St Albans City celebrated promotion to the Conference National in May 2006 with an open-top bus trip through the city centre followed by a reception with the Mayor and other dignitaries at the Town Hall. It was hardly mass hysteria as intrigued shoppers looked on with a mixture of amusement and bemusement as the red bus battled its way through the ridiculous road works that blighted the city centre for what seemed an eternity.
As the celebrations continued inside the Town Hall, pockets of supporters lingered around outside pondering the composition of Colin Lippiatt’s squad for the 2006-07 season, St Albans City’s first amongst the elite of the non-league game. Some boldly, or blindly, suggested that the side that had taken the Conference South by storm – City were by some distance the highest scoring outfit in the Division – was good enough to hold its own in the Conference National. Others reflected back to a time when John Mitchell led the club to two promotions in three seasons in the mid 1980s. Although he tweaked the squad Mitchell tried to stay loyal to those who had won promotion in 1986 to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League. Early in the following season St Albans were one place off the foot of the table and Mitchell, a phenomenally successful manager in two spells at the helm at Clarence Park, almost ruthlessly rebuilt the side with more experienced players and gradually the corner was turned and relegation avoided in some comfort.
Twenty years on and Lippiatt stuck to the script adopted by Mitchell as he too showed his faith in those who had turned the bookies favourites for relegation into a promotion winning side. One year on and the bookies were not slow to make St Albans City favourites for relegation again as they entered the world of full-time professionals with a distinctly part time set up both on and off the pitch.
The list of departures following the play off victory over Histon was unusually short with just four players leaving the club. Striker Amos Foyewa, kindly described as erratic and unpredictable, returned to Lewes at the end of his loan, while defender Mark Burgess, a squad member for half the season who spent the final 13 matches on the bench as an unused substitute, departed and, apparently, drifted out of the game. The other two players to leave were more significant, Ben Walshe, a highly talented wide left-sided player left for the second time to the disappointment of many although his fitness had frequently been called into question. Defender Patrick Ada, who eventually went full time with Exeter City, was one of the first to go and his departure did raise eyebrows, as it was expected City would need his speed to quell the fitness of the full-time strikers.
For the opening friendly of a long, dry and hot summer, City fielded just two new signings on 12th July against Luton Town. The new boys were Dave Theobald and Josh Sozzo. Theobald, a tall central defender signed from Kettering Town, made his Poppies debut the previous October in an FA Cup tie against the Saints. For striker Sozzo the step up was far greater as he moved to Clarence Park from county rivals Hitchin Town. Amongst six trialists was Andy Ross who made four substitute appearances the previous season but Lippiatt was undecided as to whether to add him to the new squad, eventually the City manager decided against retaining the player. Making a welcome return to the side after 50 weeks out of action following a cruciate knee ligament injury suffered during a friendly at Tring Athletic the previous July was central defender Ben Martin. Simon Martin, having also undergone surgery had his first run out since April but Player of the Year Paul Bastock was not quite ready to resume playing following an operation to a damaged knee. Scott Cousins, missing since suffering a broken left ankle at Tamworth in January, spoke of being fit for the opening league match.
The Luton game came very close to not taking place as seconds before it was due to kick off referee Darren Deadman declared that he could not take charge of the game after both clubs indicated they would be using more than six substitutes. To the amazement of the 800+ plus crowd Deadman disappeared down the tunnel with Luton manager Mike Newell set to follow him until the Hatters press officer Steve Dove stepped forward to say he was a qualified referee and was prepared to take charge. Two of Luton’s youngsters, George Bevan and Ryan Charles, ran the line armed with ‘bibs’ for flags. Deadman, having misinterpreted the ruling regarding substitutes in friendly matches, was later punished by the FA while the incident received national coverage on SKY. Luton won 6-0.
One week later City gave a first run out to new signing Adam Wilde, brought in as a direct replacement for Walshe. Wilde, signed from Salisbury City but had played against City for Weymouth during 2005-06, scored the seventh goal in an 8-0 romp away to North Greenford United. No new faces were seen in the next two friendlies, a 2-2 draw at Hitchin Town and 3-0 defeat at home to Barnet, but two trialists, Daniel Matthew and Luke Maitland, were seen for the one and only time as City went down to a 2-0 defeat at home to Hampton & Richmond Borough. The match with Hampton was switched to Clarence Park due to The Beveree suffering from the effects of the scorching summer.
City’s unusually brief round of friendly matches, six, seven had been pencilled in but a trip to Havant & Waterlooville was called off at the last minute due to the Hawks having a lengthy injury list, was rounded off with a goalless draw at Clarence Park against a youthful Sheffield United side that City had promoted as a strong Blades XI. Teenage defender Dane Harper, from Boston United, made a good impression during a 30-minute run out against the Blades and was signed as a non-contract player. Later in the week Rob Norris, a teammate of Harper’s at Boston, was also added to the squad.
Away from Clarence Park, the St Albans City Midweek Youth team, having had their association with the senior club abruptly ended in the summer of 2005, looked to be heading towards extinction. After being kicked out of Clarence Park the team linked up with London Colney but suffered a dreadful campaign, finishing bottom of the Allied Counties League, winning just one match. It was announced that the side would not be running during 2006-07 although club chairman Clive Attwood announced that the withdrawal was only intended for one season. Colin Lippiatt’s squad featured three former members of the City Youth team but no longer would it be possible for members of St Albans City Youth to progress directly through the Youth set-up to the First team.
Season Begins With A Win
St Albans City’s first taste of Conference National football took place on Saturday 12th August at Kidderminster Harriers’ impressive Aggborough Stadium. To the delight of two coach-loads of supporters the Saints revelled in playing in front of 1,806 spectators and courtesy of first half goals from Paul Hakim, Dave Theobald and a Lee Clarke penalty the visitors stormed to a 3-1 victory. Jeff Kenna scored Harriers injury time consolation goal but it was not sufficient to stop City from heading the new table in alphabetical order from Weymouth. The outcome would probably have been a good deal less clear-cut had Paul Bastock, at the start of another vintage campaign by the evergreen goalkeeper, not saved Dean Sturridge’s 75th minute penalty. By opening the scoring after just nine minutes Hakim had secured his place in the record books as the scorer of City’s last goal in Conference South and first in the Conference National. City’s joy was tarnished a tad in the closing stages when Gary Elphick was dismissed for handball when referee Stuart Attwell decided he was the last defender, that decision leading to the penalty. The red card was rescinded on appeal to the FA. The match included debuts for Theobald, Wilde and Norris while Ben Martin, after missing the entire 2005-06 campaign through a cruciate knee ligament injury, came on as substitute as Lippiatt reorganised the defence to cover for the loss of Elphick. That City gave a debut to just two players in the starting XI underlined his loyalty to those who had won the club promotion. The number of City supporters at Aggborough was given as 99.
But Elphick’s relief at seeing that card wiped out was short-lived as he, and Cambridge United’s Danny Carey-Bartram were dismissed just after half time the following Tuesday as the two sides fought out a tremendously enjoyable goalless draw at Clarence Park. But, where as Carey-Bartram received a straight red for a quite remarkable ‘head-butt’ into the chest of Elphick the City defender was given just a one-match ban for picking up two yellow cards. Nonetheless he still had the dubious honour of being the first St Albans City player to be dismissed in successive games. Just one City player, Sozzo, made his debut as the Saints slipped to fourth in the table. In the United backline was Ritchie Hanlon, who, in the autumn of 2007, endured a brief spell as City manager. The attendance of 1,906 included a remarkable 792 away supporters – higher than City’s average home gate for any season since 1992-93. The game against Cambridge United included two first’s for St Albans; firstly that the players wore shirts that were squad-numbered rather than 1-11, and, secondly, the ground was segregated with the away supporters being given the Hatfield Road terrace (pictured right).
Having been unchanged for the opening two fixtures, Lippiatt was forced into his first alteration for the visit of Aldershot Town on 19th August as Ben Lewis stepped in to replace Elphick for his only appearance of the season prior to being released. A possibly disappointing gate of 1,373 saw the Shots well and truly end City’s unbeaten start with a 5-3 victory, but for late goals by Tom Davis, a penalty, and Dean Cracknell the losing margin would have been considerable. Aldershot had taken the lead on the stroke of half time through a Darren Barnard penalty only for Ram Marwa to restore parity within four minutes of the restart. The disappointing feature regarding the attendance was that it consisted a substantial away support of 570, meaning that the City support numbered just 800. The Shots victory pushed the Saints down to 10th at the end of the first week of the new season.
One defeat from the opening three fixtures was a decent start for the Saints but the club was picking up a number of injuries, the most serious being to central defender Ben Martin who required surgery to a knee injury and was likely to be out for up to six weeks.
For the Saints second away match of the season the club faced its first trip to a northern outpost as Altrincham provided the opposition. The Moss Lane club from the outskirts of Manchester had lost their place in the Conference earlier in the summer when docked 18 points for fielding an ineligible player but were spared relegation when Canvey Island withdrew from the league for financial reasons. The bid to avoid a second successive tight finish to the season was boosted with a simple 2-0 victory over a City side that was pretty lifeless on the day. Alty’s chances of victory looked to be receding when Bastock saved his second penalty of the season on 28 minutes, but when Lee Clark also fired wide from the spot nine minutes later the Saints hopes of cashing in all but vanished. In addition to awarding a penalty to either side, referee David Richardson was also even handed with his yellow card showing it to no less than four players on either side. Altrincham also had manager Graham Heathcote banished to the stands leaving one Alty fan to mutter ‘he does it all the time’. Heathcote ranted at Richardson after Clarke missed his penalty, quite what the Alty boss would have done had Clarke scored would have been well worth seeing. City were without Marwa for the first time this season due to a hamstring strain. The gate of 890, 73 of which were from St Albans, was the first sub-one thousand City had played in front of in the Conference. The result nudged St Albans a further four places down the table. Providing the match statistics for the Press Association was the former Manchester United player Ashley Grimes. For matches at Clarence Park the job was usually carried out by either former Spurs player Paul Moran or the former Barnet goalkeeper Gary Phillips who was a St Albans resident.
Ben Lewis’s name appeared on the team sheet, as an unused substitute, for the final time on Bank Holiday Monday, 28thAugust, as another club record was set. Ever since the inception of the Conference in its various guises in 1979 (as the Alliance Premier League) St Albans City had never beaten a Conference side at Clarence Park. Gravesend & Northfleet and Telford United had been defeated away from home in the FA Cup but victory for the Saints at the Park, up until this point in time, had proved elusive. Tamworth, not willingly it must be said, were the Lambs to the slaughter – although 1-0 is probably not really a slaughter – and it was, once again, Hakim who created history with the all-important goal. The gate was down again, this time to 1,184, but with Tamworth providing 170 spectators the good news was that City support for the match was up on the previous game. Some spectators missed the opening minutes of the game due to one of the turnstiles for City supporters opening late. An unusual statistic was created by Davis and Clarke as both players were booked for the third successive match as St Albans climbed back into the top ten.
above: Saints in action against Tamworth
The win over Tamworth put City in good heart for a trip to championship favourites Oxford United the following Friday, 1st September, and encouraged an equal highest away support of the season of 214 to the Kassam Stadium. The City following was somewhat outnumbered at Oxford though as Jim Smith’s side recorded a 2-1 win in front of a crowd numbering 6,190. It is believed to be the highest league attendance City had played in front of since October 1951 when 7,900 witnessed a 2-1 defeat away to Wycombe Wanderers. In an attempt to dent Oxford’s unbeaten start to the season Lippiatt pushed Chris Seeby in front of the back four into a deep holding position, the switch worked to good effect despite the defeat. There were also a couple of new faces in the side, at right back was Damian Batt, previously with Barnet, and on 65 minutes the towering Magnus Okuonghae, who played for Aldershot during their recent win at the Park, replaced Elphick who felt a twinge in his hamstring. Although on the back foot for much of the game City were disappointed not to get anything out of it for two reasons. Firstly, because Oxford went down to ten men with the dismissal of Chris Hargraves for a high challenge on Davis midway through the second half and, secondly, with Theobald’s second goal of the season (left) the sides were on level terms with just seven minutes remaining. But thoughts of a shock result at the Kassam disappeared less than a minute later as Matt Day struck the winner.
Unfortunately, there were reports of trouble after the game with bricks being thrown at the supporters’ coach. It is believed that four individuals in a car were arrested after being tracked by a police helicopter.
Two days before the trip to Oxford Ben Martin went under the knife again for another knee operation, his surgeon reported that not only was the operation a success but also that his anterior cruciate ligament, the injury suffered in July 2005, had healed perfectly. Even so, Martin was facing a further six weeks on the sidelines but he was in good company as a hamstring injury to Marwa also ruled him out of action. Cousins’ hopes of an early return were diminishing with his anticipated return now delayed until the New Year.
