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Saints kick off friendlies with defeat at Solihull
Solihull striker Junior English looks on after Tom Ward (grounded) slices the ball into his own net. Picture: David Tavener
The small band of St Albans City supporters that travelled to Solihull Moors’ neat Damson Parkway home on Saturday had their first look at six players added to last season’s promotion winning squad and one returning old boy, as the Saints went down 2-0 to their Conference North hosts.
City’s management team of James Gray and Graham Golds fielded virtually two different teams for either half with just new goalkeeper Joe Welch (25), central defender Tom Ward and midfielder Matt Taylor playing for the full 90 minutes.
The match was a fairly typical summer friendly in that it was played in a heat that will be unfamiliar a few weeks into the season and played at a tempo somewhat below that of a competitive fixture.
Something that was familiar was the lack of creativity that was witnessed in many of the Saints Southern League matches last season.
This is very much a bedding period for the new boys but given that last season’s campaign ended in promotion it is probably not worth getting too concerned just yet.
All of the more incisive attacking intent came from the home side and with a better understanding of the offside law Marcus Bignot’s side could have secured a far more substantial first win of the summer.
Without seriously troubling former Bromley ‘keeper Welch, Solihull had the better of the opening exchanges.
City first threatened through the 24-year-old former Leyton Orient and Welling United striker Loick Pires whose header from a Howard Hall cross looped over the home crossbar.
The move was started by Lee Clarke who is back at the club after five years with Welling United. Although not a direct replacement for the more defensively minded Dubai-bound Ram Marwa, Clarke’s return will be greeted warmly on the terraces.
One of the Moors better efforts of the half came on 38 minutes when Darryl Knights curled a right-footed shot just wide of the City goal.
St Albans made eight changes during the interval and began the second period in a more positive frame of mind.
That said, goal chances remained at a premium, and home keeper Tony Breedon was able to spend most of his afternoon watching the countless aircraft taking off from the nearby Birmingham International Airport rather than worrying about City attacks.
Breedon, though, was called into action on 53 minutes to keep out a powerful header from Ward following a James Comley corner.
A minute later Ward did find the back of the net but, unfortunately, it was at the wrong end of the pitch as he sliced a low cross by Owen Story from the Moors right inside Welch’s near post.
Boosted by this gift Moors almost added a second on 55 minutes only for Welch to deny the free Junior English.
Hope of City avoiding defeat on their first visit to this part of the country evaporated on 72 minutes when referee Simon Barrow pointed to the spot following a foul by the former Bishop’s Stortford player Max Lette Jallow (30) on Alex Cooper.
Moors skipper Liam Day sent Welch the wrong way from the penalty spot to double Solihull’s advantage.
City saw out the closing stages with a welcome attacking flurry.
Comley had an effort taken comfortably by Breedon while John Frendo scooped one shot into the side netting and then, with the last kick of the game, had a powerful drive charged down.
In addition to those named above, City included several other new signings and trialists.
During the opening 45 minutes Elliott Buchanan (25 on 17th July) joined Pires to lead the City attack.
After the break the 27-year-old former Chesham United right-back John Kyriacou had his first run out in City colours, as did 19-year-old West Ham United midfielder Taylor Miles.
Speaking after the game James Gray suggested that more new faces will be seen during Tuesday’s (15th July) friendly with a youthful Dagenham & Redbridge. Kick off at Clarence Park is at 7.45pm.
On sale at the ground on Tuesday will be a new book – The City At War – that pays tribute to the nine one-time City players killed during the two World Wars.
The book, which costs £5 and was written by City historians David Tavener and Peter Taylor, also looks at St Albans City during and between the two wars, the extensive redevelopment of the Park during the 1920s and the wartime exploits of several of the City players.
Solihull Moors: T.Breedon, K.Rosser, D.Langdon, R.Fleet, L.Daly, M.Nottingham, L.Hayden, A.Brown, J.English, D.Knights, O.Story, sus used; R.Taundry, T.Braithwaite, J.Denny, M.Taylor, C.Ellis, A.Cooper.
St Albans City (first half): J.Welch, D.Green, T.Ward, D.Locke, H.Hall, S.Wales, L.Clarke, S.Corcoran, E.Buchanan, L.Pires, M.Taylor.
St Albans City (second half): J.Welch, J.Kyriacou, L.Chappell, T.Ward, B.Martin, D.Keenleyside, T.Miles, J.Comley, J.Frendo, M.Lette Jallow, M.Taylor.
Referee: Steve Barrow.