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23.01.2016 @ 15:00 Marsh Lane Attendance : 247
Oxford City
4 - 1
St Albans City
Referee : Savvas Yianni (Weston-super-Mare) Varnarama National League South-Match

Goalscorers
Bradley Bubb (60)
David Pond (68)
Connor Mcdonough (69)
Marlon Jackson (74)
Charlie MacDonald (10)
Starting Line-ups
Laurie Walker
Matt Bevans
Jose Lapoujade
Reece Fleet
David King
Adrian Santiago
Luke Coulson
David Pond
Bradley Bubb
Connor McDonaugh
Kynan Isaac
Joe Welch
Lee Chappell
Sam Corcoran
Tom Bender
Scott Thomas
Darren Locke
Jorell Johnson
Jernade Meade
James Comley
Louie Theophanous
Charlie MacDonald
Substitutes
Juien Lafuente
Marlon Jackson
Declan Benjamin
Jon Arzamendi
Carlos Piffare
Gerardo Smaldone
John Kyriacou
Billy Gibson
Jack Green
Jonathan Edwards
Substitutions
Jon Arzamendi -> David King (9)
Marlon Jackson -> Connor McDonaugh (70)
Carlos Piffare -> Kynan Isaac (81)
Jonathan Edwards -> Jernade Meade (75)
Billy Gibson -> Tom Bender (80)
Jack Green -> Scott Thomas (80)
Yellow cards
David Pond (22) Louie Theophanous (3)
Tom Bender (32)
Jorell Johnson (62)
Red cards
None None.
Match report

Charlie MacDonald opens his account for The Saints.
A soft under-belly is sending St Albans City sleepwalking towards relegation was pretty much the assessment of manager Harry Wheeler after seeing his side crumble to a 4-1 National League South defeat to high-flying Oxford City at Marsh Lane on Saturday.

St Albans deservedly led at the interval but appeared to have neither the ability nor the stomach to stand up to their hosts once Justin Merritt’s talented side upped the tempo after the interval.

Wheeler blasted the mentality of his side when speaking in a cold breeze after the final whistle.

“We are in trouble and if they (the players) hadn’t realised it then before they blink it will be March (and too late to avoid the drop).

They hear comments that they are too good to go down; you’re not. The table doesn’t lie, you’re not too good to go down.

There were lads out there that I thought worked tirelessly today, everyone did in the first half but when some drop off that is what you get, especially against a good side.”

Wheeler suggested that changes may be needed but at present the side seems to have a revolving door policy and if City are to get out of their current mess then some stability may be required.

But, with so many statistics and facts stacked against St Albans right now it is difficult to see how the club can stop its headfirst plunge towards relegation.

The goal scored at Oxford was only their eighth in 13 away league games, by far the lowest return of any side in National League South.

Securing just three points out of the last 18 available tells its own story, it is relegation form.

And while City’s pitiful plight may offer the likeable Wheeler some useful pointers for further down the line in his managerial career, the failure by the club to appoint an experienced manager when the Saints are in such a desperate situation may prove a costly error by the board.

Wheeler’s team selection options were greatly different from the Saints last league outing two weeks ago.

Injury ruled out Ben Martin and Eddie Oshodi, while Kevin Krans, Harry Crawford and Gus Sow have all left the club.

Jorell Johnson came in at right back for the dropped John Kyriacou while James Comley and the recalled Darren Locke were in the middle of the back four.

Only left-back Tom Bender remained in the back-line from the side thrashed 5-0 at Sutton.

In midfield Scott Thomas started a league match for the first time in two months alongside Sam Corcoran, Jernade Meade and Lee Chappell.

Of that quartet Meade continues to show flashes of the ability that is within him but it is Corcoran who stands head and shoulders above the others as the best user of the ball and the one with the most heart for the battle – although this more than occasionally lands him in trouble with the match officials.

In attack Louie Theophanous lined up next to new signing Charlie MacDonald who turns 35 next month.

MacDonald took just 10 minutes to become the 228th player to score on his City debut and the experienced striker had a good opportunity to restore City’s lead shortly after Oxford equalised.

The first half could hardly gone better for St Albans; Wheeler claimed that it went exactly as planned, as the players stuck to the game plan.

On a dire playing surface that lived up to the stadium’s Marsh Lane name, City comfortably controlled the opening 45 minutes but could have gone down to ten men after just three minutes when Theophanous escaped with just a yellow card for a high challenge on David King.

A similar challenge by Oxford skipper Darren Pond on Meade looked far worse than it actually was but certainly angered Meade’s team-mates.