City were without a midweek fixture following the Oxford match but for three players, Tom Davis, Magnus Okuonghae and Chris Seeby, Wednesday 5th September was a memorable moment in their respective careers. An onlooker during two of the Saints early matches had been Paul Fairclough, manager of the England semi-professional side. Fairclough, a veteran of 104 games during two spells with St Albans, included the trio in an England National Game XI side to face Forest Green Rovers at The New Lawn for the official opening of the Nailsworth clubs new ground. All three could be pleased with their contribution on the night with Okuonghae doing most to catch the eye in what was a poor game that Rovers won 1-0. The match was classed as a Trial rather than a full England game so Barrie King, back in 1962-63, remained City’s most recent England international.
St Albans were back in action on the 7th with a first visit to the Victoria Stadium, home of Northwich Victoria. Simon Martin was given an opportunity to renew his partnership with the in-form Hakim as Wilde, struggling to find any decent form, was relegated to the bench. Joining Wilde on the touchline was Matt Hann who was dropped for the first time since the 2004-05 season. Okuonghae came in for his first start. By half time goals from Hakim, Lee Flynn – his only goal for the club – and Theobald put the Saints into a commanding lead and despite Northwich striking the woodwork on three occasions, and wasting several excellent positions, City secured their third win of the season and bounced back into the top ten. The game was played in front of the lowest away attendance of the season, 717, with the City support given as 55.
Acquaintances with Woking, stretching back to 1923, were renewed the following Tuesday at Clarence Park as an injury hit squad now had Batt and Simon Martin added to the list of absentees. Batt, though, was named on the bench against Woking. Martin, troubled by injury from February to May, was facing another lengthy lay off after taking goalkeeper Ben Connett’s knee in his back. Due to the increasing number of injuries Lippiatt was forced to recall Dean Cracknell from Staines Town where he had gone just a week earlier in an effort to regain full match fitness. Cracknell hardly made a favourable impression at Wheatsheaf Lane but his return was desperately required at Clarence Park and despite his recall Lippiatt was still unable to name a full quota of five substitutes for the first time this season. For Colin Lippiatt the visit of the Cards provided him with an opportunity to welcome some old friends to his new home, unfortunately the visitors showed few good manners and walked off with the three points courtesy of a Giuseppe Sole goal during a lively encounter in which Paul Bastock was outstanding.
Gary Elphick joined the list of crocks for the visit of Burton Albion the following weekend but this was offset with the return of Batt during a low-key defeat at home to Nigel Clough’s Brewers. It was the fourth time City had failed to score in nine games and even throwing Bastock forward for a last minute corner could not save the day. Wilde returned to the starting line up for the final time while Josh Sozzo, as a substitute, made his last appearance and goalkeeper Ricky Perks appeared on the team sheet for the first time since October 2005. The away support for the Woking and Burton games both fell just short of 200.
St Albans City savoured the full delights of Conference National football on the 19thwith a midweek trip to face Exeter City at St James Park. The game attracted Exeter’s then lowest gate of the season of 2,494 with 45 being credited as having travelled from St Albans. The Grecians handed the Saints a third successive defeat in a match of six different goalscorers and six bookings. Lippiatt’s side started encouragingly but fell away to a 4-2 defeat with Bertie Cozic, Matthew Gill, Lee Phillips and Billy Jones with a penalty, blowing away goals from City’s Duane Jackman and Clarke. Amongst the Exeter substitutes was former Saint Jon Challinor while Patrick Ada was not even on the bench. Jackman, signed from Bishop’s Stortford, may have scored on his debut but was given just one more go in the starting XI prior to being released. Hann’s troubled start to the season continued as a shoulder injury picked up against Burton ruled him for the next seven matches starting at St James Park. Left: Colin Lippiatt in conversation with Exeter City’s former Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Steve Perryman prior to the game in Devon.
Despite his goal against Exeter Jackman was on the bench the following Saturday as City’s woes continued with Gravesend & Northfleet gaining a dramatic injury time victory at Clarence Park – just one minute after City had pulled level from two down. Also missing from those that played at Exeter was Cracknell, while Kurt Husnu came in for the opening 45 minutes and was never seen again; for once Lippiatt’s policy of signing players on the advice of others without seeing them play himself came completely unstuck. Husnu was signed on the Friday, played for 45 minutes the following day and was then released on the Monday. City’s first sub 1,000 gate (Gravesend support 219) since winning promotion was treated to a poor display by referee Steve Cook that was matched by the players. Two penalties by Charlie MacDonald put Gravesend on the path to victory before Tom Davis, also from the spot, and Hakim restored parity. With full time drawing in Mark de Bolla won the game for the Fleet with a glorious strike. Rob Norris’s fortunes looked to be on the up when he was given his first start against Gravesend but the match was the end of the road for the previously mentioned Husnu, Wilde and Sozzo.
City, table toppers after the opening day fixtures, were falling down the table at some pace down and with a fifth successive defeat on the last day of the month, away to Weymouth, found themselves just one place above the relegation zone. Trouble flared for City before the game with Damian Batt arriving late and having an on-pitch row with Lippiatt during the warm up. Trouble flared off the pitch too with at least one City supporter ejected from the Wessex Stadium. Elphick was fit to start for the first time in four games and Marwa, after missing seven games, also returned. The changes did not end there with Jackman starting for the last time and Norris placed back on the bench for what was to be his final appearance for three months. The match-by-match changes, mostly due to injury but several others due to the manager trying to find the right formula, did little to help the side find any consistency. Midfielder Alexis Nicolas became the latest debutant as he stepped in for the suspended Davis on the ground where Davis had enjoyed his finest performance for the Saints the previous Easter Monday. Hakim opened the scoring with a fine goal that impressed the Terras former City boss Garry Hill but with a brace of goals – one a complete fluke - in the final ten minutes from Wayne Purser Weymouth protected their long unbeaten home record.
The visit of Forest Green Rovers to Clarence Park on the 3rdpresented the Saints with their first opportunity to record some measure of revenge since the side from Gloucestershire removed City from the semi final of the FA Trophy back in 1999. With neither side possessing any players from the Trophy games such feelings of having a score to settle were not carried onto the pitch as a dreary goalless draw ensued with Rovers creating the better openings. On a cold evening live televised Champions League football helped restrict the gate to just 806 (29 visiting supporters) and results elsewhere nudged the Saints into the bottom four despite ending their five-match losing run. Batt and Davis were back in the side as Clarke and Chris Seeby were placed on the bench. Another substitute, Nathan Simpson, became the Saints tenth debutant of the season.
City’s plight was not being helped by an injury list that was forcing Lippiatt to bring in players at an increasing rate, with most of the new faces coming from a lower level their success was limited. But City’s Sports Rehabilitator (physio) Jason Laird provided some encouraging news at the start of the month when declaring that Ben Martin was progressing well with his rehabilitation, as was Hann, and that Simon Martin would be available for Saturday’s game against Southport. The news was less positive for Elphick whose hamstring was again causing problems and Marwa was likely to miss a few games after suffering an ankle injury against Forest Green. Other off the pitch news was that the Saints commercial manager, Martin Morgan, a supporter of Enfield Town, who only took on the role during the summer, had left the club.
For City’s first venture to Haig Avenue, Southport, Seeby and Clarke returned although the latter probably wished he had not after collecting his fifth booking of the season and striking the woodwork with a 69th minute penalty that would have given his side a two-goal lead. City had taken the lead five minutes earlier through Damian Batt’s first goal for the club but two minutes after Clarke’s miss Tony Gray equalised for the Sandgrounders and a game that had been going comfortably City’s way ended in some discomfort. Simon Martin was given his first start in the Conference while Nick Roddis came off the bench to have his first run out in the Conference since November 2003. Another first was the sight of Lippiatt sporting a new tracksuit and bright white trainers, all that was missing was a hoodie and bling. The section of the main stand at Haig Avenue set aside for visiting officials was bereft of City directors, the lack of support for the team and the manager from the directors’ box was something supporters became increasingly familiar with as the season wore on. Fortunately, associate directors stopped the visiting officials’ area from being completely empty throughout the season. Fifty-five City supporters made the 400-mile round trip.
The draw at Southport ended a run of three straight away defeats but hopes of improving upon that run were not particularly high the following Tuesday, 10th, as the Saints travelled to Victoria Road to face a Dagenham & Redbridge side going well in putting pressure on leaders Oxford United. And within 45 minutes of the kick off it was not difficult to see why as John Still’s side simply blew City away. Dagenham were three up by the interval, as goals from Paul Benson and Dave Rainford, either side of a glorious strike from former Saint Craig Mackail-Smith, left City facing a hammering. To their credit St Albans, so tentative and uncertain during the first half, took the game to the Daggers after the break and pulled back two goals through Batt, a wonderful goal, and Hakim. Dagenham came good again towards the end and with Mackail-Smith adding his second a 4-2 victory was secured. The speed and fitness of Still’s side was phenomenal, City simply could not live with it and many put it down to the difference between a part time club against a club in full time training. Mackail-Smith revealed that the Dagenham players hardly saw a ball during the pre-season training but did an immense amount of running, the result was a team of great speed and stamina. Davis was booked once more, for the second time in the season he had received a yellow card for the third successive match, it was his eighth booking in just twelve appearances.
Sixteen games into the season and it still took some believing that St Albans City were on an equal footing with some proud and long-established footballing names that had graced the Football League. For the Saints it was utopia, for many of the opposition sides it was hard times. Next up was York City; the Abbey at St Albans against York Minster. The winner, of a very entertaining encounter, was the home of Britain’s first Christian martyr, this despite Craig Farrall giving the Minstermen a 25thm inute lead. The game turned seven minutes later with Cracknell, making only his third start of the season, netting with a quickly taken free kick. After that the headlines were grabbed by the debut making strike duo of Warren McBean, recently released by Braintree Town, and the on-loan Bristol City forward Elliot Benyon. Four minutes after the restart McBean put the Saints ahead and within another four minutes Hakim had scored his best goal for the club as City’s eight match winless run was coming to an end. Farrall added his second of the afternoon on 66 minutes but a minute later York’s Darren Craddock was dismissed following a trip on Benyon. Even with a numerical advantage St Albans were kept waiting until the final minute before the exciting Benyon opened his account (left). Despite the win City remained in 21st place but the success of the new boys and that City’s share of the gate was back above 800 for the first time in four home games offered hope for better days ahead. York’s support on the day was an excellent 397. The Minstermen stayed fourth in the table but a distant 11 points behind leaders Dagenham. Watching from the main stand was Ricky George (seated behind former Barnet goalkeeper Gary Phillips). Ricky was one of the heroes of Hereford United’s FA Cup giant killing of Newcastle United in 1972. Now employed as a sales representative for Poole Pottery he also worked part-time for the Daily Telegraph, in a part-time capacity, submitting articles on non-league football. His piece on this game was one of two St Albans matches that he covered during the season.
The Saints optimism was further boosted with Grays Athletic providing the next opposition on the 21st, Frank Gray’s side were enduring a lean run with just one win in their previous nine outings, ironically the same run as that of St Albans. For the first time since the opening two games of the season Lippiatt named an unchanged starting XI then looked on in horror as Grays ran riot. Michael Kightly, bound for Wolverhampton Wanderers, gave the Essex club an interval lead that he added to in the final minute of the second half. In between times Adam Green, Aaron McLean, and two goals from Ashley Nicholls, paved the way for a 6-0 City defeat, City’s heaviest home league reversal for 48 years. Marwa returned to replace the injured Alexis Nicolas at half time; the former Chelsea player left the club three weeks later. Lippiatt was furious after the game, “We threw the towel in, we gave up. That was not acceptable, I will not tolerate it and will do something about it.” He backed up his words by releasing three players - McBean, Jackman and Simpson - the day after the game. Moments after the final whistle a supporter went into the boardroom to demand a refund on his season ticket.
