St Albans City overcome not only the dogged resistance of Redditch United but also freezing conditions to snatch a dramatic 4-3 Southern League victory at the Valley Stadium on Tuesday night through Chris Henry’s 88th minute goal.
On a surface that, according to several players, was more unplayable in larger areas than when the original fixture was called off due to a frozen pitch earlier in the month, City twice came from behind to secure their second Premier Division double of the season.
Unchanged from the weekend City made a perfect start with Sakho Bakare, on six minutes, firing in his 12th goal the season.
City keeper Nick Jupp, who excelled in the difficult conditions, pumped a long free kick deep into the Reds half that was worked up to Ryan Watts whose astute ball into the path of Bakare allowed the Frenchman to shoot low to the right of Reds keeper Dean Coleman.
Looking to win two successive away matches for the first time under David Howell St Albans appeared as comfortable as the conditions would allow and Coleman had to be alert to block a close range effort from Howard Newton and then keep a watchful eye on a fine effort from distance by Simon Martin.
Prompted by the tireless efforts of mop-headed captain Tom Warmer in midfield Redditch began to create chances and a cross from the right by Aaron Stringfellow looked certain to lead to a goal as Jimmy Deabill put what looked a perfectly placed header to the right of Jupp.
The City keeper sprung acrobatically to push the ball away in spectacular fashion and was quickly up on his feet to collect Joe Halsall’s chipped follow up.
Jupp later admitted that his landing on the frozen pitch was painful and the City custodian made three other outstanding first half saves but on each occasion a goal would not have stood due to linesman Chris Ward’s raised flag.
City appeared set to move into a two-goal lead on 28 minutes but with a clinical counter-attack Graham Hyde’s side plundered an excellent equaliser.
Coleman and Jamie Grimes got in a tangle from Watts near post corner and relied on Sam Adkins to head clear from the goalline.
James Gray’s follow up was blocked by Halsall and when Warmer hooked the ball away Redditch broke at speed.
Luke Benbow came in from the left wing to send the bustling Deabill clear with Nerada Bernard keeping him onside, and with an exquisitely timed left-footed touch the Reds striker beat Jupp to the ball from 28 yards out and willed the sphere to trickle into the City goal.
City were caught again in almost identical fashion two minutes later when Adkins’s rushed ball down the left was picked up by the impressive Benbow who breezed past Cedric Ngakam and sent a tantalising flick over Jupp and into the face of the crossbar.
Jake Jones was quickly onto the falling ball and as Bernard turned his back Jones was able to squeeze the ball between the City defender and the post.
With defenders finding it difficult to turn more goals were in the offing and David Ijaha went close with flighted effort that Coleman palmed over the top.
Five minutes from the break City did pull level when another near post Watts corner was smartly glanced home by Ngakam for his first goal for the club.
But there was one more twist in the tail when, on 45 minutes, two City errors had a hand in the third Redditch goal.
Newton overrun the ball by the touchline and lost possession to Deabill who laid it out to Adkins and from his high hoofed cross Ngakam misjudged his headed back-pass to Jupp and allowed Deabill to nip in and smartly clip his second goal of the night into the gaping City goal.
St Albans held the upper hand during the second half but Jupp was still called upon to make good saves from Adkins and Benbow and in one worrying incident had to pull off two important blocks within a split second of each other.
Redditch suffered a blow on 64 minutes when Coleman, having injured a foot, had to make way for young substitute keeper Jake Bedford.
At the same time City withdrew Newton and gave Aaron Lansiquot the second earliest start of his 11 substitute appearances.
City struck for a third time on 72 minutes when Martin won possession inside the penalty area and when his drive was blocked by Lee Osborne the ball ran kindly to Ijaha who sent a thunderous shot to the right of the diving Bedford for his second goal of the season.
When St Albans failed to capitalise on a couple of half chances the game looked to be heading for an intriguing draw before substitute Chris Henry struck the decisive blow.
Adkins miscued his attempted clearance and Henry immediately pounced and darted between two defenders on his way into the penalty area before a kind deflection on his shot sent the ball squirming through Bedford’s hands and into the goal.
Only an excellent block from an Ijaha shot stopped City adding a fifth goal.
The win lifts St Albans to within five points of the promotion play-off places.
With the match in doubt until mid afternoon the attendance was affected and was the smallest City have played in front of for a league match for 16 years.
Redditch United: D.Coleman (J.Bedford 64), A.Stringfellow, L.Osborne, T.Warmer, J.Grimes, T.Robinson, J.Jones, J.Halsall, J.Deabill, L.Benbow, S.Adkins, subs; A.Moses-Garvey, J.Travis, A.Lacey, T.Hurdman.
St Albans City: N.Jupp, C.Seeby, N.Bernard, D.Ijaha, J.Gray, C.Ngakam, H.Newton (A.Lansiquot 64), M.Hyde, S.Bakare, S.Martin (C.Henry 86), R.Watts, subs; D.McGonigle, A.Blackwood.
Booked: Bernard, Lansiquot.
Goals: 6 0-1 Bakare, 28 1-1 Deabill. 30 2-1 Jones, 40 2-2 Ngakam, 45 3-2 Deabill, 72 3-3 Ijaha, 88 3-4 Henry.
Referee: Thomas Harty (Wolverhampton).