If St Albans City are bound for relegation from National League South then they went a strange way about it on Saturday as, boosted by four goals from Charlie MacDonald, they hammered an expensively assembled Whitehawk 6-0 at Clarence Park.
Charlie MacDonald taps in Saints 5th goal
The most bizarre thing about Cityâ€™s biggest league win for 23 years is that this was not even their best performance of the season.
They were aided by a woeful Whitehawk display that was utterly gutless; the Hawks were not even a shadow of the side that thrashed St Albans by the same scoreline when the two sides last met six months ago.
Whitehawk came into the game with just two points from their previous six games â€“ one more than City had collected from seven games.
Then again, St Albans were barely recognisable from the side that had scored just six times in its previous ten, winless, league outings.
The game seemed to be almost pure fantasy as City, after two games without mustering as much as a single shot on target, scored six times, hit the woodwork on four occasions and were handed their first penalty â€“ two in fact â€“ in the league since last March.
Just for good measure, the Hawks also provided the first opposition player to be sent off in matches against St Albans this season.
City manager Ian Allinson, for whom this was his fourth game and first win since replacing Harry Wheeler, made four changes from the side beaten at Bath the previous weekend.
Out went Ben Martin, Scott Thomas, Michael Thalassitis and the injured Ugo Udoji.
In came Josh Staunton and Darren Locke in the middle of the back four, Billy Gibson to left of the midfield and Louie Theophanous to partner the rejuvenated MacDonald in attack.
Whitehawk started in positive fashion and in addition to winning two corners inside the opening few minutes also had a powerful goal-bound shot by skipper Sergio Torres charged down by Locke.
Having been lampooned for their feeble efforts in front of goal in recent games City gave a hint of what was to come when opening the scoring on eight minutes.
After playing the ball patiently across the Park City opted for a more direct approach with left-back Tom Bender launching a high ball towards the edge of the Whitehawk penalty area.
Central defender Juan-Cruz Gotta headed the ball away but only as far as Cityâ€™s right-wing loanee from Peterborough United Harry Anderson.
The 19-year-old went wide of Chris Sessegnon and chipped a deadly ball over keeper Craig Ross for McDonald to stoop in front of Nick Arnold to score his first goal at the Park since bagging a pair for Gravesend in 2006.
Once behind Whitehawk offered little serious threat to the Saints and on 22 minutes Pablo Asensioâ€™s side seemed to pretty much throw in the towel when Gotta was dismissed and MacDonald doubled Cityâ€™s lead.
Theophanous pounced on the ball after Gotta had poked it away from MacDonald and raced down the City left before crossing low to MacDonald, who had found space between Gotta and Sessegnon Before 35-year-old MacDonald could get in a shot he had his left leg whipped away from him by Gotta. The Argentinean looked genuinely stunned when referee Chris Oâ€™Donnell showed him a red card but it was a simple decision for the Leighton Buzzard official.
MacDonald sent Ross the wrong way from the penalty spot to move St Albans into a commanding position.
Three minutes later and City came within a couple of inches and adding a third goal.
Anderson, who enjoyed a highly promising home debut, ran from the half way line before being blocked on the edge of the penalty area by former Saint David Ijaha.
From the ensuing free kick Billy Gibson struck the ball sweetly high to Rossâ€™ right and against the crossbar, Hawks skipper Torres cleared his lines before City could add to their tally.
But it was only a temporary delay before City did increase their lead on 33 minutes with Anderson again involved.
Hemmed in next to the corner flag by Torres and Sessegnon, Anderson lost the ball but City regained possession when Gibson intercepted Sessegnonâ€™s lofted pass to Danny Stevens and headed it to Theophanous.
Cityâ€™s leading scorerâ€™s shot from 25 yards clipped Ijaha and spun prodigiously off the ground, striking Rossâ€™ right hand upright and spinning past the keeper for the incoming MacDonald to complete a 25-minute hat-trick.