Throughout his time at Clarence Park Lippiatt had a poor record in the cup competitions but with promotion to the Conference National City had the advantage of not having to enter the FA Cup this season until the final qualifying round. A trip to Conference South side Yeading, although not the easiest tie to be handed, was as good as the Saints could have wished for. But far from taking a settled line up into the match City made five changes to the side that kicked off against Grays, and further changes were required just seven minutes into the match as Paul Bastock clipped the aggressive Nevin Saroya around the head after being barged by the Yeading captain. Referee David Phillips missed the initial foul but saw Bastock’s actions and promptly dismissed him. Lee Clarke, with just two goals to his name so far this season, went between the sticks but could not keep out Saroya’s spot kick. A dreadful error by Clarke presented Danny Page-Allen with a second goal and it was not until injury time that Davis pulled one back, also from the penalty spot. An acrimonious tie, poorly officiated, ended with unsavoury scenes on the pitch at the final whistle. That said, it was no less distasteful that the closing minutes of the game that saw Saroya receive a long overdue red card, moments later he was joined by goalkeeper Delroy Preddie. Whilst Bastock took the brunt of the criticism for the defeat Lippiatt too found himself in the firing line as, for the 61st time in his 100 games in charge, he failed to name a goalkeeper amongst the substitutes. To keep fit, second choice keeper Ricky Perks had been playing for Walton & Hersham but was available had he received the call. The manager was also criticized for a poor use of the substitutes at his disposal, with City desperately in need of a goal he left Simon Martin, the only striker on the bench, kicking his heels until the 82ndminute. In amongst all the alterations to the side, Elphick returned for his only appearance in seven games while Ben Walshe was back at the club for his third spell. For Chris Seeby it was hardly the ideal way to mark his 150thgame for the club. Yeading’s surprise victory was rewarded with a 1st Round trip to Nottingham Forest, City’s misery was complete.
The press facilities at Beaconsfield Road left a little to be desired. Right, David Brawn of the Herts Advertiser and, right, David Willacy of BBC 3 Counties Radio.
Ricky Perks did get a run out three days later, the 31st, as City defeated Royston Town 6-0 at Clarence Park in the Herts Senior Cup. Five players from the Oakland College scheme were handed their debut but more significantly, Ben Martin, Hann, Walshe and Cracknell were given a full 90 minutes on the pitch. Roddis and Simon Martin also started the game with the latter notching City’s only hat trick of the season and the second of his St Albans career. The three remaining goals came from Clarke, Hann and Chris Haslam.
With Bastock suspended Perks made his Conference debut on the fourth as City tackled Crawley Town at Broadfield. Despite his three goals against Royston Simon Martin was not included for the trip Sussex and fellow strikers Benyon and Clarke found themselves on the bench. Lining up alongside Hakim in attack was Damian Batt’s brother Shaun, on loan from Dagenham. The younger Batt was certainly lively early on but, most unusually for a Dagenham & Redbridge player, his fitness was questionable and he soon faded. With his eighth goal of the season Hakim gave the Saints an interval lead but with Tony Scully in quite brilliant form the Red Devils were never out of the game. Dannie Bulman equalised early in the second half but City appeared on course for a welcome point until self-destructing on 85 minutes. As Crawley prepared to take a corner City made a triple substitution, it was a bizarre move and as the side sought to sort itself out up rose Jake Edwards to head home the winner. Lippiatt’s use of the substitutes again came under scrutiny and his post match interview was a mishmash of contradictions, clearly all was not well for the City boss. His seemingly confused state was not aided by a defeat that took City’s points tally from the past 11 games to just five to complete a fall from pole position to bottom of the pile for the first time. City supporters account for 45 of the 840 people present.
In the days leading up to City’s next match, away to Forest Green Rovers on the 11th, the reason for Lippiatt’s possibly less than rational behaviour was revealed when he announced that tests showed him to be diabetic. With the benefit of medication he was back to his old self at The New Lawn and celebrated by making just one change to the team with Elphick stepping in to replace Marwa. Although not complete at the time of City’s visit, the New Lawn is a fine stadium. Not built in the style of the newish grounds at Oxford United, Rushden & Diamonds or Burton Albion, but it would be more than ample for most Conference clubs with its gymnasium and numerous function suites and offices. Most unusually it has the dressing rooms situated away from the main stand in a distant corner of the ground, by placing it there Rovers have allowed themselves to increase the facilities to be housed within the main stand. One downside is that the press area is situated close to one of the corner flags, hardly the optimum position for reporting upon events. After a quiet start the match proved to be an entertaining affair. Walshe gave City a first half lead but by just after the hour a familiar defeat was on the cards as goals from Simon Clist and substitute Allan Russell handed Rovers the advantage. Losing to another of the lowly clubs would have left City in a perilous state even before the turn of the year, fortunately teenager Benyon came off the bench to score within four minutes of being thrown into action. Making way for Benyon was Shaun Batt who did not play again during the remainder of his loan spell. Remarkably the draw lifted City two places up the table and even their disciplinary record took a turn for the better as, for the first time since the start of April, not a single City player was booked. The referee was Darren Sheldrake, he also took charge of the game between the two clubs at Clarence Park, and prior to this meeting at Nailsworth he had produced his yellow card a staggering twenty times in the three previous City matches in which he had officiated.
The joy City gained from lifting themselves from the foot of the table was shattered later in the week when it was announced that leading scorer Paul Hakim had walked out on the club to sign for Weymouth. As far as City were concerned the player was under contract at Clarence Park and Weymouth had no right to be making overtures to their striker, including an alleged £10,000 signing on fee. The issue was clouded by Lippiatt confirming that he gave Weymouth permission to speak to the player but later retracted this. Weymouth were told by the F.A. that Hakim was not under contract but City certainly held a copy of the contract as did The Conference itself. The row became bitter and City chairman Gibson stated, “If Paul wanted to leave he should have come to us. We don’t want to hold anyone at the club who doesn’t want to stay here. If Paul stays here he will have to write to the supporters apologising for his behaviour.” Eventually, on 29th November, the F.A. ruled in City’s favour and Hakim remained a St. Albans City player.
Scott Cousins moved closer to resuming his playing career on the 13th when the staples inserted into the skin following the removal of the pins from his broken ankle, were also removed. His return was still expected to be several months away but he was now just a couple of weeks away from partaking in serious training.
To see Cambridge United down amongst the bottom sides all season was surprising and the same could be said for Rushden & Diamonds who played their first competitive match at the Park on the 18th. Benyon’s goal at Forest Green persuaded City to extend his loan by a further two months and he, understandably, came in for Hakim against Rushden while Marwa replaced Batt the younger and Bastock, having completed his suspension, edged out Perks. With just eight points and two wins from their previous dozen Conference matches St Albans again looked to kick start their season against another struggling outfit; maybe it could be said at 3-0 by twelve minutes past three their season was not just looking up but heading onto orbit. The first goal, scored inside eight seconds, is thought to be the quickest ever scored at Clarence Park, that City were three up inside another twelve minutes made this a game to remember whichever club you supported on the day. From the kick off, taken by Benyon, Marwa passed back to Davis who sent a long high ball towards the Rushden left back Paul Watson. Seeking to find his goalkeeper, Watson, unintentionally, headed the ball more squarely than intended and nicely into the path of the marauding Benyon who clipped it with his left foot wide of the advancing Scott Tynan before tucking it into the back of the Hatfield Road goal with his right foot. The ball had been touched six times – three of them by Benyon – and City were a goal to the good. Tony Godden, in temporary charge of the Diamonds, turned from in front of the dugout towards the main stand and just smiled in stunned amazement, it was hardly the way the club had expected to start the celebrations for its 800thmatch since the amalgamation of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds. Any late arrivals would also have missed Clarke netting the second goal two minutes later but the really late ones may have caught Benyon’s second goal on twelve minutes (left). Although City were scoring at will the game was actually remarkably even early on with Rushden creating plenty of chances before completely dominating the show later on. It was Rushden’s turn to score in the first minute at the start of the second half, through Lee Tomlin, and when Michael Rankine added a second on 62 minutes City looked to be heading once more into troubled waters. But, thanks in no small part to Bastock, a much needed three points were posted and the Saints climbed one place to 21st, leapfrogging Rushden along the way. For the first time since 25th March City had been involved in a match that did not produce a single booking but there was trouble away from the ground with a small number of people from Northamptonshire reorganising a couple city centre public houses.
St Albans ended the month in confident mood as they headed for Stafford Rangers believing that they could now pull clear of the bottom four, such was the confidence that Lippiatt named the same sixteen players that saw off Rushden as the coach pulled into a muddy Marston Road. Stafford, promoted from Conference North, may have had their eyes on the following weeks FA Cup tie with Brighton & Hove Albion but started strongly before City took control. Twice City led, firstly through Benyon – as he became the only St Albans player to score in three consecutive Conference National matches – and Clarke, but both times Rangers hauled themselves back. Guy Madgjo got the first, somewhat freakishly as Dave Theobald’s headed clearance hit the Stafford player before bouncing into the goal, but more crucial was substitute Dolapo Oladye’s strike more than four minutes into added time, the fourth official indicated there would be just four minutes of extra time but a City substitution provided Stafford with sufficient time to deny the Saints a deserved victory. Oladye’s goal ensured that for the seventh consecutive league match the Saints had conceded two or more goals. Clarke’s goal, his 74thfor the club, lifted him above Allan Cockram, Herbie Smith and Rob Smale into City’s list of top ten goalscorers.
The draw at Stafford Rangers hauled City out of the relegation places for the first time since the end of September and while the next fixture, away to Cambridge United, could be seen as a daunting prospect, the U’s were in a poor state at the time and it proved to be the perfect time for City to visit the Abbey Stadium. An unchanged side, including substitutes, gained a most noteworthy triumph courtesy of a first half Marwa goal (right) and a twice taken – and twice converted – second half Davis penalty (below). United saw out the final 33 minutes with just ten men after keeper Paul Creighton was dismissed for bringing down Benyon in the build up to the penalty. As an attacking entity Cambridge were limp and Bastock was able to mark his 100thgame for the Saints with his 36thclean sheet. Marwa’s goal was City’s 200th under Lippiatt but the one downbeat note was a booking for Theobald, his fifth of the season, thereby earning a one match ban. For the first time since the trip to Oxford, City took over 100 supporters with them (147), the full attendance was 2,131.
After the game Lippiatt stated that the day he would leave the club was drawing nearer but within two days issued a statement withdrawing that comment and added that he was contracted to the club (he was not). He also added that with Sir Bobby Robson managing until he was 72, he too had a few years left unless his wife (Frances) decided otherwise.
Colin Lippiatt stayed at Clarence Park to take training with the majority of the first team squad on the 6th while Nick Roddis took charge of a mixed squad of First teamers and Oaklands College youngsters for a 2nd Round Herts Senior Cup tie away to South Midlands League side Oxhey Jets. The Oaklands College students were being coached by Steve Castle. Roddis included himself in the starting line up but he was without Theobald who was a late arrival at Altham Way. Within thirty minutes of the kick off City were as good as out of the tie as Roddis, for an astonishing head butt on Hussain Alim, and Ben Martin, for a harsh handball on the goalline, were both dismissed by referee Dave Rock. City’s nine men had a purple patch midway through the second half and scored a fine goal through Walshe – his last for the club – but by then the Jets already lead through a Marc Ayres penalty and a Sam Warrell goal. Goals in the final thirteen minutes by the excellent James Arthur and Tim O’Mara condemned the Saints to a 4-1 drubbing. Roddis received a three-match ban whilst Martin, who was also signed to Leighton Town at this time, was ruled out for just one game.
With the Oxhey Jets debacle behind them City reverted to a more familiar line up for the trip to Halifax Town on the 9th with Okuonghae, troubled by injury, getting only his second start in eleven games in place of the suspended Theobald. For the second time in five days City were on the receiving end of a 4-1 defeat but on this occasion it was an enjoyable and entertaining 90 minutes although the result did push the Saints back one place in the table to 18th. Benyon gave City an early lead with his fifth goal in as many games but clinical finishing by the Shaymen eased their relegation fears. Defender Rob Atkinson scored twice and there were singles for substitutes Shane Smeltz and Chris Senior. City supporters numbered 85 in a crowd of 1,617.
After five weeks on the sidelines Hakim was recalled for a 1st Round FA Trophy tie against his former club Bishop’s Stortford on the 16th, to replace the ill Benyon. Hakim had not been idle during his time out of the team and played one game for Brighton & Hove Albion during a week spent training with the League One club. Flynn and Theobald, in what was to be his final game for the club, were also recalled. Stortford, chasing promotion from Conference South, were two goals to the good inside twenty minutes through Danny Morgan and Roy Essandoh. Clarke reduced the deficit, although it looked suspiciously like a Michael Stanbrook own goal, only for Morgan to restore Stortford’s two-goal lead with an exceptional finish. Paul Goodacre, with a definite own goal, set up a frantic finale with City’s second goal but a 3-2 defeat ended City’s interest in all cup competitions for another year and extended Lippiatt’s dismal cup record. It was the first time since 1908-09 that City went into the New Year without any cup-ties to look forward to. Later in the campaign Lippiatt made a seven-day approach for Morgan but ended his interested when the player was uncertain whether or not to make the move. The visit to Woodside Park was City’s sixth successive away game, the longest run of away matches for 60 years.
