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Sykes goal is pure farce as City close in on play-off place
George Sykes prepares to score St Albans City's winning goal against Biggleswade Town. Picture: Robert Walkley
It may not have been pretty but, with the aid of a freak goal by on-loan Barnet striker George Sykes, St Albans City moved to within 90 minutes of a Southern League play-off place courtesy of a 1-0 win over Biggleswade Town at Clarence Park on Easter Monday.
A win from next Saturday’s final Premier Division game of the season at Frome Town will guarantee the Saints a play-off place, but if the good fortune they received against Biggleswade is replicated in Somerset, then City could even lose and still grab a top five berth.
The moment that condemned Biggleswade to defeat on their first visit to Clarence Park for over 43 years was pure farce, more akin to Eric rather than George Sykes.
Sykes, who squandered six clear cut openings at Banbury two days earlier yet defied logic to win the April Player of the Month award, cut in from the left and from 23 yards out shot right-footed towards the Hatfield Road.
Waders keeper Ian Brown appeared to have the shot covered but as he knelt down to collect the ball it struck a divot on the edge of the six-yard box and flew over the right shoulder of the flummoxed custodian.
In a match that was dominated by both defences, perhaps such a bizarre goal was the only way that either side was going to find a way through; certainly there was never the remotest prospect of City repeating the 9-0 win over Biggleswade recorded in December 1970.
City were unchanged from the win at Banbury, something that was possible once central defender Darren Locke had made alterations to his work schedule.
As with the first league meeting between these two sides at Langford Road last month, flowing football was at a premium and City lacked the inspiration to stretch a side that went through the final hour of the game with just ten men.
Biggleswade lost Lee Allinson to a straight red card after the midfielder raised his studs when going in rashly on Sam Corcoran.
By then, the 31st minute, it was already clear that this was not going to be a game to savour.
A couple of early half chances came City’s way; firstly when Brown fumbled a through ball by Howard Hall, and then with a snap shot by John Frendo that bounced gently through to the keeper.
Biggleswade won five first half corners but failed to seriously trouble the home defence from any of them.
Playing up the slope and into a slight wind after the interval City went close to adding to Sykes’s goal when Frendo sent an over-head kick just wide following a cross from the right by Steve Wales.
Just after the hour Biggleswade, following their sixth and final corner of the game, were only denied a goal by some frantic defending.
As the ball was swung in from the Waders right, Bastock punched clear but only as far as Craig Daniel.
The midfielder drove a first time half volley that was blocked inside a crowded six-yard box by Tom Ward. Daniels’s second attempt appeared to strike the arm of Hall, that was tucked close under his chest, while the final shot ballooned onto the virtually empty terrace.
At the opposite end of the ground a far more congested terrace gave terrific support to the home team throughout, an end of season party atmosphere was in the air.
But victory was not yet secured and Bastock had a couple of tame long range headers and one shot from distance to deal with, the City keeper also had to keep a close eye on a Lee Smith free kick that bounced just wide of the target.
The Waders had done an excellent job on nullifying the threat that Frendo provides but a slip by Andrew Iwediuno, when attacking a long ball by Lee Chappell, allowed Frendo to attempt an audacious opportunist shot that drifted wide.
Frendo also had City’s only target shot of the half but his under-hit effort would have required more assistance from the pitch to beat Brown for a second time.
City saw out much of the remaining time with spells of tedious keep-ball by which time the Biggleswade threat was had been virtually extinguished.
The Bank Holiday results leave City in fourth place with just one game to play.
Stourbridge are in the one remaining play-off place below St Albans and are one point adrift of the Saints, but the Glassboys have a far superior goal difference.
The other threat to City’s play-off aspirations is provided by Hungerford Town who came from two-down to win at Chippenham Town and are three points behind the Saints, and have a positive goal difference that is three behind that of St Albans.
City’s final scheduled league match is on Saturday, 26th April, when they face Frome Town in Somerset. Kick off at Berkeley Road is at 3pm.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, T.Ward, J.Kaloczi, S.Wales (C.Henry 69), J.Comley, J.Frendo, G.Sykes (W.Whitely 59), S.Corcoran, subs; D.Keenleyside, J.Kaloczi, D.Green.
Booked: Comley, Chappell.
Biggleswade Town: I.Brown, M.Yorke, A.Iwediuno, C.Mawer, R.Short, L.Allinson, C.Daniel, L.Smith, B.Donnelly, L.Reed (E.Key 79), J.Woolf (J.Mason 79), subs; M.Coulson, S.Reed, C.Rydeheard.
Booked: Donnelly, Reed, Mason.
Goal: 27 1-0 Sykes.
Referee: Mark Mellor (Hemel Hempstead).
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