With his first hat-trick for the club as St Albans City routed Harrow Borough on Saturday, Simon Martin laid to rest the ghost of Steve Clark who for more than the past decade has been the benchmark by which all City strikers are judged. Martin's triple blast past the side one off the foot of the Premier Division table is the first by a St Albans player since Clark did likewise against Dulwich Hamlet three years ago and with 21 Ryman League goals to his name Martin is the first Saints player to break the 20 goal barrier in the league since Clark back in 1998-99.
Martin may have his critics but his record this season is exceptional especially given that he has not had a settled partner in attack all season and that he is playing in front of midfield which, particularly of late, has been less than generous in providing chances for the strikers.
Creating chances, however, was anything but a problem for the Saints at Harrow as they took full advantage of a cold almost howling wind which was to their backs during the opening 45 minutes. Once Martin had opened the scoring on four minutes it was always a case of how many City could notch before the interval and certainly any hopes Harrow held of restricting the damage went up in smoke when goalkeeper Keita Karamoko was dismissed for bringing down Martin - City could even afford the luxury of Gary Ansell missing the resultant penalty against stand in keeper Dean Marney who did a fine job between the sticks.
Looking to complete their second double of the season the Saints were in positive mood from the start and by keeping the ball on the deck the visitors dominated proceedings and went ahead after just four minutes when Rob Kean played the ball inside to Ansell who fluffed his ambitious back heel but the ball broke kindly to Martin who fired across Karamoko.
The pressure was maintained with only an offside flag denying Rob Smith after he netted from close range. Martin was on course to add his second on ten minutes when he went wide of the keeper only to be sent sprawling to the ground. Referee Ian Williamson had little choice but to dismiss Karamoko but his replacement, Marney, did well to block Ansell's poor spot kick with his legs.
City were made to wait until the 28th minute for the overdue second goal but it was worth the delay. Martin hit a delightful overhead ball down the right to Kean whose first time cross was ducked under by Ansell for Smith to come it at the back post and steer across Marney his first goal since December.
On 36 minutes Martin dispossessed Christian Hyslop and squared to Smith who wanted far too long on the ball which eventually ran back Martin, he too dithered and presented the ball to Steve Cook who showed no such uncertainty and from 22 yards drilled home his first goal for the Saints.
With a misdirected back header which went narrowly wide Hyslop almost added to Harrow's problems while at the other end of the pitch tame efforts from new signing Michael Currie and former Saint Fabio Valenti were the sum total of Borough's attacking intentions.
Although playing into the wind in the second half there was little chance of City surrendering their advantage and with Darren Baxter, a half time replacement for Cook, looking in good touch there was always the possibility of further City goals. That said, the game was drifting aimlessly until sparking back into life midway through the second period when Younes Nabil's cross from the Saints right was only headed away as far as Martin who coolly stroked a low curling left-footed to Marney's right and despite the keeper getting his fingertips to the ball he could not halt Martin's 20th Ryman League goal of the season.
Within a minute Martin was celebrating an excellent hat-trick with a clean right-footed strike following Mike Bignall's inch perfect pass. Harrow reduced the deficit on 70 minutes when the unmarked John Lawford shot low across the injured Richard Wilmot but within three minutes City had re-established their five goal lead when Nabil fed Baxter whose superbly threaded through ball was powerfully thumped home by Smith.
Still City were not finished as Bignall went close with a long range shot and a back post header from Nabil's cross while Marney also did well to cling onto a Smith free kick but during injury time it was Harrow who scored again with Pat Gavin netting from close in following Lawford's cross.