By virtue of accepting three opportunist chances that came their way against Chippenham Town, St Albans City rose to fourth in the National League South on Saturday with a 3-0 victory and eased the pain of the memory of the FA Cup exit suffered earlier in the week.

A three-goal win sounds convincing enough, and certainly City were worthy of the points, but it was a decidedly poor game played in front of the empty terraces at Clarence Park and golden autumnal trees surrounding the Victorian ground.

Saints manager Ian Allinson made three changes from the XI beaten in the cup, with Devante Stanley, Dave Diedhiou and Joy Mukena making way for three defenders in the shape of Michael Clark, James Kaloczi and Luke Warner-Eley.

The opening half got off to a lively start on a blustery afternoon but the Bluebirds from Wiltshire had the wind taken out of their sails as early as the fifth minute when City keeper Rihards Matrevics, the fall guy in City defeat at Bishop’s Stortford, partially redeemed himself when saving Joe Hanks’ early penalty.

City had already gone close in the opening minute when Clark played the ball in from the right and Chippenham keeper Will Puddy had to get down swiftly to save by his near post from Shaun Jeffers.

Then on five minutes, Ross Stearn drove a corner from Chips’ right towards the middle of the penalty area. Hanks let the ball roll on to Brad Ash whose first time shot deflected wide off the outstretched arm of Munashe Sundire. Referee Steven Hughes of Brighton pondered for a second before pointing to the penalty spot.

Hanks struck the spot kick straight down the middle but Matrevics, diving to his left, somehow raised his right leg and kicked the ball away in mid-air to pull off a remarkable save.

On 15 minutes Matrevics’ save gained greater significance as City opened the scoring.

After a series of short passes, City captain Tom Bender drove a long diagonal pass out from the left towards the far corner of the pitch that Sundire collected and beat left-back Spencer Hamilton before crossing low into the penalty area. Mitchell Weiss challenged Puddy towards the near post, the diving goalkeeper fingertipped the ball into the middle of the penalty area for an unmarked Zane Banton to sweep home right-footed his second goal of the season.

With that goal the game fell flat on its feet for the next 30 minutes. Jeffers launched a free-kick out of the ground and Hanks had a soft header collected by Matrevics but other than that it looked as though the interval could not come soon enough.

All that changed in the 45th minute though, when the Saints added a possibly controversial second goal.

Sundire, after losing possession, won the ball back well and fed Kyran Wiltshire who quickly played it up to Weiss. The City striker exchanged passes with Jeffers and may have been just offside when he darted clear to collect the return. Puddy dashed out to the edge of his box but was rounded with ease by Weiss who then slotted the ball into the York Road net from a tight angle.

Chippenham argued long about the missed offside but almost pulled a goal back within 18 seconds of the restart when a hoofed clearance by their captain Kieran Parselle dipped dramatically and had to be tipped over by the retreating Matrevics. The 21-year-old keeper was less impressive on 51 minutes when he fumbled a low shot by Luke Russe.

Chippenham’s finishing was little short of woeful as Stearn sent a speculative angled shot wide and substitute Kieran Phillips scooped a snap shot high into the fading daylight.

One of the most enjoyable features of the second half was the manner in which Clark, making his first appearance of the season, made several useful forays to deep inside the Bluebirds half.

Just after the hour Clark, laying the ball square inside his own half, burst forward to take the return pass in his stride and set up Weiss for a shot from 18 yards that Puddy caught with minimal fuss.

Banton, fed by Sundire, shot into the side-netting with 20 minutes remaining but the game looked to be petering out to a tame end when a late flurry saw Bender pull off a stunning block to deny Jordan Dyer following Ryan Brunt’s cutback, and Sundire shot powerfully into the side-netting.

Jeffers made certain of City maintaining their all-conquering home record so far this season with a freak of a third goal.

Russe, from midway inside his own half, played the ball back to Puddy. The keeper, ridiculously, tried to dribble past the onrushing Banton and only succeeded in gifting possession to Jeffers. Puddy, five yards outside his penalty area, managed to deflected Jeffers’ shot off his shin but could only look back in disbelief as the ball bounced and spun its way into the Hatfield Road goal.

St Albans City: R.Matrevics, T.Bender, K.Wiltshire, J.Kaloczi, M.Clark, S.Nwabuokei, S.Jeffers, Z.Banton, M.Weiss (D.Diedhiou 90), M.Sundire, L.Warner-Ele. Subs not used: D.Stanley, R.Akinola, J.Chidyausiku, J.Mukena.

Chippenham Town: W.Puddy, E.Jones, S.Hamilton, J.Dyer, K.Parselle, L.Russe, A.Bray (C.Zebroski 71), J.Hanks, R.Brunt, B.Ash (K.Philips 46), R.Stearn. Subs not used: R.Case, J.Smedley, E.Hill.