With the two clubs having previously met on only one occasion, the choice of where to go for this Tales Of Park Life Ramblings is somewhat constricted but we will look at that game and round up the 2018-19 season in which it was played.

Taunton progIt was on Wednesday, 10th October 2018 that we made our first visit to Taunton’s home in Wordsworth Drive. The game was an F.A. Cup 3rd Round Qualifying tie and to reach that stage of the competition Taunton had blown away Bemerton Heath Harlequins and Bitton AFC under an avalanche of goals in Somerset. Wessex League Premier Division side Bemerton were despatched 7-1 while Western League Bitton - who had won their opening nine games to the season – were seen off 4-0.

Peacocks in peak form

As suggested by these two results, Rob Dray’s Peacocks were on a terrific run of good form in front of goal prior to our visit. Since playing out a goalless Southern League Premier South Division game with Basingstoke Town on 1st September, Taunton had scored twenty times in five home games. Andrew Neal, in scoring in all five games, found the back of the net ten times during that spell.

Our cup campaign had been less straightforward than Taunton’s, this in spite of coming into the competition a Round later than the Somerset club. We made our entrance in the 2nd Round Qualifying and expected to be facing Isthmian League Division One South side Whyteleafe at Clarence Park following their replay victory over Corinthian Casuals in the previous Round.

City forced to wait

Unfortunately for Whyteleafe, it was discovered that one of their players, Taiwo Odutolu, had played in the game whilst banned and they were duly kicked out of the competition by the Football Association. The Surrey club appealed the decision, this led to their visit to the Park being called off just over 25 hours before the scheduled kick off. The original decision of The F.A. was upheld, which led to Corinthian Casuals being reinstated with the tie put back three days to Tuesday, 2nd October.

City boss Ian Allinson was none too pleased in the delay and was even less happy when our run of four straight wins came to an end with Casuals’ Josh Uzun cancelling out David Moyo’s first half goal with a late equaliser. Two early goals by Ralston Gabriel, taking his tally to six in two games, paved the way for our 3-0 replay win at the King George’s Arena with Dave Diedhiou completing the tally. The Casuals replay led to the meeting with Taunton being put back to a Wednesday evening and City playing a third F.A. Cup tie in nine days.

Double drenching for Saints

The City players’ coach left Clarence Park at 2pm on what was a gloriously hot day in our neck of the woods. It was a tad cooler upon arriving at Woodsworth Drive and five minutes from full time the heavens opened with the crowd of 595 being treated to an absolute drenching.

During the earlier part of the evening it had been raining goals and, from three ahead at the interval, the Peacocks sauntered to a 5-2 victory. Matt Buse and Ollie Chamberlain each bagged a brace and Ryan Brett chipped in with a single for the hosts while Gabriel and Tom Bender briefly offered hope for the travelling support between Town’s fourth and fifth goals. The game was every bit as one-sided as the final score suggests. Ryan Brett’s goal was a glorious flick with his heel and is well worth tracking down on YouTube.

Taunton faced a tough test in the final qualifying round with a trip to National League South side Billericay Town during the time of owner Glenn Tamplin’s colourful and controversial reign at Blunts Wall Road. Neal and Buse both scored for Taunton as they twice came from behind but Neal was later dismissed following a clash with Billericay defender Dean Inman. Even so, a draw was secured with an excellent attendance of 1,582 seeing the replay at Wordsworth Drive. As well as Taunton played in the second meeting they could not pull back Sam Deering’s first half goal for ‘Ricay who went through to face Chesterfield in the 1st Round Proper.

Taunton’s good form continued throughout the season with Rob Dray’s side finishing second in the table to Weymouth who were duly promoted to National League South. Weymouth had taken the title by a solitary point (and a far superior goal difference) and the Peacock’s frustration of missing out on the title was compounded when they lost on penalties in the play-off semi-final to Poole Town, a side that had finished the season 15 points behind Taunton. In addition to pipping Taunton to the championship, Weymouth also removed Taunton in the F.A. Trophy 1st Round Qualifying. Two Rounds later and Weymouth, following a draw at Radipole Lane, removed us from the competition with some ease, 2-0, in front of a poor attendance at the Park of 174.

As for the City, we came to rest in ninth place after a brief flurry of three straight wins in April ignited false hopes of pinching a play-off position. We made a 1st Round exit from the Herts Charity Cup with a pre-season defeat to Hertford Town at Hertingfordbury Park but fared much better in the Herts Senior Cup. Slender, single-goal wins accounted for Hertford Town and Royston Town (an own goal by former Saint Harold Joseph) and were followed by a penalty shoot-out win over Watford in the semi-final. Current City player Joy Mukena scored from the spot for the Hornets that day, as did former Saint Alkeo Bani. In the final we went down 1-0 to Boreham Wood at Broughinge Road with Gabriel scoring the winning goal shortly before starting a 14-year prison sentence for arms offences.

Line ups for the F.A. Cup at Wordsworth Drive:

Taunton Town: Lloyd Irish, Pierce Mitchell, Shane White, Ben Adelsbury, Josh Nelmes, Matt Buse, Ollie Chamberlain, Ryan Brett, Brett Trowbridge, Dan Sullivan (Craig Veal 66), Andrew Neal (Keith Emmerson 79), subs; Douglas Camilo, Matt Villis.

St Albans City: Dean Snedker, Ben Herd (Khale Da Costa 61), Tom Bender, David Noble (Sam Merson 70), Lewis Knight, David Diedhiou, Ben Wyatt, Clovis Kamdjo (Solomon Sambou 61), Ralston Gabriel, David Moyo, Percy Kiangebeni, subs; Zane Banton, Jacob Gardiner-Smith.

Referee: Daniel Lamport (Swindon). Att: 595.