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Corcoran strikes as City shatter Glassboys
Sam Corcoran opens his account with St Albans City's winning goal at Stourbridge. Picture: Leigh Page
St Albans City’s bid for promotion from the Southern League received a massive boost on Saturday when the Saints gave one of their most resilient performances of the season to see off fellow play-off hopefuls Stourbridge with a 1-0 victory at the War Memorial Ground.
City were good value for the three points from a match that was seldom pleasing on the eye, and, with three of the six sides chasing a play-off position all losing, the Saints future is now very much back under their own control.
Joint-managers Graham Golds and James Grays pondered long and hard following the midweek defeat at Corby and plumped for a possibly defensive 4-5-1 line up in the west Midlands.
Elliot Bailey gave way to the more experienced Mark Nwokeji in attack, while the Saints got just the pre-match fillip they were looking for when club captain Ben Martin came through a series of exercises designed to test his troublesome hamstring.
Martin played with an assurance throughout and with three players in particular making a welcome return to good form, Tom Ward, Ram Marwa and James Comley; City suggested that their recent indifferent run may be behind them.
Nwokeji may have been the lone striker but he was given good support and was twice sent running onto through balls inside the opening seven minutes.
His first effort was sliced in the general direction of the turnstile block while the second, following James Kaloczi’s finely weighted lofted pass, was not dealt with properly by Stourbridge defender Will Richards, and Nwokeji did well to hook a leg around the defender and fire into the side-netting.
Playing up the War Memorial slope during the first half City continued to look threatening when attacking down the right where Comley found plenty of space to worry the hosts.
All too often the Glassboys early forays were ended by a linesman’s flag with the home strikers caught offside five times inside the first 12 minutes. If it was a deliberate ploy of City’s to use an offside trap, then it was being executed to perfection.
Jordan Fitzpatrick, coming in from the right and firing low towards the near post, where Paul Bastock saved with ease, had the first effort on goal for Stourbridge.
Later in the half Fitzpatrick had the second, and final, on-target shot by the home side, again though it caused Bastock little concern.
Certainly St Albans backline deserve praise for restricting the Glassboys to so few chances, but Stourbridge also did not help themselves by delivering a number of crosses that sailed way beyond the back post and away from the danger zone.
The winning goal, scored on 21 minutes, was as scrappy as the rest of the game, not that City were unduly worried how they returned to winning ways and clinched a first success at Stourbridge.
Comley collected a headed clearance and after a couple of twists slipped the ball up to Sam Corcoran who clipped a clever first time ball into the penalty area to Nwokeji.
After holding off Fitzpatrick, Nwokeji tried to flick the ball inside for the advancing Corcoran to collect but the pass ought to have been intercepted by Andre Francis.
But as Francis dithered Corcoran nipped in and claimed his first goal for the Saints with a left-footed shot past keeper Dean Coleman from eight yards.
The rest of the half was virtually devoid of goalmouth activity but City suffered a blow when Nwokeji departed just before the break with a groin strain. Nwokeji’s misfortune allowed Bailey to enjoy a quick return to action.
Stourbridge began the second half looking a far more cohesive unit than had been seen before the interval, but still they had no answers to the questions posed by the excellent City defence.
St Albans had a good opportunity to stretch their lead on the hour with a free kick just outside the penalty area, only for Corcoran’s dead ball strike to loop high over the crossbar.
Stourbridge did find a path through the City backline courtesy of a superb exchange between Luke Benbow and Ben Billingham, only for Benbow, upon receiving a return pass, to slice his shot comfortably wide.
Midway through the half the industrious Danny Green sent Chris Henry scurrying towards the goalline and from his near post cross Bailey just failed to turn the ball in.
City maintained the pressure with a couple of Chappell corners, from the second of which Martin had a shot charged down.
Stourbridge performed well below expectations throughout but, for a while, suggested that they would apply heavy pressure in the latter stages.
Skipper Geddes swung a good free kick from out on the Glassboys left to Benbow, but his header at the back post drifted harmlessly wide, and when a Billingham corner was knocked back into the goalmouth, Richards headed over.
Ten minutes from time Comley was cautioned for supposedly time wasting whilst taking a free kick. It seemed a hasty and unnecessary decision by referee Ollie Yates who, otherwise, had a good game.
The upshot of the booking is that it was Comley’s tenth of the season and he now faces a two-match ban starting on 22nd March.
Richards was next to go into the book when unceremoniously bringing down Comley as he moved towards the home penalty area.
On 86 minutes Comley, teed up by Green, did successfully weave his way into the penalty area and this time was sent flying by Drew Canavan’s rash challenge.
With John Frendo suspended and reduced to watching from the sidelines, the task of taking the resulting penalty fell to Corcoran, but he failed to put the result beyond doubt when Coleman dived low to his right to save.
Stourbridge were unable to use this psychological blow to their advantage and St Albans saw out the final minutes with few discomforts.
City’s win, their first at the at Memorial Ground, coupled with Cambridge City’s surprise defeat at AFC Totton, sees the Saints reclaim third place in the Premier Division and move eight points clear of fifth placed Stourbridge
St Albans are back in Southern League action on Monday when they visit Biggleswade Town. Mark Nwokeji is almost certainly ruled out but Frendo is available for selection after completing his three-match ban.
Kick off at Langford Road is at 7.45pm.
Stourbridge: D.Coleman, D.Canavan, W.Richards, A.Drake (G.Washbourne 46), S.Geddes, J.Fitzpatrick (C.Knight 63), A.Francis (J.Murphy 81), L.Broadhurst, K.Brown, B.Billingham, L.Benbow, subs; B.Birch, S.Tye.
Booked: Brown, Richards.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, K.Gilbert, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, T.Ward, B.Martin, S.Corcoran, J.Comley, M.Nwokeji (E.Bailey 45), J.Kaloczi (C.Henry 58), D.Green, subs; P.Dean, R.Graham, H.Hall.
Booked: Gilbert, Comley, Green.
Goal: 21 0-1 Corcoran.
Referee: Ollie Yates (Newcastle-under-Lyme).