Steve Wales maintained his highly productive summer form on Tuesday by scoring a second brace in four days as St Albans City chalked up a third consecutive victory with an entertaining 2-1 win at the Earlsmead home of Isthmian League side Harrow Borough.
Wales struck five crucial goals when joining City late in the promotion run-in last season and the midfielder, who turns 32 early next month, has clearly retained his lust for goals.
After finding the back of the net 14 times in their two previous games St Albans failed to pose any real threat during the opening 45 minutes and had Wales not struck a superb equaliser just 30 seconds prior to the interval then Dave Anderson’s side would have taken a deserved advantage into the break.
St Albans fielded a strong starting XI but the first half showing, during which City did see a lot of the ball, was not overly inspiring.
The midfield of Lee Clarke, Sam Corcoran and Wales, with Elliot Buchanan drifting between the midfield and attack, was competent before the break but as an attacking force City were weak.
Loick Pires continues to struggle to live up to a good reputation with a poor touch seeing him continual losing possession. He did, however, supply the pass for the second goal and maybe this will help to restore his confidence.
John Frendo is also someway short of his best form but he made a similarly sluggish start last summer before going on to bang in 42 goals, so any concern regarding his form and fitness will be muted.
Harrow provided the greater threat during the early exchanges but City keeper Joe Welch was seldom called into action, save for running to clear from outside of the penalty area.
At the opposite end of the pitch Frendo scuffed a shot harmlessly wide when well-placed while a better effort from Lee Chappell proved more testing for home keeper Jack Norton.
Harrow squandered a couple of decent positions and almost scored a fluke goal when Lewis Driver blocked a Welch clearance with the ball looping back over the keeper but lacking the pace to enter the goal.
But Driver did not have to wait long to lead the celebrations as on 31 minutes he diverted a shot by Ben Long past Welch to give the Reds a deserved lead.
Pires, when slicing his shot well off target, lost a good chance to pull City level following a cross by Wales to end a move in which the influential Clarke was twice involved.
Driver continued to cause City problems but a moment of utter madness completely wiped from the memory his good first half display when, four minutes from time, he recklessly scythed Corcoran down.
Given that the match was a friendly and that Corcoran did not appear to suffer any lasting damage, maybe referee Paul Howard could have shown some leniency and simply asked the home side to replace their striker.
Instead Mr Howard gave Driver the punishment that the challenged merited and showed him a red card.
City wasted no time in putting their numerical superiority to good use and drew level on 4 minutes with a beautifully placed right-footed effort from 25 yards by Wales following good approach play by Chappell and Corcoran.
After their stuttering first half performance St Albans were far more convincing after the break.
Their passing was crisper, their movement more fluid and the attacking threat, built more around Wales than the genuine strikers on show, had greater potency.
That said, Harrow were not without chances and used the pace of substitute Simoen Akinola to great effect.
But for two excellent saves by Welch, in one-on-one situations, the Saints could well have headed home smarting from an embarrassing defeat.
Early City pressure after the resumption saw Borough defender Daniel Dyer do well to divert a Frendo shot out for a corner while the industrious Corcoran fired just over the home goal.
Welch’s first impressive stop came on 55 minutes when saving low to his left after Ola Williams had sent Marc Charles-Smith clear. The retreating Ben Martin completed the clearance before Charles-Smith could pounce on the rebound.
City ought to have taken the lead when lively right-back John Kyriacou whipped over an excellent cross to the free Pires who headed the ball firmly enough but straight at the thankful Norton.
Two minutes later, the 61st, Pires squared the ball across the edge of the penalty area beyond Frendo but into the path of Wales who steadied himself before firing powerfully into the centre of the goal.
A spell of City pressure almost brought a third goal only for Norton to save at the feet of Buchanan, who had a decent second half after an indifferent opening 45 minutes.
Welch made a stunning reflex save high to his right to deny Akinola after the striker had been sent clear of the City defence by Anthony Maissiat’s through ball.
Two minutes from time Harrow’s last chance of staving off defeat vanished when Akinola, set up by Adam Louth, twisted away from the otherwise solid Darren Locke only to slash his shot into the car park behind the bottom goal.
All in all it was, after a low-key opening half, a decent City performance but, strange to say after scoring 14 times in the two previous games, more will be expected of the attack in forthcoming matches.
City return to Clarence Park his coming Saturday, 26th July, for the visit of the Watford First team squad. Kick off at Clarence Park is at 3pm.
Harrow Borough: J.Norton, D.Dyer, A.Louth, J.Gilbert, F.Otira, A.Maissiat (M.Peacock 79), B.Long, O.Williams (S.Bellotti 62), L.Driver, S.Butterworth (S.Akinola 52), M.Charles-Smith (R.Debrattista 62).
St Albans City: J.Welch, J.Kyriacou, L.Chappell, S.Corcoran (D.Green 56), D.Locke, B.Martin, S.Wales (T.Miles 82), L.Clarke (M.Taylor 73), J.Frendo (E.Bailey 82), E.Buchanan, L.Pires (D.Keenleyside 62).
Referee: Paul Howard.