City faced an eleven-day break until their next match but five days before Christmas a well attended Fans Forum was held in the clubhouse. Director Ian Ridley set the ball in motion with the launch of a new lottery scheme called ‘Doublotto’ which, following his imminent resignation, and without his support, proved to be a monumental flop. Chairman John Gibson answered some questions from the floor but, as anticipated, the centre of attention was manager Colin Lippiatt, who clearly revelled in these situations. While Lippiatt willingly fielded questions regarding team issues, Gibson came unstuck on several points. When quizzed about the standard of the catering within the ground he denied ever having previously been made aware of any problems; Supporters Club Ian Rogers then reminded him that the matter had been raised at three board meetings. Next, Gibson spoke of a new Reserve team to be created for the 2007-08 season, he stated that the previous set up had failed to produce players for the First team while the new set up would take the cream of the local talent available. At this point, former Reserve team manager Kevin Blande spoke up and listed players who progressed through to the First team from the old Youth and Reserve set up. Gibson was asked if the club had reviewed its procedures regarding the registration of players in light of the F.A. informing Weymouth that Paul Hakim was not under contract when he actually was. The chairman said that changes would not be made to the club’s procedures.
The main upshot of the Forum was the resignation of City director Ian Ridley who felt that he was being cold-shouldered by the chairman and not invited to make any input to decisions concerning club matters. Ridley said after the meeting, “I am a little disappointed and frustrated at not being involved in the running of the club as much as I would have like to have been. But I have enjoyed my year on the board. I wish Saints well and hope they stay in the Conference.”
Criticism of a dictatorial style imposed upon the club by the chairman was repeated by fellow director Bill Chippington, the biggest single contributor to club funds, who resigned in the spring. At the end of the season the discontent within the camp was again exposed when associate director Colin Wicks also tendered his resignation.
The chairman pulled a major surprise when announcing details of a number of players being given extended contacts. The decision to extend the contracts was not discussed with Gibson’s fellow directors and caused deep resentment within the boardroom. While some supporters rejoiced at the news of certain players being tied to the club for up to another three years, a good deal more pondered the logic of it with the club facing a possible relegation and attracting lower attendances come August, how would the contracts be funded with the resulting fall in income?
Returning to matters on the pitch, two successive defeats, three if one were to include the County Cup too, put City on the back foot for the visit of Stevenage Borough on Boxing Day. After a poor start to the season Boro were moving up the table and brought with them over 1,200 of their own supporters in a seasons best gate at Clarence Park of 2,878. Lippiatt made four changes from the Trophy defeat with Hann switching to the left to compensate for the departure of Walshe. In a closely fought encounter Stevenage went ahead through Adam Miller only for Clarke to equalise with his fourth goal in six games just after the break. Former Saint Steve Morrison grabbed two late goals but a Lee Flynn header four minutes before six minutes of added time left the result in doubt and the large crowd satisfied with the entertainment.
An injury picked up by Hakim on Boxing Day led to Lippiatt recalling Rob Norris from Kings Lynn and the youngster went straight into the side for the return fixture with Exeter City on the 30th. A remarkable 477 supporters travelled from Devon for the match but the attendance was a disappointing 1,314, City’s support from the Stevenage match had dropped by a massive 838. Part of the reason for the dramatic collapse in the City support was down to the weather, it was, perhaps, the wettest the pitch had been with a match played on it since a game against Harlow Town in February 1978. With the Hatfield Road end of the ground holding far more water than the York Road end there was a strong case for calling the match off, but as the rain continued to lash down referee Darren Cann decided otherwise. Given the conditions a spectacle was served up and City, through Hann’s first league goal since March, drew level on the hour after Wayne Carlisle had opened the scoring for Exeter. Exeter needed a win to maintain their play off aspirations while St Albans would have been reasonably content with a point, the latter failed to materialise when an error by the normally reliable Damian Batt allowed substitute Dean Moxey to grab an 89th minute winner for Paul Tisdale’s side.
Following the game, the Supporters Club laid on a free buffet in the clubhouse. Sadly, there were reports of so-called City supporters attacking the Exeter supporters’ coach.
The opening of the transfer window was just two days away and speculation was building as to what City would do, Hakim was expected to leave but supporters were optimistic that Lippiatt would bring in the players required to see the club to safety, it was a tall order as the Exeter result plunged St Albans back down to 22ndin the 24-team Division.
The New Year could hardly have kicked off at a more nostalgic venue for Colin Lippiatt as the City manager celebrated his 65th birthday at the home of the club where he, and Geoff Chapple, achieved so much success. Even City supporters made the boss feel at home at Woking’s Kingfield Stadium with a pre-match rendition of ‘Happy Birthday.’ As for the team, Lippiatt brought back Marwa in place of Norris in a straight swap that saw Marwa start in an unaccustomed position on the left of midfield. A goal down inside five minutes did not bode well for the Saints but after the early exchanges St Albans dominated the game and drew level with a fine goal from Marwa. City’s fortunes appeared to dip when Batt received a second yellow card on 72 minutes but nine minutes later Davis, after exchanging passes with Benyon, scored what turned out to be the Goal of the Season to steer his side clear of the relegation places. Davis’s goal was to be his final contribution for a couple of games as the booking received against Stevenage earned him his second ban of the season.
Before the first week of the transfer window had elapsed Lippiatt concluded a double swoop on Boreham Wood that surprised supporters in both camps. For a fee understood to be in the region of £15,000 (neither club has publicly stated the exact amount), with a possible £10,000 to follow should City avoid relegation, he secured the services of left sided midfielder Chris Watters and striker Leon Archer. Both players were in their mid-twenties and it was felt to be a gamble, especially for that fee, on two players who had never previously played at this level. Wood were two Divisions below that of the Saints and clearly just how well the two players coped with the leap to Conference National would come under close scrutiny.
Watters went straight into the side in place of Davis for the home game against Northwich Victoria on the 6th and Flynn came in for the Batt for his last game with the Saints. After the encouraging displays against Stevenage and Exeter, followed by the win at Woking, it was a shock to see the Saints perform so tamely when going down 3-1 to Northwich. The Vics were three up within the hour through Michael Byrne, Jonny Allen and Michael Carr before Clarke, with a penalty, notched a goal that was scant consolation on a dispiriting afternoon. Northwich had been unfortunate when losing at home to City in September and made no mistake on another wet afternoon at Clarence Park with Paul Brayson and Allen tearing the home defence apart. Possibly the most pleasing aspect to the afternoon for City was the half time introduction of Djoumin Sangare for Flynn. Sangare had rejoined the Saints just 24 hours earlier on a loan deal with Grays Athletic that would keep him at Clarence Park until the end of the season. Archer came off the bench to make his debut but it was a significant match for other reasons as Benyon appeared for the Saints for the final time. Without a goal in four games his future lay in the hands of his agent but, for reasons that were never fully explained, an extension to his loan was not agreed and he returned to Bristol City before being despatched out on loan to Crawley Town. Now the pressure was on Archer to produce the goods. The gate against Northwich Victoria was just 767 with 64 spectators having travelled down from Cheshire.
Following the Northwich match the Saints had a two-week break until calling in at Burton Albion’s impressive Pirelli Stadium on the 20th for Clarke’s 150th game for the club. As with the earlier meeting between the two clubs the match was far from a classic that Burton won with Aaron Webster’s headed goal on the stroke of half time. Archer playing, alongside Clarke, started for the first time but was withdrawn along with the captain and Seeby. Watters, dropped after the Northwich defeat, came off the bench as did Hakim and Simon Martin as Lippiatt went for a new look up front for the final twenty minutes. The best news to come from City’s seventh defeat in eight games was the return of Patrick Ada on loan from Exeter City. Ada had left the Saints almost immediately after the club had won promotion the previous summer but, as with Sangare, he was wholehearted in his time back at Clarence Park and was clearly hurt with every defeat. Barely fifteen minutes after the game Norris was informed that his services were no longer required. Nigel Clough gave a debut to one-time City striker Lloyd Opara. A group of 55 hardy City supporters made the trip to the Pirelli Stadium.
Right: Chris Seeby at Burton Albion.
Three days later and the Saints faced one of the most daunting prospects of their entire season, a trip to Broadhall Way to face a Stevenage Borough side keen to confirm their county supremacy by completing the double over their guests. City’s form, or at least the results, were dire, Boro were unbeaten in ten games and had won the last seven; there could only be one outcome. City welcomed back Davis in place of Marwa but for seventy minutes it seemed that the Saints could have fielded their entire squad and not got close to the ball. Stevenage dominated totally but had just Dale Binns’ 48thminute goal to show for their efforts. Without any hint of what as to come the game was turned on its head with two goals in three minutes from Hakim and Clarke. Just a week earlier Hakim had had a trial with Stevenage and his goal in this game came just ten minutes after he replaced Watters as he gave an inspired performance. Having bossed the game for 70 minutes Stevenage not only fell behind but, remarkably, could have lost by a heavier margin as City created several good openings in the closing minutes. The attendance was 2,141 – the highest for a match between the two clubs at Stevenage - taking the total for the two games between the clubs to over 5,000. City’s support was put at 190. Remarkably, given their league position, City were now the highest scoring away side in the Division but it was the seventh successive game in which City had conceded the opening goal.
The win at Stevenage was City’s fifth away league success of the season. On three of the previous four occasions St Albans lost their next home match after an away win but playing a Halifax Town side that possessed a truly abysmal away record gave the Saints hope of bring that run to an end. And Halifax did not disappoint. While City possessed the poorest home record in the league, Halifax had the equal worst away record and had not won since beating City at The Shay. The match lacked the excitement of the earlier meeting but City were not too bothered as Clarke and Archer, playing his best game for the club, secured an early two goal advantage for the Saints. Felix Bastians, on loan to the Shaymen from Nottingham Forest, pulled one back before half time but during a spell of dominance by the home side Davis – making his 100th appearance for the club – scored a fine effort rendering Darryn Stamps’ injury time strike of little significance. Shortly after the second Halifax goal City midfielder Dean Cracknell was dismissed after being shown two yellow cards. Having climbed just one place with the win at Stevenage the Saints soared a further five places up the table to 16th following the win over Halifax who were one of the clubs to fall below Lippiatt’s side. This was City’s 30th league match of the season during which time they had scored and conceded a total of over 100 goals, by far the most of any side in the Division, more importantly this was the Saints 50thleague win under Lippiatt. The Halifax support in a crowd of 1,009 was 140.
above: Paul Hakim scores against Stevenage Borough
In the four days following the Halifax game City were stunned by the loss of, firstly, Damian Batt and then, Paul Hakim, both to Stevenage Borough. Lippiatt had tried to get Batt to sign a contract but having failed could not stop the former Barnet player from joining City’s close rivals without a fee exchanging hands. Batt had had a trial with Stevenage two days before joining the Saints in August. City though, did get a reasonable fee for Hakim with £10,000 being added to the club’s coffers one day before the deadline closed. Losing both players so close to the transfer deadline left Lippiatt without a hope of signing permanent replacements although it was still possible to sign players on loan.
Next up for the Saints was a Crawley Town side at Clarence Park that had not only overturned a ten-point deduction for going into administration but also moved a healthy five points clear of St Albans on 37 points. City had a delicate two-point cushion between themselves and the relegation places. Included in the Crawley side were Magnus Okuonghae and Elliot Benyon. Okuonghae took just thirteen minutes to make his mark with his first goal for the club opening the scoring. Although Crawley had most of the play City created the clearer openings. But, just when it seemed that goals from Marwa and Archer would be sufficient to give the home side an unprecedented third consecutive Conference National victory, Crawley hit back. For the second time in the game it was one of the old boys with Benyon, three minutes into added time, scoring a stunning volley from the edge of the box to open his account for the Red Devils. Benyon was a popular figure during his short time with the Saints, something that made this peach of a goal all the more difficult to savour. Scott Cousins, shortly to begin spells with Wealdstone and Harrow Borough, appeared on the City team sheet for the first time in thirteen months although there was virtually no chance of him being given a run out. The attendance was a disappointing 857 with 148 having arrived from Sussex.
The loss of Batt and Hakim made space for the return of Seeby and Marwa against Crawley while Watters also came in to start a three match run in the side, his longest run, but the former Boreham Wood man was struggling to make an impact and City’s wisdom in spending a large sum on two untried players from a lower level was coming under close scrutiny.
Lippiatt’s plans to strengthen the squad suffered a blow in midweek when the left-sided Grays Athletic player Mark Wright attended a training session with the Saints only to then decide against signing for the club.
Rushden & Diamonds, at the excellent Nene Park, were City’s next foe in the push towards safety. New signing Ahmed Deen (left), recently released by Fisher Athletic, enjoyed a decent personal performance and over the course of the next fifteen matches became, along with Ada and Sangare, one of the Saints best signings of the season. The match, which City lost 1-0 to Graham Westley’s fast improving side courtesy of substitute Dino Maamria’s only goal for the club, also included a debut for Faly Basse during added time. Having played for Rushden’s neighbours Kettering Town, admittedly many years earlier, Bastock was given a lively reception by the home fans that he won over with a series of excellent saves and even a couple of light hearted comedic moments. The match marked the end of the road for left back Lee Flynn who saw out the season in the Conference South with Thurrock. City were without Leon Archer as the striker served a one-game ban; he picked up his first City booking during the draw with Crawley but brought four other bookings with him from his time at Boreham Wood. The day held little for Lippiatt to celebrate but with this match he became only the fifth individual to manage St Albans City for 100 league games.
