St Albans City slumped to their seventh Conference South defeat of the season at a sunny though chilly Nyewood Lane on Saturday and as with five of the previous six reversals the loss came on day when at least half of the back four was changed from the previous match.
Simon Martin can find no way through the Bognor Defensive Line
The horrific injured sustained by Scott Cousins forced Colin Lippiatt into one alteration but the City boss also elected to give Patrick Ada a run out in an unaccustomed right back position with Chris Seeby moving to midfield to cover for the ill Dean Cracknell.
Fifteen minutes into the game, with City looking all at sea against a typically enterprising Bognor Regis Town side, City were forced into a rethink with Seeby and Ada swapping places but the seeds were sewn for a disjointed and ragged City performance.
Bognor were quick to expose the hole created by Cousins absence with Richard Hudson giving his replacement Lee Flynn a torrid afternoon on his return to the club. In the opening 20 minutes Hudson crossed deep for Kevin Murphy to scoop a speculative effort on to the top of the crossbar and put in a fine low cross that the excellent Ben Watson squandered from close in.
A rare flowing City move on 21 minutes saw Seeby and Lee Clarke free Simon Martin who beat one defender before his low shot rolled just wide after taking a slight deflection of keeper Craig Stoner. Six minutes later City were behind when Ben Johnson went down in the penalty area following a challenge by Ben Lewis. Watson, who rejected a move to Rushden & Diamonds 24 hours earlier, drove the resulting spot kick high to Paul Bastockâ€™s right for the opening goal.
On 29 minutes Darren Budd, some 25 yards out, received a short free kick from Hudson and forced a wonderful save from Bastock high to his left, before the interval Bastock made further good saves from Watson and Budd but City did concede a dreadful second goal on 40 minutes.
Nick Burton misjudged a long high ball and left Bastock scrambling to cover the error but as the ball spilled from his grasp, with the retreating Burton appearing to slide into him, Watson stepped up to tap in the easiest of his 18 goals this season.
St Albans made further positional changes at half time and also introduced Mark Burgess and Paul Hakim for Burton and Martin. Despite the changes Bognor, with good passing along the ground, still created a high number of clear openings but Bastock made a series of good saves to keep the score down.
Throughout the afternoon City were on the wrong end of a number of contentious decisions made by referee Kevin Haines, none more so than when Charlie Balfe clearly hauled back Clarke in the penalty area and when Murphy clambered all over Burgess without either incident, surprisingly, resulting in a penalty.
Although the Saints forced Bognor to defend for long periods of the second half the magic of recent weeks was missing and Matt Hann, in particular, was unusually wasteful in front of goal. Sent way by Flynn Hann sliced high and wide as Stoner dived at his feet, he then saw Stoner save a crisp drive by his left hand post and finally, when picked out by Hakim, declined to lob Stoner when the keeper was stranded and the chance was lost.
But Hann, after taking a pass from Ben Walshe, did battle his way across a crowded penalty area to set up Clarke for his 15th goal of the season on 88 minutes. Seconds later City belatedly gave the speedy Mark Nwokeji his debut and in the limited time available the former Walton & Hersham striker gave Bognor problems but it was too late to affect the final outcome.
Match report by Dave Tavener. Kindly supplied by The St Albans Observer.