Comley, J.Frendo (M.Taylor 86), P.Dean (M.Nwokeji 65), J.Lowe (C.Henry 61), subs; R.Graham, T.Coulton.
Goals: 3 1-0 Own Goal (Ward), 5 2-0 Hyppolyte, 45 2-1 Comley, 51 2-2 Frendo, 69 2-3 Kaloczi.
Referee: Michael Webb (Woking).