With Stafford Rangers providing the next opposition at Clarence Park on the 24th the Saints were confident of ensuring the Rushden defeat was nothing more than a minor setback. Despite winning their previous away match, at Weymouth, Stafford had lost six of their last seven games but with an inspired performance from veteran striker Neil Grayson Stafford romped to a 3-0 victory, Grayson scored twice, after Craig McNaughtie had opened the scoring, on a day when City’s defence was truly dreadful. Lippiatt dropped Hann who had struggled to make headway against Conference defences, while Seeby, too, found himself on the bench. Coming in for his debut was the former Fulham midfielder Malik Buari, who, after getting into a good position on several occasions, proceeded to blast the ball to all areas of the park but was more impressive in subsequent games. Following some booing from the terraces at the final whistle Lippiatt blasted the supporters but this result, which left the Saints one place, and one point, above the relegation zone and saw Stafford move four points clear of their hosts, again underlined the fact that St Albans’ survival hopes were in the balance. Ironically, the manager’s comments about supporters booing came moments after he himself had blasted the team in the dressing room.
Since the turn of the year St Albans had already lost at home to fellow struggling sides Northwich Victoria and Stafford Rangers, while drawing with Crawley Town; anything other than victory from a trip to Grays Athletic on the 27th would surely have the alarm bells ringing at Clarence Park. Grays were in 23rd position, two adrift of City but with two games in hand.
An agreement between the two clubs meant that Sangare could not feature against his parent club which led to Ada playing alongside Elphick, with Seeby at last getting a chance to come in at his preferred right back slot. Simon Martin, having requested a move the previous week, was named as a sole striker; Clarke and Archer dropped into the midfield. Clarke worked tirelessly to make an impression but Archer’s contribution was less noticeable before he succumbed to a foot injury. One knack Archer did possess was to be in the right place at the right time and on ten minutes he tucked home his third goal in four appearances (left) – City’s first goal in 222 minutes - to wipe out Dennis Oli’s early strike for Grays. City competed well during the first half but were completely overrun during the second period. Even so, it still took an error by the otherwise magnificent Ada on his 50thappearance to present the Essex side with their 87thminute winner, tucked away by Gavin Grant. Grant’s goal ended a fifteen-match winless run for Grays stretching back to their 6-0 triumph at St Albans in October, the win also lifted Athletic above the Saints and still with two games in hand; City’s position was looking increasingly desperate.
Having been amongst the leading scorers in the Division for the best part of 30 games City were now finding goals hard to come by and sought to rectify the situation with the loan signing of MK Dons’ former Tooting & Mitcham United striker John Hastings. Lippiatt had been close to signing Hastings earlier in the season, along with his MK teammate Joe Tillen, only for injuries to scupper the loan deal. Hastings went straight into the side for the Saints first visit to Morecambe’s Christie Park on the 3rdand gave a personally pleasing performance on a day when City belied their lowly position, but could have few complaints of the 2-0 scoreline. With injuries again hitting the squad Roddis found a place on the bench for the only time in 19 games where he was joined by Simon Martin. Martin replaced the erratic Buari on 68 minutes to make his final appearance for the club before joining Wealdstone. The absentees included Archer with an ankle injury, Cracknell who took a particularly nasty knock at Grays, and Davis who was ill. Earlier in the week Davis had indulged in a touch of modelling as a body double for a future Nike advertising campaign. Morecambe’s victory, which manager Sammy McIlroy confessed was flattering, strengthened the Shrimpers play off ambitions but added to City’s relegation fears. City took 50 supporters with them on the 460 mile round trip.
The Ides of March could not have presented St Albans City with two more contrasting fixtures; on the 10thbottom of the table Southport were to make their first visit to the Park and three days later champions-elect Dagenham & Redbridge came in search of three more points. Cracknell and Davis returned for the Southport game, at the expense of Buari and Marwa, and nine minutes from time Guy Lopez, recently released by Dorchester Town after taking a teaching position in Harrow, became City’s 26th and final debutant of the season. He was also the 47th player to wear the Citizens colours during the season. Southport, in the middle of a nine-match winless run and without an away win in four months, threatened to end that run when Liam Blakeman opened the scoring before half time, as City conceded the opening goal for the sixth successive match. With his first goal for the club, Watters equalised but a third successive Clarence Park attendance of fewer than one thousand feared the worst when Port substitute Mark Duffy scored within four minutes of coming off the bench. A bizarre misjudgement by Southport keeper Paul Harrison allowed Elphick to score his only goal of the season (above) but with no further scoring it was a result that damaged both sides dreams of evading the drop. A couple of minor milestones were reached with Hann playing his 100th league game and Lippiatt in charge for his 50th home league game, but with only Southport still below them, and several of the nearby clubs regularly picking up points, many supporters seemed resigned to the drop.
A visit by John Still’s Dagenham, eight points clear at the top of the table and a mere forty points better off than their hosts, was hardly likely to provide the platform from which City, with just ten games remaining, would confound the pundits and claw their way to safety. Archer, Buari and Seeby were all recalled while the impressive Lopez was given his first start. With one of the most magical and positive attacking moves seen by a City player all season Buari set up Archer for the opening goal on 20 minutes (left) but just eight minutes later a slip by Sangare let in the free scoring Paul Benson for the equaliser. Ten minutes later Dave Rainford scored Dagenham’s winner but this was a tremendously enjoyable encounter in which St Albans competed fully with Elphick, Sangare and Ada quite exceptional. Buari provided a threat down the right flank that had been missing all season while Deen, playing on the left of the midfield for the first time, underlined just what a decent and adaptable player he is. For the first time in City’s history the number of black players in the starting line up outnumbered the white players. Other than the result, the only downbeat note was the attendance of 1,170 that, despite the league leaders bringing close on 400 of their own followers with them, was below the Saints average gate giving credence to the thought that the locals knew that it was all over.
Time was running out for the Saints and with York City, sitting in a comfortable play off position, being next on the agenda at Bootham Crescent on the 17th, there was felt to be little chance of three desperately needed points being added to the tally. Earlier in the week Lippiatt said he would change the side for each of the remaining games to see how players perform in differing positions. As things turned out he went with the XI that started against Dagenham. But that is where any similarities between the two games ended. The first half was one of the most one-sided affairs City had been on the receiving of for quite some time yet somehow the teams went in level at the interval. Playing into the wind in the second half Billy McEwan’s side found the going much harder and did not have a shot on target until just before time, even during just short of 12 minutes of added time the Minstermen could not find the City goal that was protected quite brilliantly by Bastock. City had escaped with a point but still languished just one place off the foot of the table. The clean sheet was City’s first in 18 games while the Saints support of 145 was generously applauded by the home fans for their non-stop vocal encouragement despite being hideously outnumbered in an attendance of 2,927. It was just a pity that, once more, no directors were there to offer their support. Many supporters travelled to the game by train. The City chairman was on the same train as some of the supporters but, instead of going to Bootham Crescent, stayed onboard to visit relatives in Newcastle.
With relegation looming large City still had one ambition to fulfil, that of completing a league double over at least one club before the season was over. Kidderminster Harriers, enjoying a tremendous run in the FA Trophy and clinging to an unlikely hope of sneaking into the play offs despite a dreadful start to the season, did their best to hand the Saints that elusive double when having two players dismissed during a 1-1 draw at Clarence Park. Harriers goalkeeper Steve Taylor made an incredible gaffe when fumbling a long ball from Davis that allowed Archer to walk in the opening goal for City on 19 minutes (right). Victory would have maintained City’s faint survival hopes but James Constable levelled on 34 minutes only to be dismissed shortly after when jabbing an elbow in the face of Buari. Kidderminster captain Stuart Whitehead was also sent off close to the end yet amazingly had his second yellow card rescinded by the F.A. when it was clearly one of few decisions referee John Hopkins got right. Hopkins was blasted by both teams following his second poor showing at the Park within a couple of months but he was correct to hand Hann an unusual yellow card for re-entering the field of play without permission when going back on after treatment for a knock. Hann was back in the side thanks to the late withdrawal of Ada who had been recalled by Exeter City just one day before the game due to a player shortage at St James Park. The number of players to have left St Albans since the turn of the year, and since the start of the transfer window, was now up to nine while Hastings also came and went during that period.
City closed the month with a first trip to Aldershot Town’s Recreation Ground for four years and gave one of their most inept displays of the season. It was the Shots first match under the temporary control of Martin Kuhl following Terry Brown’s departure as manager. Lippiatt dropped Buari, Hastings and Lopez; when Hastings (left) came on as second half substitute it was his final appearance for the club as MK Dons recalled him for the end of season run-in. In front of Aldershot’s lowest gate of the season the Hampshire club clinched a league double with a first half penalty by Darren Barnard and a second half strike from John Grant. The abject display given by the visitors was justifiably rewarded a slip to the foot of the table for the first time since early November. Just 75 supporters made the relatively short journey from St Albans to be in a crowd of 1,749.
City had six games in which to avoid a rapid return to Conference South, four of the remaining games were at Clarence Park. Due to the postponement of the original fixture in December Morecambe faced the long trek to St Albans on a Tuesday night at the start of April. Unsurprisingly, the game attracted the lowest Conference National gate City played in front of, 613 and that included 95 Shrimps supporters. Those who chose to stay away missed an entertaining evening at Clarence Park and, although the Saints poor return in front of goal was extended to one goal in 430 minutes, Morecambe were forced to dig deep before cementing their play off position. As with the earlier meeting Morecambe scored in either half with David McNiven striking first and then Blackpool loanee Matthew Blinkhorn.
Within what seemed a short space of time City had gone from a few points clear of the relegation pack to being eight points adrift of safety prior to the visit of Morecambe. The defeat cemented City’s bottom of the table position while a draw for Grays Athletic at Forest Green Rovers on the same night, and a 1-0 win for Norwich Victoria at Tamworth merely lengthened the odds against Conference National football being at Clarence Park come August.
Mathematically it was still possible for City to beat the drop but failure to beat Altrincham on Easter Saturday, the 7th, would virtually extinguish even the statistical possibility. At 4-1 down by half time it would be reasonable to assume that even the mathematicians had packed their bags and cut in half their maps of England in readiness for the 2007-08 season. Altrincham, having not won an away match until mid March, went on to record a fourth straight away victory with a remarkable 5-1 victory that included a hat trick for diminutive striker Colin Little. The match was contested a good deal more evenly than the score suggests but the finishing of the two sides could not have been further apart, the point being exemplified when Davis missed a second half penalty. Of the ten penalties that were awarded to City during the season just seven were converted; the opposition scored nine out of 11.
Robert Lawton struck the first blow only for Archer, with his final goal of the season, to level after just ten minutes. A ding-dong afternoon appeared to be in prospect but Little’s 33-minute hat trick put paid to that possibility. City’s misery was made complete when yet another substitute, Rod Thornley, netted during added time. The opening goal was one of probably three freak goals seen during the season as Lawton’s shot appeared harmless until striking a divot and rising sharply above the prone Bastock. Although the pitch looked green from the sidelines it was actually in a rough condition and was criticised by the players. Throughout the season the squad had trained on the pitch with the inevitable damage that wear and tear would do.
A bizarre feature of the two games between the clubs was that three penalties were awarded – one to Altrincham and two to St Albans – and not one was converted. This was the final match in which Lopez started, his popularity on the terraces was not replicated with the manager. As for Altrincham, whose colourful manger Graham Heathcote stormed down the tunnel during the second half following an exchange with goodness knows who, they looked to have given themselves a real chance of salvation but with just one more point collected from their last four games they slid back into the bottom four on the final day of the season.
The last rites to St Albans City’s one and only season in the Conference National were read at The Lamb on Easter Monday, there was to be no resurrection for the Saints. City’s task was hopeless but Tamworth were still in with a chance of survival so John McGrath hardly endeared himself to the locals with a dire 15th minute back pass that Archer intercepted and knocked into the path of Clarke (below) for the St Albans skipper to score his first goal in 902 minutes, it was also his 80thfor the club. City maintained that lead until the 78th minute when referee Shaun Proctor-Green deemed that Marwa had impeded Jon Stevenson and duly pointed to the spot. Graham Law sent Bastock the wrong way to confirm the Saints relegation. Lippiatt had made two changes from the side thrashed by Altrincham with Cracknell coming in for Lopez and Ben Martin replacing the injured Elphick. For Martin it was the brightest light yet at the end of a long tunnel as it was his first starting appearance in a league match since April 2005. City wore red socks on the day due to Tamworth having listed their kit in the Conference Handbook as all red, only to actually have white socks. City were to have worn white socks but borrowed a set of Tamworth’s red ones.
