With their biggest win over Hitchin Town for 51 years, St Albans City breezed into the Third Round Qualifying of the FA Cup on Saturday following a 5-0 triumph but the margin of victory was somewhat flattering for Ian Allinson’s Saints.

City were worthy winners, of that there can be no doubt, but one can understand why Canaries manager Mark Bourke was proud of his Southern League players after the game and pleased with the manner in which they took the game to their National League South hosts. What they lacked, though, was the cutting edge that City have been sharpening during their unbeaten nine-games in the lead up to this first competitive game of the season cup clash.

The glamour, spectacle and magic of the cup was sadly absent as this behind closed doors tie got underway and, whilst the players may have been fully aware of the importance of the game it, from the sidelines, had the feel of another practice match. Football needs the passion and atmosphere generated from the terraces.

Both sides showed a willingness to get forward early on with Zane Banton scuffing a shot wide for City and Lewis Barker firing over for Hitchin. And it was City, with six debutants in their starting XI, who took an early grip on proceedings with the opening goal coming inside 12 minutes.

Former Canaries ‘keeper Michael Johnson launched a goal kick towards the lower Hatfield Road end of the ground. The ball was helped onto Mitchell Weiss, he did well to cut it back into the path of Shaun Jeffers who stroked it through the legs of the Town custodian Tiernan Parker from 12 yards.

Rio Da Silva skipped past Tom Bender as Hitchin looked for an instant response but good covering work snuffed out Town’s progress and two corners in quick succession came to nothing.

The game was as good as over in the 19th minute, barring a sensation, when fate twisted cruelly against the visitors.

The debut making Luke Warner-Eley, along with Jeffers and Weiss, was twice involved as City attacked down their left and when he was nudged in the back, referee Jason Richardson immediately pointed to the penalty spot and sent the unfortunate Max Ryan for the earliest of early baths.

Jeffers sent Parker the wrong way with his spot kick and the three stewards manning the empty terrace behind the goal had cause for celebration.

Callum Stead battled well against the City defence but when he shot across the face of the home goal, rather than on target, it seemed to sum up Hitchin’s limitations in front of the target.

Just when St Albans appeared content with what they already had they were given a rude awakening with two incidents that, on another day, could well have hauled Hitchin off the ropes.

On 61 minutes Stead scooped the ball onto Luke Brown who looked to have got the better of Johnson when the City ‘keeper caught the foot of the Canaries striker and sent him sprawling. To the surprise of the sparse gathering a penalty was not forthcoming.

On 77 minutes a long ball into the penalty area was taken on by Stead whose shot beat Johnson but thudded into an upright, and with that the Canaries flight of fancy was all but over.

In between those two incidents, a pass by Town defender Lawrie Marsh was intercepted by Weiss who then looked on as his shot from 35 yards drifted just over the York Road crossbar.

Seconds later Banton tucked the ball into the net following a pass by City captain David Noble but was adjudged to be offside.

A two-goal defeat would have left Hitchin frustrated at their second-half misfortune but when City smashed three more past them within five minutes the earlier injustices were washed away.

On 86 minutes Banton did get his name on the scoresheet in a most bizarre fashion. His dash into the box looked to have been thwarted by Ben Walster only for the Town skipper to gift the ball back to him. Ever grateful, Banton skilfully fired inside Parker’s near post from a tight angle.

Three minutes later and Hitchin substitute Kai Tearle, just nine minutes after coming on, had the misfortune to turn the ball into his own net for City’s fourth.

The late onslaught continued barely two minutes later when Warner-Eley and Banton combined down the left to set up Joseph Chidyausiku for a simple, but well executed, finish just three minutes after he had entered the fray. It took the number of goals conceded by Hitchin within five days to an uncomfortable dozen.

Burke was keen not to make too rash a statement about the penalty that his side was not awarded and said that he wanted to look at the video later. Unfortunately, he may struggle to do that, as the streaming of the game had big problems throughout the afternoon with a number of supporters complaining after paying for the service.

St Albans City: M.Johnson, D.Stanley, T.Bender, S.Nwabuokei, S.Jeffers (J.Chidausiku 87), Z.Banton, D.Noble (K.Wiltshire 69), M.Weiss (D.Diedhiou 85), M.Sundire, J.Mukena, L.Warner-Eley. Subs not used: D.Jackson, D.Dada, J.Kaloczi, M.Clark.

Hitchin Town: T.Parker, M.Ryan, L.Eadie, R.Smith, L.Marsh, B.Walster, R.Da Silva (A.Marsh 56), J.Dhillon, C.Stead (M.Goldbourne 79), L.Brown, L.Baker (K.Tearle 79). Subs not used: J.Coldicott-Stevens, S.Cawley, D.Webb, P.Ziddane.