St Albans Cityâ€™s slow start to the season is fast turning into a goal-shy slump with Tuesdayâ€™s 1-0 reversal at Eastbourne Borough leaving the Saints reeling at just one place off the foot of National League South, with just a solitary point and goal to their credit after four games.
Billy Medlock on the attack.
There is no hiding from the fact that City were poor down on the south coast at Priory Lane, and what is a most mediocre Boro side was able to pocket all three points without too many problems.
Looking at the players City have at their disposal it is something of a surprise to see Jimmy Gray and Graham Goldâ€™s side struggling so badly, but whether this current crop of players can perform as a cohesive unit is under close scrutiny.
At present, the evidence would suggest not.
Eastbourne went into the game on the back of their first win of the season, courtesy of a last minute winner at Wealdstone on Saturday, and within two minutes on Monday Tommy Widdringtonâ€™s side almost had City up against the wall.
Simon Thomas headed away a corner only for Gavin McCallum to return the ball into the goalmouth. Sports captain Ian Simpemba looked to have poked the ball home from close range only for Lewis Hilliard to clear from the goal-line.
The ball ran out of the penalty area to Sam Beale whose fierce drive clipped James Comley and was dipping just under the crossbar when Joe Welch stretched to tip it over the top.
Eastbourne maintained the pressure from the ensuing corner but the attack ended when McCallum, from a tight angle, sent a shot against the stanchion.
City, whatever their collective failings, could not be faulted for effort and a quick foray to the opposite end of the pitch saw Louie Theophanous win a corner.
St Albans have great faith in Theophanous extending the form that has seen him score 40 times in this league over the past seasons, but while the midfield continues to struggle to find inspiration and the wide men fail to deliver worthwhile crosses, then the striker will appear a forlorn figure.
City went on to have just two pops at the home goal before half time while Eastbourne had eight attempts on Welchâ€™s goal.
McCallum fired wide from the edge of the penalty area, Kane Haysman beat Welch to a misdirected Ben Martin header but just failed to get his shot on target, while Jack Evans did get his shot on target following Elliott Romainâ€™s pass only for Ian Gayle to divert the ball over the top with a superbly timed sliding tackle.
Once again the corner was only partially cleared and from McCallumâ€™s cross Haysman glanced a header narrowly wide.
As City showed little likelihood of turning the game into their favour, the attention of many of their small band of followers present was switched to activity taking place outside the football ground, as a spectacular golden and orange sunset was witnessed.
Back on planet earth Eastbourne continued to press but a City counter-attack ended with Lee Chappell coming in from the left and shooting low towards the foot of the near post where Lewis Carey was down swiftly to push the ball out for a corner.
The goal that maintained Cityâ€™s run of never having won in five visits to Priory Lane came on 28 minutes and was simplicity personified.
Kieran Khinder-John headed away a long free kick by Welch and then McCallum beat Scott Thomas to head on the falling ball.
Jack Evans needed just two touches to thread the ball along the ground and through the City defence for Elliott Romain to race clear of Ben Martin and flick the ball over the legs of the sprawling Welch, who had darted more than 30 yards from his goal.
The former Lewes striker was now clear to walk the ball into an unprotected net to open the scoring on his home debut.
Six minutes later St Albans lost midfielder Sam Corcoran, when no other player was around him, with what is feared to be a return of the foot injury that precipitated a long lay-off when he first joined the club.
McCallum maybe should have added a second goal when Haysmanâ€™s excellent ball over the City back line beat a feeble attempt to play offside, but after cutting inside onto his left foot the striker was denied low down by an outstanding save by the diving Welch.
The visitors suffered a blow when Luke Allen, one of few City players to have used the ball to good effect during these early games, picked up a knock to an ankle following an innocent clash with Haysman.
The midfielder was replaced by Jack Green at half time.
The early chances after the restart were again created by the East Sussex side but the closest this spell came to producing a goal was glancing header wide by Haysman.
Cityâ€™s willingness to pump the ball forward early whenever possible restricted their chances of creating good openings, but on the one occasion when they did set about running at the home defence the out of sorts Hilliard was cynically brought crashing down by the booked Simpemba.
The unlikely prospect of St Albans scoring their second goal of the season was summed up by the ensuing free kick that saw Billy Medlock hammer the ball over both the goal and covered terrace and into the car park outside the ground.
More trouble looked set to come Cityâ€™s way when Romain latched onto a long ball and beat Martin by the goal-line only for the again impressive Ian Gayle to come to the rescue. Simpemba headed wide the corner that followed.
One of the best and free flowing moves of the night saw Boro shift the ball at pace forward and across the pitch prior to Romain heading over from a McCallum cross.
The Saints biggest threat to the home goal came on 73 minutes when Gayle pumped a hopeful ball forward that Simon Thomas and then Green chested down into the path of Theophanous.
From his powerful low angled drive into the six-yard box the ball was well smothered by Carey as Medlock waited to pounce.
St Albans applied a rare spell of pressure to Careyâ€™s goal as the final whistle drew near but Boro held firm with the keeper grasping the ball from the raised foot of Medlock after Gayle had helped on Hilliardâ€™s over-head kick into the penalty area.
Just seconds before the final whistle sounded Martin and then Gayle sent headers into the home penalty area following a corner by Hilliard but both were repelled as Eastbourne registered their first home win of the season.
St Albans return to Clarence Park on Saturday, 22 August, for the visit of early season pacesetters Bath City who have won all of their opening four fixtures. Kick off is at 3pm.
The Saints will almost certainly be without Corcoran but there is optimism that Allen will have recovered from his swollen ankle to take his place in midfield.