St Albans City rang the changes at the Camrose on Saturday with three players making their Conference South debut, as the Saints chalked up their most impressive victory of the season when condemning second in the table Basingstoke Town to a 1-0 defeat.

City’s first success of the season against a side occupying a play-off position was secured by Charlie Smith’s wonderful strike on 19 minutes.

The 19-year-old joined City in midweek on a one-month loan from Luton Town and gave a stunning debut as the Saints extended their unbeaten run against the Hampshire club to an eighth game.

But Smith was not alone in catching the eye.

Fellow debutant Ian Gayle, on-loan from Dagenham & Redbridge, was equally excellent and formed a formidable partnership with City skipper Ben Martin.

Omar Beckles, signed from AFC Hornchurch, also made his league debut as a defensive midfielder and helped construct an added wall of protection in front of the back four.

Other changes saw Sam Corcoran moved into an attacking midfield position, while James Comley returned to his best form when starting the game on the right of the midfield.

Another to turn in his best performance of the season was John Frendo. He may not have scored but he won the ball on many occasions and brought others into play most impressively.

But the two players who really took the honours were the respective goalkeepers, Stuart Moore and Joe Welch.

Welch probably pulled off the most wonderful and spectacular save of the day but Moore had to make far the greater number and was rewarded with the match sponsor Man of the Match award.

St Albans gave a performance that was in stark contrast to some of late, as they took the game to their hosts and challenged successfully for the ball as they imposed themselves on the game.

Certainly the opening 45 minutes were dominated by the Saints with home keeper Moore having nine on target shots to deal with inside the opening half hour.

After the break though it was a different story as ‘Stoke upped their game appreciably, but overall this was a worthy win for the Saints.

Frendo gave warning of what was to come when bundling two home defenders out of the game to get in an early shot that went wide.

However, Basingstoke almost opened the scoring on the counter-attack only for Lloyd Macklin’s cross to be missed by the incoming Louis Soares and fired over the top by Simon Dunn.

But City, clearly inspired by the new faces, were soon pressing forward again and when Comley beat two players, as he cut in from the flank, the diving Moore had to make his first save of the match to push away the angled drive.

In the next attack the home goal was most fortunate to stay intact.

Corcoran burst into the right side of the penalty area and cut the ball back to Frendo whose first time shot was beaten out by Moore but seized upon by Smith.

Smith steadied himself as he shot from inside the six yard box but, in a flash, was denied twice as David Ray lunged in to block, and then by the out-stretched legs of the sprawling Moore.

A superb ball by Comley saw Corcoran break quickly from a ‘Stoke free kick but after dithering inside the penalty area a tame shot was sent through to the keeper.

The chances continued to come at either end with Macklin ending a long run by shooting low towards the near post where Welch saved cleanly.

City responded with Frendo and Corcoran working the ball across the pitch to Smith whose crisp left-footed shot took a slight deflection off Rob Rice and was goal-bound until Moore made an astounding push around the post at full stretch.

Another promising move looked to be breaking down just outside the home penalty area when Smith again stepped in with a good rising effort that Moore once more tipped over in some style.

Still City came forward and on 19 minutes Moore’s stubborn resistance was broken.

Frendo won the ball 15 yards inside the ‘Stoke half and slid a perfectly weighted pass through the home defence for Smith to take in his stride.

As Rice dashed across to block the bearded teenager, Smith cut inside onto his right foot and from 14 yards out placed a precise finish wide of Moore’s outstretched left arm.

Moments later, Corcoran tried an audacious effort from inside the centre circle that Moore caught in some comfort.

When keeping the ball on the ground and the passes short City continued to dominate, and a fine seven-man move ended with Moore scrambling across once more to turn around the post a clever snap shot by Smith.

During the five minutes leading up to the interval Basingstoke enjoyed their best passage of the half with Jamie Brown stoking the fire with a blistering effort from 40 yards that Welch did well to watch and tip over.

City had a let-off just prior to the interval when Shaun McAuley beat the offside trap with a superbly timed run only for his cut-back to be stabbed wide by Brown.

Welch topped all the other outstanding saves made on 53 minutes when a short free kick by Tom Bird to Soares just outside the penalty area led to the latter’s shot taking a deflection, yet was still palmed over the bar by the diving and quite brilliant City custodian.

Basingstoke went on to apply a good amount of pressure during the half and went close on several occasions, but a goal seemed to be a possibility rather than a certainty.

Dunn and Soares both fired low shots across Welch’s goal before Moore made his most breathtaking contribution when clawing, with his right hand, the ball over the crossbar following Beckles header from six yards following a Smith corner.

The home side almost grabbed a freak goal when Bird drove the ball into the penalty area and Gayle’s clearance thudded into Beckles.

The ball ricocheted into the path of the free Brown who was immediately closed down by Welch with the City keeper making a crucial point blank block for a corner.

St Albans went close to snatching a late second goal when a whipped cross by Smith just eluded Frendo’s forward dive close to goal.

Still the great saves continued to flow with Welch going full length low to his left to fingertip another Soares shot past the post.

It was the perfect finale for a match containing such a remarkable number of outstanding saves.

City’ victory lifts them to eighth in Conference South and on Monday, 17th November, the Saints will be looking to complete their first double of the season when another Hampshire club, Farnborough are the visitors to Clarence Park.

Kick off is at 7.45pm.

Basingstoke Town: S.Moore, R.Rice, T.Bird, L.Soares, J.Gasson, D.Ray, S.Dunn, S.McAuley, L.Macklin (A.Jenkinson 45), C.Flood, J.Brown, unused subs; N.Smart, J.Owusu, R.Case, D.Smalley.

Booked: Macklin (37), Brown (76), McAuley (90).

St Albans City: J.Welch, J.Kyriacou, L.Chappell, C.Gorman, B.Martin, I.Gayle, O.Beckles, J.Comley (S.Wales 89), J.Frendo (J.Nouble 82), S.Corcoran, C.Smith (D.Keenleyside 90+2), unused subs; S.Shields, M.Taylor.

Booked: Gayle (50), Gorman (53), Corcoran (76).

Goals: 19 0-1 Smith.

Referee: Steve Plane (Gloucester).

Att: 670.