But it was not some much the scoreline and City’s relegation that grabbed the headlines; more likely it was the eleven times that the referee produced a card from his pocket – and that does not include his decision to remove Lippiatt from the bench at half time after taking exception to some comments from the City boss. Davis, on 28 minutes, got the bookings rolling with his 15thyellow card of the season (his 35thin 112 games overall), Buari and Archer joined the list before Marwa was penalised and booked for the incident that lead to the penalty. Proctor-Green was in full flow by now, although the abrasive Adie Smith seemed immune to punishment. Clarke was shown his tenth yellow card and Marwa was despatched after getting a second yellow card on 89 minutes. Marwa did not have to wait long for company in the dressing though as Tamworth substitute Ludovic Quistin was dismissed for whacking Seeby with an elbow, the City defender was cautioned for the original infringement. Just sufficient time remained for Lopez, Martin and Taiwo Atieno to be added to the list of those cautioned.
With seven players booked, and an eighth shown two yellow cards, this match enters the record books as City’s most ill-disciplined performance in their history, which unfortunately is no reflection at all on the game. That said, the one booking and three sending’s off at Kettering Town the previous season come close to matching this farce ‘controlled’ by Mr Proctor-Green.
On the 21st City welcomed Oxford United for a match that had, for so long, been highly anticipated at Clarence Park. City looked at the fixture list and saw it as a classic encounter between a side battling against relegation and one looking to win the championship. Instead, the afternoon was a complete damp squib with City already relegated and second placed Oxford several streets adrift of champions Dagenham & Redbridge. The effect on the attendance was amazing with just 545 Albanians turning out to see Jim Smith’s side, it was the third lowest home turn out by City supporters all season. Fortunately, the ground was not quite deserted as Oxford brought with them 1,168 of their own supporters. City were without Davis whose season was over as he began a three-match ban for his 15 bookings. The game was a low-key affair decided by a goal in either half from Yemi Odubade and substitute Luke Foster.
The big story of the day came shortly after the final whistle when Colin Lippiatt announced that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season. The following week he confirmed that he would be taking on the role of Director of Football at his first love in football, Woking. This would involve interviewing for the vacant managers’ position at Kingfield following the dismissal of Glenn Cockerill, something that he actually started on during his final week at Clarence Park.
City’s final away match in the Conference National was at Stonebridge Road against Gravesend & Northfleet on the 21st. The Kent club were playing at home under that name for the last time before changing to Ebbsfleet United. Gravesend, managed by Liam Daish, still hankered for a play off place and boosted their hopes when taking a two-goal lead through a Charlie MacDonald penalty and a headed goal from Player of the Year Paul McCarthy. With Archer going off injured City pushed central defender Sangare forward and he responded with an encouraging performance and well taken headed goal. MacDonald scored an excellent opportunist goal to reopen a two-goal advantage for the Fleet, taking his seasons total to 27 in 40 league matches. For once it was City’s turn to grab a goal in added time with Ben Martin scooping the ball home for his first goal since October 2004, but it could not stop Gravesend from becoming the ninth club to complete a league double over the Saints.
The curtain came down on the Colin Lippiatt era on 28th April with a match against the side promoted alongside the Saints twelve months earlier, Weymouth. As with any manager or player Lippiatt was keen to round off his time at Clarence Park with a victory, after all he wanted to be remembered for the remarkable achievement of steering a side bound for relegation to safety and a year later taking that same side to a glorious promotion. On the downside he was also in charge of a side that went into the Weymouth match on the back of the clubs longest winless run for 33 years. Sangare was given a full 90 minutes in which to display his talents as a striker and capped a good personal performance by punishing an error by Terras ‘keeper Jason Matthews to score the deciding goal. The game was also a success for Ben Martin who played his first full home league match for two years while six minutes from time Nick Roddis came off the bench to make his final appearance for the club.
Although there had been an air of inevitability about what was in store for City during the final months of the season, they did go down with a higher points total than any other side finishing bottom of the Conference up until this time.
Prior to the match Gary Elphick was presented with the Supporters Club Player of the Year trophy and after the match the Players’ Player of the Year trophy was also slipped inside his kitbag. On behalf of the absent Tom Davis, Lee Clarke picked up the Goal of the Season award for Davis’s strike at Woking on New Year’s Day. To a packed clubhouse, Lippiatt, who did a mini lap of honour at the final whistle, made a parting speech before sailing off into the sunset.
In the aftermath of an unsuccessful campaign, and even before the club had begun to interview prospective managers, it was losing players. Paul Bastock, under contract until May 2009, and Tom Davis, contracted to May 2008, both handed in transfer requests while Ahmed Deen and Malik Buari left the Saints immediately and Djoumin Sangare, at the end of his loan period, returned to Grays Athletic only to be one of several players released by the Essex club. Elphick had trials with Bristol Rovers although the club did not pursue its initial interest in the defender.
The early contenders for the managers position were Bastock, Roddis and Dean Austin. Bastock quickly withdrew his application while Roddis had a brief conversation with the club but left Clarence Park shortly after following some unfavourable comments in the local press attributed to the chairman. Austin had a lengthy interview but ruled himself out of the running due to one particular issue over which the club would not budge.
As mentioned earlier, City director Bill Chippington resigned at the close of the season. Almost echoing the words of the already departed Ian Ridley, Chippington said, “I have not been involved in any decision making at the club whatsoever. Whereas John Gibson has made statements saying he has not had the support of directors, I feel that he has not drawn on directors to get support. It is a very autocratically run club and I felt that I was just wasting my time there.” During his almost two years at the Park Chippington had contributed more than £40,000 to club funds.
New Manager Revealed
The Supporters Club held its Annual General Meeting in the clubhouse on 17thMay. Chairman Ian Rogers oversaw the event with treasurer Duncan McLeod giving a run down on the finances. The Club Shop benefitted from the increased gates although the profit from the Shop fell sharply from £7,138 for the 2005-06 to £4,975 a year later. Membership income rose from £782 to £990. Some time was given over to discussing the possibility of forming a Supporters Trust.
Prior to the Supporters Club addressing their affairs, John Gibson, chairman of the football club and flanked by his vice chairman, Alisdair McMillin, introduced to the assembled group of around 30 supporters Ritchie Hanlon, the new manager of St Albans City. Hanlon, nine days away from his 29thbirthday, gave a short speech and answered some questions but it was generally a cool reception.
The new manager had played against City in both of the league games with Cambridge United during the season. He came on as a first half substitute during the game at Clarence Park and was himself substituted during the first half of the return game at the Abbey Stadium. Hanlon’s playing career started at Southend United where he made a couple of appearances in the Football League, he also played for fellow Football League clubs Rushden & Diamonds and Peterborough United. In the non-league game he had spells with Welling United, Lincoln City and Weymouth before ending his playing days with Cambridge United. At the time of his appointment he was City’s youngest manager, his playing days having terminated prematurely due to a knee injury.
The Stats and Facts
Leading the way in appearances was Lee Clarke who played in 47 of City’s 50 games, he was followed by Paul Bastock (46) and Chris Seeby (44). Clarke was also the top goalscorer for a fourth successive season but, for the first time, he failed to get into double figures in league games. It was the first time in 16 years that City’s leading scorer had failed to reach double figures.
The average attendance at Clarence Park for Conference National matches was 1,146, a figure that was achieved with the help of well supported clubs on their visits to the Park. Somewhat disappointingly, although a fair reflection on how the season panned out, only three times did the home support top 1,000. The highest City support at any one game was 1,672 for the visit of Stevenage Borough on Boxing Day. Stevenage brought 1,206 supporters with them that day, the biggest travelling support seen at the Park all season. Oxford United had 1,168 followers with them.
City collected 84 bookings during the season and eight red cards were waved in our direction although one was later rescinded.
Paul Bastock (September and February) and Gary Elphick (January and March) each won two Player of the Month awards, the following came top of the poll once each; Tom Davis (August), Paul Hakim (October), Elliot Benyon (November), Damian Batt (December) and Djoumin Sangare (April).
Former St Albans City Youth player Chris Seeby was joined by his Clarence Park team mates Tom Davis and Magnus Okuonghae in the England National Game XI that faced Forest Green Rovers at The New Lawn on Wednesday, 5thSeptember. Paul Fairclough, manager of the England team, was at Clarence Park for City’s match against Tamworth the previous Saturday.
Final Standings 2006-07
|1||Dagenham & Redbridge||46||28||11||7||93||48||45||95|
|7||Gravesend & Northfleet||46||21||11||14||63||56||7||74|
|12||Rushden & Diamonds||46||17||11||18||58||54||4||62|
|14||Forest Green Rovers||46||13||18||15||59||64||-5||57|
|24||St Albans City||46||10||10||26||57||89||-32||40|
St Albans City Squad 2006-07
Patrick Ada(25) - Speedy defender who returned to Clarence Park for a second spell and made his 50thappearance for Saints at the end of February 2007. Played a significant part in City’s promotion from the Conference South before heading for a full-time football career with Exeter City. Unable to hold down a first team place at St James Park he rejoined the Saints on loan in January. Played in the centre of the defence during 2006-07 but was outstanding at right back following his return. Injury concerns at Exeter caused manager Paul Tisdale to recall him from a long-term loan at Clarence Park. Born in Cameroon, his previous clubs include Barnet and Conference South side Redbridge. 2006-07 11app, 2Y
Leon Archer (26) – Signed for St Albans City in January 2007, for £7,500, from Isthmian League Premier Division side Boreham Wood having scored sixteen times in the first half of the current season. Scored 31 goals during the 2005-06 season, his two seasons at Meadow Park coincided with the club winning Division One East of the Southern League and reaching the last four of the FA Trophy. Originally made his debut for the Wood back in the 1999-00 season before spending three seasons with fellow Hertfordshire side Cheshunt where he scored 51 times in 92 Isthmian League games. As a youngster he signed Associated Schoolboy forms for Tottenham Hotspur in February 1994 but did not progress beyond the U16s at White Hart Lane. Has also played for Potters Bar Town and made his St Albans debut as a substitute during a 3-1 defeat at home to Northwich Victoria on 6thJanuary 2007 with his first goal coming on 27thJanuary in a 3-2 win over Halifax Town. 2006-07 17app 6gls. 2Y
Faly Basse(18) – A midfielder who joined the Saints just after the turn of the year and made his debut as an injury time substitute during a 1-0 defeat to Rushden & Diamonds at Nene Park on 17thFebruary. Holds joint Senegalese and French nationality and has played football in Switzerland and Germany. Had trials with a number of clubs including AFC Wimbledon, Sutton United and Staines Town prior to joining the Saints. 2006-07 3app
Paul Bastock(1) – Joined the Saints in November 2004 and played in 84 consecutive league games until being suspended in November 2006 after being dismissed in an FA Cup tie. The 2005-06 season saw him set a club record of seven consecutive home clean sheets and also equal the club record of six consecutive clean sheets (home and away matches). Such achievements helped the Bostonian win the Supporters Player of the Year award. Began his career with Coventry City where he collected an FA Youth Cup winners medal - against a Southampton side containing Alan Shearer and Matt Le Tissier - and has since had spells with Kettering Town, Fisher Athletic, Aylesbury United, Scarborough, Dagenham & Redbridge, Malaysian side Sabeh and represented the FA. But it was during a twelve-year stay with Boston United that he built his reputation where 625 appearances secured the title of ‘Boston United’s greatest ever player’. He missed just one match during Boston’s Conference winning season and was ever present during the Pilgrims first two seasons in the Football League. Made a dozen appearances in Division Four of the Football League for Cambridge United including the final ten games of the 1987-88 season when he conceded just nine goals. While the St Albans City forwards were the highest scoring outfit in the Conference South during 2005-06 Bastock’s heroics between the sticks won him three Player of the Month awards and added two more to that collection during 2006-07. Celebrated his 100thgame for the Saints on 2ndDecember by keeping his 35thclean sheet during a 2-0 win at Cambridge United and made his 100thleague appearance at Morecambe on 3rdMarch. Runs a goalkeeper-coaching course in Boston whilst outside of football he is a fine golfer and cricketer and runs his own cleaning business. 2006-07 46app, 7 clean sheets, 2Y 1R
