St Albans City are still searching for their first away Blue Square South point of the season following a dismal 2-0 defeat at Woodside Park to county rivals Bishopâ€™s Stortford on Saturday.
Fisher goes close
City, not the first time this season, started positively and looked promising on the ball only to be completely toothless in attack and appeared resigned to defeat once the excellent Lewis Smith opened the scoring with a stunning effort inside 11 minutes.
Manager Steve Castle has remained loyal to his frontline trio of Gary Cohen, Drew Roberts and Danny Green so far this season but with the trio having scored just twice in open play to date it is clear that his patience is wearing thin.
Speaking after the match Castle admitted that City did not look like scoring and changes, either positional or personnel, may be around the corner.
To this end City, brought in Southend United youngster Craig Calver for his debut as a second half substitute for the unfortunate Solomon Shields. Calver was a regular scorer for the Southend Youth and Reserve sides last years.
Prior to Southend he was with Ipswich Town and scored once in two appearances for Harlow Town last season, but on Saturday he was given scant opportunity to open his account as Stortford strolled to their first home win of the season.
Illness to Alex Bailey allowed Luke Thurlbourne to return to the side and, playing at right back, gave an accomplished performance.
Lukeâ€™s elder brother Jamie had a reasonable game on the opposite flank while Cityâ€™s central defensive pairing of captain Ryan Frater and James Quilter had a busy time in containing Smith and new signing Bertie Brayley.
Following a sluggish start to the season Stortford boss Mark Simpson rang the changes with summer signings Charlie Sheringham and Ashley Nicholls consigned to the bench. A further, enforced, change was required when former City defender Matt Jones picked up an injury during the warm up, his place being filled by Tom Champion.
Playing into the breeze during the first half City began encouragingly and within four minutes Roberts, sent away by James Fisher down the right of the home defence, darted into the penalty area and saw his shot from a tight angle tipped onto the near post by one time City keeper Nick Eyre.
But, to the dismay of the ever hopeful City supporters present, that was as good as it got for the visitors.
Stortford midfielder Danny Harris tested Paul Bastock from distance on eight minutes and three minutes later City were behind when Smith superbly brought down Ben Bowditchâ€™s diagonal pass and, from wide of the far post, beat Bastock with a cracking drive from 15 yards.
St Albans responded with a good exchange between Shields and Green that ended with the latter winning a free kick only to then send the set piece comfortably over the home goal.
Midway through the half a good ball into the box by Mark Wright found Brayley but swift movement by Bastock saw the experienced strikers shot blocked.
Despite City sticking with their three-pronged attack and Stortford possessing the quality of Smith and Brayley, neither goalkeeper had a busy afternoon, but Eyre did have an anxious moment when Jamie Thurlbourne drove a free kick across the face of the Bishopâ€™s goal and out for a corner off a defenders head.
Darren Quinton curled the ball in right footed from the corner only for it to bounce harmlessly wide off the foot of the outside of the near upright.
The City goal survived a similar scare when Harris drove the ball into the goalmouth but neither of the incoming duo of Brayley and Marlon Patterson could get a touch.
The game was effectively put to bed four minutes from the interval when Brayley crossed low from the Stortford right. Bastock, James Fisher and Bai Mass Lette jallow all dived in to meet the ball that rebounded kindly into the path of Harris who calmly slotted home left-footed for his second goal of the season.
St Albans had one final opportunity to stay in the hunt before the break but Quinton, receiving a deep cross from the disappointing Cohen, wanted too long on the ball and the chance was lost.
Nine minutes after the restart Castle added to his firepower with 18-year-old Calver joining the attack.
But any hoped for City comeback never materialised, and a second half low on quality and certainly lacking in entertainment and excitement fizzled out to a dreary conclusion.
Quinton, one of four City players to have scored so far this season, landed a free kick from almost 30 yards onto the top of Eyreâ€™s crossbar before Sheringham, on for Brayley, took an age to control the ball when well placed and was duly robbed.
Bastock was called upon to make his most worthwhile contribution of the half when Harris, fed by Sheringham, shot low towards the keeperâ€™s left hand post but the Bostonian got down smartly to save.
For the final ten minutes City opted for what is becoming a regular occurrence as 37-year-old Mark Peters was hauled off the bench and sent to bolster a physically weak frontline. But a lack of decent crosses in the general direction of the big man rendered his time on the pitch as virtually wasted.
But the game did end with a flurry of shots with both Jamie Thurlbourne and Craig Mortimer getting efforts on target from well outside the penalty area, Eyre saved with ease on both occasions, while Smith drove over the City goal.