The limping central defender (King) was replaced on nine minutes and a minute later Theophanous latched onto a bouncing ball lifted over the home defence by Thomas.

With a crisp low diagonal right-footed drive into the uneven goalmouth, Theophanous forced the diving Oxford ‘keeper Laurie Walker to parry the ball and MacDonald stumbled his way in front of substitute Jon Arzamendi to bundle St Albans into the lead.

It was a lead that the home side seldom threatened to erase before the break and after Bender and Locke had sent a shot and header, respectively, over the target the Hoops were grateful to Jose Lapoujade for a wonderful tackle to deny MacDonald a tap-in from another low cross by Theophanous.

Comley tried his luck with an audacious long range effort that the retreating Walker saved with ease.

The dreadful surface contributed to both sides making errors and there was also an undercurrent of ill feeling that occasionally came to the fore.

Three players were booked before half time while Corcoran and Bradley Budd had a couple of unsavoury spats, not that it bothered St Albans too much, as they, probably surprisingly, headed down the tunnel a goal to the goal.

Merritt’s side – a team packed with outstanding talent – had been hustled out of their normal game for 45 minutes but after the break they played with an intensity and confidence that simply blew the Saints away.

Within five minutes of the restart the Hoops had won six corners but, at least for now, St Albans held firm and it took an hour for the home side to finally pierce the City defence and force Joe Welch into his first save of the afternoon.

But once they had found a way through the floodgates opened for Oxford and Welch, who made just one save throughout the game, was beaten four times in fifteen minutes, and twice inside 22 seconds.

Oxford’s sustained pressure had to tell and on 60 minutes Kynan Isaac worked a short corner routine with Luke Coulson before crossing the ball into the goalmouth.

Locke headed away as far as the edge of the penalty area where Reece Fleet volleyed a shot into the still crowded box.

The ball deflected off Locke and then Chappell and into the path of Conor McDonagh who showed great awareness and calmness to tap a short pass to Bubb.

Bubb’s shot from seven yards appeared to deflect off the diving Chappell and past Welch for his 14th goal of the season in 21 games.

To their credit St Albans did not fold, well, not just yet and twice went close to regaining the upper hand.

Chappell battled his way through the middle of the park before the ball bounced into Corcoran’s path.

With an excellent pass along the bobbly pitch MacDonald was sent clear but his attempted shot over Walker from an acute angle was pushed away by the keeper and hacked to safety.

City did get the ball into the net on 68 minutes when Bender came in at the back post to volley home a Corcoran corner from the Saints left.

Unfortunately for the visitors, referee Savvas Yianni, somewhat harshly, penalised MacDonald for a foul on the keeper who had appeared to simply misjudge the flight of the ball.

Within a minute of that incident St Albans went from possibly having a lead to being two goals in arrears and falling apart.

Oxford moved forward quickly from the ensuing free kick and powerful efforts by Coulson and Pond had City in all sorts of trouble before Isaac laid a pass into the path Coulson, as he came in from the right flank.

The sprawling Welch could do little more than push the ball to his right where the long-serving Hoops skipper Pond stabbed in his 55th goal for the club.

Just 22 seconds after kicking-off and St Albans were lining up to restart again after Oxford had scored their third goal.

The ball was played back to Bender from the kick-off; his long ball was headed away and hooked down the Oxford right wing by Pond. Bubb gave chase and ran at Locke as he came in from the touchline.

The ball took a wicked bounce just as Bubb went to stroke a pass across the face of the goal but any hope St Albans had of clearing their lines was lost when Comley stumbled and McDonagh darted in front of Johnson to power a right-footed shot past Welch from point blank range.

On 74 minutes Oxford chalked their biggest home win over the Saints for 54 years following yet another productive attack down their right flank.

Isaac flicked on a header to Bubb who, despite stumbling, raced clear of both Locke and Bender before cutting the ball back for substitute Marlon Jackson to stroke his 10th goal for the club into the vacant net.

Theophanous had a good opportunity to reduce the deficit when he received a pass from Corcoran and chipped it up for MacDonald to head a good ball into the penalty area.

Theophanous burst clear of the Oxford defence but his low shot was kept out by the legs of Walker.

After that the game petered out without further mishap for the Saints although Coulson went close with curling effort after cutting in from the Oxford left.

With Havant & Waterlooville defeating Basingstoke on Saturday St Albans have sunk to the foot of the table but will be hoping that their home form – one defeat in nine league games – will ease their problems next weekend (30 January) when Truro City make the long trek from Cornwall To Clarence Park.
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