Damian Batt (23)-Signed for St Albans City on 31stAugust 2006. A 21-year old defender who can play in either full-back berth as well as in midfield and spent the previous two seasons with City’s near neighbours Barnet. Born in Hoddesdon he spent three seasons with Norwich City but left when not offered professional terms by the Canaries. Had trials with the Reserve sides of Wycombe Wanderers, Cheltenham Town and Bournemouth before starting the 2004-05 season in the Conference South with Redbridge. After just one game he left to join Barnet with his Bees debut coming on 28thSeptember during a 3-1 LDV Trophy win over Stevenage Borough at Underhill. Made 15 appearances in the Nationwide Conference as Paul Fairclough’s side won the championship and during the 2005-06 season, with Barnet now members of the Football League, he played in a further 22 league games and five cup ties. Left Barnet at the end of 2005-06 and had a trial with Stevenage Borough two days prior to joining the Saints, making his debut in front of 6,190 spectators during City’s 2-1 Conference defeat at Oxford United on 1stSeptember. Scored his first goal for the Saints during a 1-1 draw at Southport on 7thOctober 2006 and followed it three days later with a stunning long-range effort at Dagenham & Redbridge. Joined Stevenage Borough towards the end of January 2007. 2006-07 23app, 2gls, 4Y, 1R
Shaun Batt(24) – Nineteen-year old striker who had a one-month loan to St Albans City from fellow Conference National side Dagenham & Redbridge but played just two games due to injury. Made his City debut during the Saints Conference defeat at Crawley Town on 4thNovember 2006. Progressed through the Stevenage Borough School of Excellent prior to joining Dagenham and has since had loan spells with Gravesend & Northfleet and East Thurrock United. A fast, strong striker and brother of the City defender Damian. 2006-07 2app
Elliot Benyon(21) – A 19-year old Wycombe-born striker who joined the Saints on 11thOctober 2006 on a one-month loan from League One side Bristol City but after making a good impression had this extended by a further two months. Has yet to break into the First team at Ashton Gate but played three times for the Reserves at the start of this season before beginning his loan with the Saints. Made his St Albans City debut during a 4-2 Nationwide Conference victory over York City at Clarence Park on 14thOctober and capped an outstanding display by netting the Saints final goal. On 28thOctober he made his debut in the FA Cup as St Albans went down 2-1 to Conference South side Yeading. He became the first City player to score twice in the same Conference National match and also the only St Albans player to score in three consecutive Conference National fixtures. 2006-07 13app, 6gls, 4Y
Malik Buari(29) – A powerfully built and deceptively quick right-sided midfielder who signed for St Albans City in February 2007 making his Conference National debut during a 3-0 defeat at home to Stafford Rangers. Born in Accra, Ghana, he played five times for Fulham (four in the Premiership, one Carling Cup) during the 2003-04 season. Made six appearance in the Conference with Woking last season and prior to joining St Albans was playing in Australia for Kiwi side New Zealand Knights (founded 2004, dissolved 2007). Was not on the winning side during his games with Woking and was on the winning side only once in his 13 games for the Saints. 2006-07 13app, 2Y
Lee Clarke(10) – Scored 25 times in the Conference South during 2005-06, the same as for the previous season, and for the second successive year was the Division’s second highest scorer. His 26thgoal of the season was the crucial first strike in the promotion play-off final victory over Histon. The St. Albans City Player of the Year for 2004-05 he won the Players’ Player of the Year award for the 2005-06 season and also collected the Goal of the Season trophy. His achievements were rewarded with a place in the England semi-professional squad to play in the Four Nations tournament during May 2006, his selection, however, was withdrawn once the FA realised that he has previously played five times for Northern Ireland at U21. Has also made two appearances for an FA XI. Marked his 100thleague appearance with the Saints on Easter Monday 2006 by scoring City’s 100thgoal of the season, has since moved into the clubs list of All Time Top Ten Goalscorers and played his 150thgame for the club. Has played in midfield and attack for the Saints and on 28thOctober 2006 he spent 83 minutes of City’s FA Cup tie at Yeading in goal following the dismissal of Paul Bastock. Began his career as a sixteen-year-old with Cambridgeshire side Yaxley prior to teaming up with the former St. Albans player Barry Fry at Peterborough United. Signed for the Saints from Peterborough in January 2004 having made three appearances for the Posh, also had a spell on loan to Kettering Town. Away from St. Albans he runs a coaching school in Peterborough. His grandfather, William Callaghan, scored seven times in 21 appearances for Ipswich Town during the early 1950s while his father, Colin Clarke, was the Northern Ireland striker who scored 13 times in 38 international matches. 2006-07 47app, 11gls, 11Y
Scott Cousins(3) - A left-sided player, with an exceptional first touch, who returned to the side in March 2007 having sustained a broken left leg during the Saints FA Trophy tie at Tamworth in January 2006. Prior to his injury City won six successive matches that coincided with his return to the side after a suspension. Began the 2005-06 season in midfield before reverting to a more familiar left back position, also started the season as the City captain. This is his third season with the club after having one year at Hendon. Spent five seasons with Chelsea prior to moving into the non-league game but was originally on the books of Queens Park Rangers. Came to the attention of the Saints during a trial for Luton Town against St. Albans in July 2004 and signed for the Hertfordshire club two weeks later. Began work in the summer of 2005 as a coach at David Beckham’s Football Academy in Greenwich and returned to work at the Academy just two months after major surgery on his leg. Plans to take his UEFA ‘B’ coaching badge during 2007. As part of his rehabilitation before returning to Saints First team he had spells with Harrow Borough and Wealdstone. 2006-07 5app
Dean Cracknell (12)– A midfielder who is in his second season at Clarence Park having joined St. Albans City in the summer of 2005 from fellow Hertfordshire club Bishop’s Stortford. Was a First team regular during the first half of the Saints successful promotion campaign of 2005-06 but spent much of the second half of it on the bench. Started the 2006-07 season as a substitute for the Saints opening three matches, making his debut in the Conference National late in the home game against Aldershot Town on 19thAugust and marked the occasion with City’s third goal in a 5-3 defeat. Early in the season he had a brief spell with Isthmian League side Staines Town while St Albans retained his Conference registration. Made his 50thappearance for the Saints in October. Began his career as a trainee with Northampton Town before switching to the non-league game that has seen him have spells with Aylesbury United, Maidenhead United, Stevenage Borough and Barnet. 2006-07 33app, 2gls, 1Y, 1R
Tom Davis(4) – Joined St. Albans City in December 2004 in unusual circumstances having impressed the Saints when giving an inspired performance, and scoring, during a game between the Saints Reserves and the Reserve side of his then club Gravesend & Northfleet. Born in Bromley, he played for the Kent County side at various age levels, and was a professional with Fulham where he had to overcome a long-term leg injury before signing for Gravesend. The second half of the 2005-06 season saw him hit top form with his best performance coming in front of 5,022 spectators during the Saints title decider with Weymouth at the Wessex Stadium on Easter Monday. That season also saw him notch his first hat-trick since playing in junior football. His performances last season persuaded the Saints to commit him to a two-year contract running through to the end of 2007-08. Started the 2006-07 season with a place in Paul Fairclough’s England National Game XI side to honour the official opening of Forest Green Rovers new ground on 5thSeptember and marked his 100thappearance for the Saints with a goal during the home match with Halifax Town on 27thJanuary.2006-07 42app, 6gls, 15Y
Ahmed Deen(28) – Signed for St Albans City on 16thFebruary 2007 and made his debut 24 hours later away to Rushden & Diamonds. Born in Sierra Leone he began his football career as a scholar with Leicester City before breaking into the Football League with five appearances for Peterborough United. A left-sided player, though predominantly a full back he impressed during several appearances in midfield. Gained his first taste of Conference National football during 2005-06 with Aldershot Town. Has also played for Hornchurch and Fisher Athletic and it was from the latter he joined the Saints. Victory for the Saints in their final match of the season, against Weymouth, was the only time he was on the winning side during his time at Clarence Park. 2006-07 15app
Gary Elphick(5) – A 21-year old central defender who played 19 times for the Saints during the 2004-05 season on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion. His successful spell with the Saints on that occasion led to Brighton giving him a new contract but after just two first team appearances was loaned out to Aldershot Town. After three games for the Shots Brighton agreed to transfer him to St. Albans on a two-year deal. Played a significant part in the Saints rise into the Conference with his return to the club coinciding with the side not conceding a goal in any of the first four games in which he played. Endured a controversial start to the new season by being dismissed in each of the Saints opening two fixtures although the FA rescinded the first red card, at Kidderminster. Was been in exceptional form after the turn of the year winning the January Player of the Month award. Made his 50thappearance for the Saints during a 2-1 win at Stevenage Borough on 23rdJanuary and scored his first Conference goal during a 2-2 draw with Southport on 10thMarch. An inspirational figure he won the Supporters Player of the Year Trophy and the Players’ Player of the Year award for 2006-07. At the end of the season he had a couple of trial matches with Bristol Rovers Reserves. His brother Tom is currently with Brighton. 2006-07 39app, 1gl, 3Y, 2R (one rescinded)
Lee Flynn(15) – An experienced left-back who originally joined St. Albans City on loan from Dagenham & Redbridge early during the 2005-06 season before returning in March to make the move a permanent one. In between those two spells he also played five games for the Saints promotion-seeking rivals Cambridge City. Scored his first goal for the Saints, in his 30thmatch, during a 3-0 win at Northwich Victoria on 9thSeptember 2006. An injury sustained in mid-October kept him out of the starting line up for the next nine weeks. A tough-tackling left-sided player whose previous clubs include fellow Hertfordshire sides Barnet, Stevenage Borough and Boreham Wood as well as Hayes, Romford and Hendon. He has had the honour of featuring in three overseas tours for the famed Middlesex Wanderers. In 2004 he played for the Wanderers as they defeated Racing Club Calais in France, a year later he took part in the Wanderers Centenary Tour of Japan during which time three games were played. His third tour of duty with the Wanderers came in May 2006 when the club went on a two-match ten-day tour of Botswana. Left the Saints at the start of March 2007, by mutual agreement, and ended the season with Conference South side Thurrock. 2006-07 23app, 2gls, 4Y
Paul Hakim(9) - Striker signed for the Saints during the summer of 2005 following a productive campaign in front of goal for Bishop’s Stortford. His early days at Clarence Park were far from easy as he was sidelined firstly with an ankle injury and then had his appendix removed. Had to wait until towards the end of October before registering his first goal but by the turn of the year was a regular in the side and in May had the honour of scoring the second goal as City clinched promotion to the Conference with a 2-0 play-off victory over Histon. Not content with scoring City’s last goal in the Conference South he also had the honour of netting the first St Albans City goal in the Conference National during the 3-1 opening day victory at Kidderminster Harriers, then followed it by scoring the goal that accounted for Tamworth on 28thAugust to secure the Saints first home win over Nationwide Conference opposition. Prior to playing for Bishop’s Stortford he had a brief spell with Dagenham & Redbridge as well as stints with Slough Town, Wingate & Finchley and fellow Hertfordshire club Cheshunt. City collected £10,000 when he signed for Stevenage Borough in January 2007. 2006-07 25app, 9gls, 4Y
Matt Hann(7) – A right-sided player who celebrated the Saints promotion the Conference National by being voted the Conference South Player of the Year by opposition supporters. Started his career on the books of Cambridge United but his debut in the Football League only came following a move to Peterborough United. After leaving The Posh he turned to the semi-professional game with Cambridge City before heading south to spend two seasons with Dorchester Town. Joined St Albans City in the summer of 2004 and has since played 128 games for the club. The summer of 2005 saw him playing in Turkey for Great Britain in the World Universities Games and before the season started also played for England in the Futsal tournament against Poland at London’s Docklands. His performances during 2005-06 earned him a call up to Paul Fairclough’s 35-man England squad taking part in the Four Nations tournament during May 2006 although he did not make the final squad. 2006-07 41app, 2gls, 4Y
Dane Harper(20) – Left Boston United in the summer of 2006 and was snapped up by St. Albans City less than a week before the start of the Saints first season in the Nationwide Conference. A right-sided defender who was signed on the strength of an impressive run out during the Saints final friendly of the summer, a goalless draw at Clarence Park with Sheffield United. After failing to break into the side he joined Wisbech Town but returned to Clarence Park towards the end of October. Made his debut as City defeated Royston Town 6-0 in the Herts Senior Cup but was released two days later. 2006-07 1app
John Hastings(30) – Striker signed on loan from League Two side MK Dons at the start of March, making his debut 24 hours later during City’s 2-0 Conference National defeat at Morecambe. Joined MK Dons in the summer of 2006, on a one-year contract, after scoring 54 times in 74 games for Isthmian League side Tooting & Mitcham United. The possessor of an excellent first touch the 23-year old has also played for Hayes, England Schoolboys and the British Colleges team. Was recalled by MK Dons prior to the end of his loan spell due to an injury crisis. 2006-07 6app