Whitehawk survived without any further damage until the interval but, having already shuffled their line-up following the dismissal of Gotta and an injury to Jake Robinson, brought on Paul Lorraine at half time in place of Stevens in an attempt to strengthen their back four.
The move was successful for all of 14 seconds after the break when Sessegnon carelessly gifted the ball to Anderson who quickly burst into the penalty area and beat Ross with a cracking right-footed drive that thudded into the woodwork.
The frame of the York Road goal came to Whitehawkâ€™s rescue once more when Sam Corcoran guided a stunning pass from the half way line to over the head of Lorraine. Theophanous brought the ball down on his chest and sent a powerful effort crashing into the crossbar from 20 yards.
Any hope Whitehawk held of their ten-men holding out for just a three-goal defeat slipped away on 71 minutes when City rediscovered their scoring boots.
Ross launched a long goal kick into the City half that Locke, in for Martin who was serving an internal one-match club ban, headed back into the Hawks half to MacDonald.
Having displayed tremendous predatory powers close to goal the former Brentford striker now became provider and arrowed a perfect ball wide of Lorraine for Theophanous to place a clinical left-footed shot low across Ross for his tenth league goal of the season.
Whitehawk tried to limit any further damage and kept calling to each other to keep the ball, but their heart was not in it and St Albans looked on course to not only match the defeat inflicted upon them in October but beat it.
Such a prospect moved even closer on 74 minutes when MacDonald became the first City player to score four times in a home league match since December 1994 when Steve Clark notched a quartet during an 8-3 rout of Kingstonian.
Cityâ€™s fifth goal simply magnified how far Whitehawk had fallen since their trouncing of the Saints at the Enclosed Ground in Brighton.
Ijaha conceded possession meekly with Bender stepping in to head the ball out to Gibson in front of the dug-outs.
Gibson sent a lofted pass towards the edge of the penalty area where Lorraine attempted to head the ball back to the outrushing Ross.
MacDonald gave chase towards the keeper and Ross simply panicked and missed the ball, allowing MacDonald to walk the ball into the net.
The 90-minutes Whitehawk spent on the Clarence Park pitch were a nightmare for the club; the 45-minutes substitute Lorraine suffered were little short of a personal humiliation and on 89 minutes his fortunes sunk once more.
City strung together 11 passes before Kevin Krans chipped the ball towards fellow substitute Oran Swales on the edge of the penalty area.
The son of former City Reserve team manager Mark Swales took the ball on his chest and attempted to peel away but had his shirt pulled by Lorraine. Again referee Oâ€™Donnell awarded City a penalty, having gone without a spot kick in the league all season City now had their second of the afternoon.
Jonathan Edwards was entrusted with this one and sent a cleanly struck shot low to the right of the diving Ross for the sixth City goal.
The slaughter was complete but Eddie Oshodi, after darting between David Martin and Sessegnon, was only denied by Ross from sending the Saints into seventh heaven.
MacDonald will grab the headlines with his four-goal salvo but credit must also go to a defence that kept it first clean sheet since 5 December â€“ goalkeeper Joe Welch had just one direct shot to deal with.
Also Lee Chappell, struggling for his best form since losing the left-back berth to Bender, was instrumental in not allowing Whitehawkâ€™s talented midfield to flourish as he beavered away tirelessly throughout.
Following a spat on social media between some supporters and players the previous weekend, which led to Ben Martin being disciplined, all of the players made their way to the York Road end at the end of the game to express their gratitude for the support received from the terraces on Saturday.
The win takes City off the foot of the table but they still remain seven points adrift from the nearest side outside of the relegation places, and all but bottom dogs Basingstoke have games in hand on St Albans.
Whitehawkâ€™s defeat also plunges them into a relegation scrap and the number of games that they currently have in hand will count for nothing until they rediscover the heart required to go alongside their undoubted quality.
City captain Sam Corcoran picked up his tenth booking of the season and faces a two-match ban, one of which will be served while he is out of the country on business.