Placed in the unfamiliar position of favourites St Albans City duly completed their second Ryman League double of the season on Easter Monday at the expense of a youthful Aylesbury United side that finally bade farewell to even the remotest chance of making the much talked of end of season play-offs.
Declan Perkins scores City's first
The Saints victory, only the second in their last ten Premier Division outings but the fifth in succession over the Ducks, was achieved with some ease and would have been by a far more comprehensive margin had Aylesbury keeper Jack Rashid not been in such tremendous form.
The Saints were dominant throughout and the only surprise was that it took 28 minutes to nudge United towards their 21st consecutive winless match. Even so, it was Aylesbury, after a good start by the visitors, who threatened first with Daniel Mead forcing George Clark into a routine save, shortly after a long ball by Danny Gordon sent Byron Bubb away but after checking back the Ducks striker fired over the target.
Thereafter City began to turn their stronger physical presence into chances, Neil Gough headed straight at Rashid following a cross from the recalled Dave Sargent while excellent skill by Steve Watts to skip round Adam Garner ended with Rashid making a stunning push over high to his left from Gary Wraightâ€™s powerful header. As the pressure mounted Rashid saved a Watts header then forced the same player wide from an Adam Parker through ball, from Watts cut back Gough crossed only for Greg Deacon to head well over.
The Ducks were belatedly undone on 28 minutes when Watts played the ball out to the left to Deacon who cut into the penalty area and slid a perfect pass into the stride of Declan Perkins whose left-footed shot went inside the far post via the diving Rashid.
With Miguel De Souza in total control at the back Cityâ€™s lead was not questioned while Rashid was kept busy dealing with crosses and overhit through balls although shots petered out until after the break. On 52 minutes Parker weaved his way into space and sent over an excellent cross that the free Watts wastefully nodded wide.
Although St Albans continued to control all areas of the pitch chances became scarce until the 69th minute when the left-footed Sargent clipped over a corner from the Saints right that De Souza failed to make proper headed contact with but did enough to guide it inside Rashidâ€™s right hand post.
A long shot from Matthew Brandish caused Clark little concern while a long punt from the City keeper opened up the Ducks defence as Watts knock on sent Perkins clear but the former Southend player shot tamely wide. Two minutes later, the 75th, Perkins was more impressive with a spectacular snap shot that was just inches wide.
Six minutes from a time a low Scott Oakes corner was turned goalwards by Parker but blocked out to Lee Clark whose quick twist and shot was hacked off the line by Garner. Rashidâ€™s finest moment came in the final minute as Chris Seeby exchanged passes with Parker before picking out the incoming Wraight whose powerfully driven and goalbound effort was somehow beaten away Rashid who was quickly up again to gather Clarkeâ€™s follow up.
Against opposition that is clearly out of its depth, City were visibly stronger on the ground and in the air while a second successive clean sheet will have done wonders to their confidence in the build to Saturdayâ€™s visit to Clarence Park of newly crowned champions Canvey Island.