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23.08.2008 at 15:00 Clarence Park Attendance : 623
St Albans City
1 - 2
Chelmsford City
Referee : Ian Rathbone (Northampton) Blue Square South-match

Paul Hakim (76)
Bertie Brayley (10)
Ricky Holmes (38)
Opening squads
Paul Bastock
James Fisher
Scott Cousins
Ben Bowditch
Ben Martin
James Quilter
Sean Ridgway
Paul Hakim
Lee Clarke
Jonathan Hunt
Rod Hicks
Danny Gay
Justin Miller
Ian Cousins
Andy Duncan ©
Steve Ward
Kevin James
David Rainford
Jeff Minton
Oliver Berquez
Bertie Brayley
Ricky Holmes
Chris Adams
Tobi Jinadu
James Archer
Simon Martin
Tom Youngs
Jon Keeling
James Lawson
Chris Moore
Steve Robinson
Ashley Harrison
James Archer -> Rod Hicks (31)
Simon Martin -> Sean Ridgway (58)
Tom Youngs -> Lee Clarke (69)
James Lawson -> Jeff Minton
Chris Moore -> Ricky Holmes (69)
Yellow cards
None. Kevin James
Red cards
None. None
Match report
Football coaches are frequently lambasted for not being completely honest with their post match views, so when Steve Castle confessed that ‘it would have been unjust for us to have got anything out of it’ then one can safely assume that St Albans City did not have as good a time in the sun at Clarence Park on Saturday as promotion prospects Chelmsford City did
It is hard to recall a match, even in the Conference National days of two years ago, when the Saints were given such a football lesson. This Chelmsford side may not have been assembled on the cheap but on this evidence it is possible to see Jeff King’s latest club emulating the achievements of his previous empire at Canvey Island. The football the Clarets played on Saturday was excellent, and several classes above anything else St Albans have faced in the opening weeks to the current campaign.
The Saints had no answer to the swiftness and precise nature of the visitors passing, but if one were to offer a criticism of Chelmsford’s approach it would be that they contented themselves with holding an inordinate amount of possession during the second half but lacked the will to really press home their advantage and humiliate their hosts.
Playing in front of an attendance bettered just twice at Clarence Park last season, the Saints were led by Lee Clarke in a league match for the first time this season following the pre-season injury he sustained at Cheshunt. Although short of match fitness the returning captain bolstered a goal shy attack and twice got into goalscoring positions only for an exceptional stop by Chelmsford keeper Danny Gay, and then an offside flag, to deny him a goalscoring comeback.
That City twice had a player in such an advanced position was something of rarity as the shot count, at 16-2, was stacked somewhat in favour of the visitors. Clarke was not the only alteration as Steve Castle made changes to the side for the first time this season with Rod Hicks brought into the starting line up for the first time.
But Hicks’ first showing at Clarence Park, other than for a 6-2 defeat for the Reserves against Ware last season, was to be brief as a twisted ankle led to his departure within the opening half hour. He was not the only first half casualty as Chelmsford lined up for the second half minus the dominant Jeff Minton who picked up a dead leg prior to the interval.
The opening exchanges were ominous for a Saints side that has now won just once in nine Conference South matches. On 90 seconds Justin Miller, after his first effort was blocked, drove home a thunderous effort from 25 yards that was ruled out as it clipped the offside Dave Rainford en route to the York Road net.
To their credit St Albans, although already on the back foot, battled stoutly early on and on five minutes won the first corner of the day through Paul Hakim. An unusually poor delivery from Jonathan Hunt allowed Chelmsford to clear and pretty soon the threat on the visitors’ goal evaporated in the long overdue glorious sunshine.
Paul Bastock made a wonderful save to his left from the outstanding Bertie Brayley, this was incorrectly rewarded with a goal kick, before the reigning Isthmian League champions opened the scoring on ten minutes. Ricky Holmes, who gave James Fisher a torrid time down the Saints right, set off on a blistering run and played the ball into Ollie Berquez whose shot on the turn was charged down. But before St Albans could fully clear their lines Ian Cousins crossed from the Clarets left to Brayley who finished with aplomb at the back post.
Two minutes later as Cousins and Brayley again sliced open the home defence, Bastock made an excellent save low to his right when Berquez appeared odds on to score from 12 yards. Kevin James, just one of many visiting players to really catch the eye with a top quality personal performance, clipped a free kick over the target before Bastock, after putting Ben Martin under pressure with a careless pass, saved from Holmes.
Even at one-down the Saints chances looked decided slim and on 38 minutes Chelmsford closed in on their second win in three visits to the Park with a splendid second goal. Brayley and Berquez worked the ball up to Holmes who, after having his first effort charged down, lifted an exquisite right-footed lob over Bastock from 18 yards to the delight of the large and vocal contingent of visiting supporters.
Holmes ought to have added a third on 40 minutes when clear but fired wide before the Saints almost found a glimmer of hope right on half time. Hunt and Clarke battled to win possession outside the Chelmsford penalty area before Hunt emerged with the ball and slipped a pass through to Clarke. Hoping to claim his first goal since March, Clarke touched the ball wide of the advancing Gay who pulled off a stunning save when fully extending himself to whip the ball from Clarke’s toes.
The loss of Minton at the interval did little to disrupt Chelmsford’s flow with Bastock soon called upon to save from Holmes and then Brayley. But the Saints were gifted a lifeline on 58 minutes when a loose defensive pass went straight to the surprised Hakim who quickly fed the completely unmarked Clarke who was furious with himself for straying into an offside position.
On the hour Rainford headed wide from a James corner, shortly after that the half almost stagnated. Unfortunately St Albans did not come any further into contention during this period, it was more a case of Chelmsford having so much possession that the competitive edge was lost and King’s side allowed the game to drift rather than go for the kill.
The growing tedium was broken on 76 minutes when substitute Tom Youngs – a contributor to The Non-League Today newspaper – worked a one-two with Hakim before knocking a good ball into the goalmouth that Andy Duncan was happy to put behind for a corner. Not much later and the Chelmsford skipper was again happy to put the ball behind as Hunt placed a dangerous free kick deep into the Clarets penalty area.
Chelmsford broke swiftly from Hunt’s corner with Ian Cousins heading the ball wide to Brayley who somewhat wasted a fine run with a curling effort narrowly wide of the City goal. Ten minutes from time there was a possibility of that miss being costly as the Saints became the first side this season to breach the Chelmsford defence.
Hunt headed the ball forward to Simon Martin, who was on for Sean Ridgway something that led to Clarke dropping back into midfield, and the City striker picked out Youngs with a good ball across the edge of the York Road penalty area. Youngs shot, St Albans’ first of the match, deflected high off a defender and as the Chelmsford backline appealed for offside rather than attack the ball, Hakim kept his nerve to plant a header over Gay for his third goal in five games this season.
The question was now whether St Albans could launch a thrilling finale to snatch the most unlikely of draws. but instead it was Bastock who finished the day as far the busier of the keepers as he dived to smother a threatening low cross from Brayley and then pulled off two good stops as James sought to reaffirm Chelmsford’s undoubted superiority.
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