Kurt Husnu(25) – Has the distinction of having one of the shortest stays with St Albans City of any player in the clubs history. Signed Nationwide Conference forms on Friday, 22ndSeptember 2006, and was released just three days later after playing for 45 minutes of the league match at home to Gravesend & Northfleet on 23rdSeptember. Progressed through the Youth and Reserve sides at Southend United but left Roots Hall without breaking into the first team. Had trials with both Aldershot Town and Chelmsford City during the 2005-06 season. 2006-07 1app
Duane Jackman (24) - Joined St Albans City on a non-contract basis from Conference South side Bishop’s Stortford on 18thSeptember 2006 after two years with the Saints Hertfordshire rivals. Although on the sidelines for the opening month of the current season he is no stranger to the Saints having played against his new club three times over the previous two seasons for the Bishop’s. A speedy striker who is also good in the air, scored on his debut for the Saints during a 4-2 Nationwide Conference defeat at Exeter City on 19thSeptember. As a youngster he was a part of the Redbridge College (PASE) set-up and back in November 2003, aged 18, he made one appearance for the St Albans City Reserve side in the Essex and Herts Border League. 2006-07 6app, 1gl, 1Y
Ben Lewis(6) – A former Youth team player for Colchester United who progressed through the ranks at Layer Road before making two appearances in the First team back in 1995. Two years later he moved across Essex to sign for Southend United and marked his debut with the winning goal against Fulham. After leaving Roots Hall he turned to non-league football and has had spells with a number of clubs, including Heybridge Swifts (three spells), Welling United, Chelmsford City (his hometown club), Grays Athletic and Redbridge. Joined St. Albans City in January 2006 from Bishop’s Stortford after appearing for the Bishop’s in two matches against the Saints the previous week. His leadership qualities proved crucial during the Saints push for promotion but he missed out in the play-off final after injuring a leg in a motorcycle accident in the days leading up to the match. A shoulder injury delayed his start to the current season before he made his first appearance in the Conference National with the Saints against Aldershot Town on 19thAugust. 2006-07 1app
Guy Lopez(31) – A midfielder who signed for St Albans City in March 2006 from Conference South side Dorchester Town and made his debut as a substitute during a 2-2 draw with Southport. Prior to Dorchester he spent a season with fellow Conference South side Havant & Waterlooville and gained Conference National experience during three seasons with Barnet. A schoolteacher who was born in Calais and is one of three Frenchmen in the City squad. Victory in the Saints final match of the season was the only time he was on the winning side in ten appearances for the club. 2006-07 10app, 3Y
Ben Martin(16) – A 6’7” tall central defender who has received more than his fair share of bad luck over the past six years with cruciate knee ligament injuries being suffered in both legs. The second such injury occurred during a friendly at Tring Athletic in July 2005 and ruled him out of the whole of the 2005-06 season. Came on as a substitute in each of the Saints opening two Nationwide Conference matches of the 2006-07 season but a fresh cartilage injury led to another lengthy lay-off. Was in the starting line up for the first time in 18 months at the end of October when City defeated Royston Town 6-0 in the Herts Senior Cup. Joined Swindon Town from Aylesbury United in August 2003 but left the County Ground after just one substitute appearance in the LDV Vans Trophy. Prior to leaving Swindon he had loan spells with Lincoln City, Stevenage Borough and Farnborough Town and also had a run out for his hometown club, Harpenden Town, prior to making his St. Albans City debut in August 2004. In a bid to return to full fitness he had loan spells with Staines Town, Leighton Town and Wealdstone. 2006-07 10app, 1gl, 1Y, 1R
Simon Martin(14) – A one-time St. Albans City Youth player for whom this was his third spell with the senior club and with 198 games behind him has made more First team appearances than any other member of the current squad. Made his City debut in March 1996 before going to Lincoln University which precipitated a transfer to Lincoln United. Switched to Hucknall Town before being transferred back south to St. Albans for a tribunal-set fee of £5,000. After two successive seasons as St. Albans leading scorer he left the club for a second time to join then Isthmian League club Thurrock but returned to Clarence Park for the start of 2005-06 and was one of four City players to score ten or more times in the Conference South last season. His first goals of the current campaign came in the form of a hat trick in the Saints 6-0 Herts Senior Cup win over Royston Town on 31stOctober, taking his total for the club to 71 making him the 15thhigher scorer in City’s history. By the beginning of March 2007 he had been in the starting line up for just five Conference matches this season, all away from home, and subsequently signed for Southern League side Wealdstone. 2006-07 18app, 3gls
Ram Marwa(8) – Midfielder who is in his second spell with the Saints having originally joined the Clarence Park club from Grays Athletic in September 2004. A succession of fine performances led to a move into the Conference with Dagenham & Redbridge at the end of that season only for a return to St. Albans City, firstly on loan, in January 2006. Has since signed a two-year contract with the Saints. Made a significant contribution to the Saints promotion during the second half of the season with eight goals in 19 appearances from his midfield berth. Born in Norway he represented his country at Youth level before moving to England to sign for Leyton Orient. Had spells with Erith & Belvedere and Ilford before embarking on a stint in Australia, trained with Orient upon his return and then joined Grays Athletic. 2006-07 31app, 4gls, 2Y, 1R
Warren McBean (20) – Striker who joined St Albans City on 13thOctober and needed just 49 minutes of his debut the following day to open his account when scoring during the Saints 4-2 victory over York City at Clarence Park. Started the current campaign with Conference South side Braintree Town having scored 19 times in 48 games in that league last season for Farnborough Town. During the 2004-05 season he was a member of the Barnet side that won promotion to the Football League (nine appearances). Worked his way up from the Youth team at Underhill. Whilst in the Barnet Youth team he was a student at Southgate College (studying music) and played in the ESFA Colleges Trophy final as Southgate defeated Middlesbrough at Doncaster in 2004. 2006-07 2app, 1gl
Alexis Nicolas(27) - Signed for St Albans City on 26thSeptember 2006 and made his Nationwide Conference debut during the 2-1 defeat at Weymouth on 30thSeptember. A talented ball-playing midfielder who was a junior with Aston Villa and had a short time as a professional at Villa Park before joining Chelsea in December 2001. Made his Premiership debut in February 2004, a 1–0 win over Charlton Athletic, having appeared in the FA Cup for the Blues a week earlier against Scarborough. Played in just one more First team game for Chelsea (all three of his first team games were won by the same score) before signing for Brighton & Hove Albion in August 2004. During two seasons with the Seagulls he played 46 games for the club, this despite being hindered by ankle and knee injuries, and is currently on the sidelines again due to injury. Although born in London in February 1983 he has represented Cyprus at Youth and U21 levels. Left the Saints on 11thNovember 2006 with ambitions to resume his Football League career. 2006-07 6app
Rob Norris(25) - One of two 18-year old players signed by St. Albans City from Boston United five days before the start of the 2006-07 season and made his debut as a last-minute substitute during the 3-1 opening day victory at Kidderminster Harriers. Former Youth and Reserve team player at York Street who became the youngest player ever to feature in a Pilgrims First team Football League fixture when he came on as a substitute during a 2-2 home draw with Bristol Rovers on 30thOctober 2004. Made three league appearances (two as sub) for Boston and also appeared in one FA Cup tie having previously had a spell with Lincoln City. A talented two-footed midfielder who left the Saints early in the season to join Kings Lynn Town when faced with limited opportunities but returned to Clarence Park at the end of December. 2006-07 9app
Magnus Okuonghae (22) -A 6’3” central defender who signed for St Albans City on 30thAugust 2006 after starting the season with Nationwide Conference rivals Aldershot Town. Made his Saints debut on 1stSeptember in front of a crowd numbering 6,190 as City went down 2-1 to Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium. Four days later he was the star performer in an England National Game XI that played at Forest Green Rovers to mark the official opening of the New Lawn stadium. Played in two games for the Shots this season before deciding to move on, one of his two appearances being a 5-3 victory for the Hampshire club over the Saints at Clarence Park on 19thAugust. Aged 20, he spent three seasons with Fulham, one as a professional, before making his way through the ranks at Rushden & Diamonds. As captain of the Diamonds Reserve side he led them to success in the Northamptonshire Senior Cup. Made his debut in the Football League on 9thAugust 2005 when coming on as substitute during a 1-0 win over Mansfield Town at Field Mill. Scored his solitary League goal at the start of October 2005 as the Nene Park club went down 2-1 at Rochdale. Played in 21 League Two matches last season and two cup ties. Had a spell on the bench towards the end of 2006 but just three games after re-establishing himself in the side left to join fellow Conference National side Crawley Town in January 2007. 2006-07 20app, 2Y
Ricky Perks(13) – A former St. Albans City Youth and Reserve team goalkeeper who began the 2005-06 season as understudy to Paul Bastock but due to a lack of games had short stints with local sides Harpenden Town and Sandridge Rovers before joining Isthmian League side Walton & Hersham. Returned to Clarence Park during the summer although he had a further spell with Walton early during 2006-07. Made his First team debut for St Albans during a 1-0 Herts Senior Cup win over Cheshunt in March 2005 but had to wait until November 2006 before taking his bow in the Conference National when he stepped in for three games to cover for the suspended Bastock, was on the losing side just in one of those three games and kept one clean sheet. Although known for his goalkeeping abilities he has also played outfield in the St. Albans Sunday League. One of three former City Youth players in the current squad and is one of several players to have appeared for Southern League side Wealdstone during 2006-07 on a dual registration. 2006-07 4app
Nick Roddis(19) – A bustling midfielder with a creative eye who signed for St. Albans City in November 2004 following brief stints with Crawley Town and AFC Wimbledon. Was quickly appointed coach and has blossomed into one of the brightest young coaches in the game. Began the 2005-06 season in excellent form on the pitch until injury sidelined him after the New Year, although he did make a cameo appearance late in the play-off final victory over Histon. His Conference South runners-up medal is the latest addition to an impressive list of honours that includes nine caps (one goal) for the England semi-professional side, an Isthmian League championship medal as captain of the Aldershot Town side that won the league in 2003 and captain of the Great Britain team at three World University Games, one of which was staged in China. Began his career as a trainee with Nottingham Forest and since then has travelled extensively during spells with – in addition to those clubs already mentioned – Boston Town, Boston United, Yeading, Hayes and Woking. 2006-07 4app, 1R
Djoumin Sangare(24) – Returned to Clarence Park early in January 2007 to begin a second loan spell with St Albans City that ran through to the end of the season. Was first on loan to the Saints early in the 2005-06 season when his run of five appearances at the heart of the City defence coincided with the side conceding just one goal. At the time he was signed to Conference South side Lewes for whom he appeared all the way along the backline. Played in attack for the Saints final two Conference National matches of the 2006-07 season and scored on both occasions. Moved into full-time football with Grays Athletic in the summer of 2006 but after making just ten appearances for the Essex club was happy to accept the offer of a second loan spell with the Saints. Born on Dunkirk, he had a brief spell with French side Wasquehal before switching to English football. 2006-07 17app, 2gls.
Chris Seeby(2) – Progressed through the now defunct midweek St Albans City Youth team to become an established member of the Saints first team. Made his team debut in February 2003 but it was during the Saints 2005-06 promotion-winning season that he fully established himself in the side. Predominantly a right back, he has been used all the way along the backline as well as in a holding midfield position. Returned to his more familiar right back position on 5thSeptember 2006 as one of three City players in the England National Game XI that played at the New Lawn to mark the official opening of Forest Green Rovers new ground. In addition to playing for St. Albans City Youth he also spent several of his teenage years with Watford. Principal honours include a Conference South runners-up medal, a Herts Senior Cup winners medal and, as previously stated, an appearance for the England National Game XI. Made his 150thappearance for the Saints during a 4thRound Qualifying FA Cup defeat at Yeading on 28thOctober 2006. 2006-07 44app, 3Y
Nathan Simpson(25) – Signed for St Albans City from Isthmian League side Bromley and made his Saints debut during a 2-1 defeat to Weymouth at the Wessex Stadium on 30thSeptember 2006. A left-sided player who can play either as a wing-back or full-back. A one-time junior with Croydon schools who spent some time with Crystal Palace before having trials with Wycombe Wanderers and Dagenham & Redbridge. 2006-07 4app
Josh Sozzo (18)– A striker signed during the summer from Hertfordshire neighbours Hitchin Town for whom he scored 26 League and League Cup goals last season. Made his Conference debut as a substitute for the final seven minutes of City’s goalless draw with Cambridge United on 15thAugust and was in the starting XI for the first time on 28thAugust when Tamworth were defeated 1-0. As a junior he had spells with Luton Town, Watford, Wycombe Wanderers and Arsenal before having his first taste of senior football with Bedfordshire club Leighton Town. Joined close rivals Hemel Hempstead Town whom he helped to the Isthmian League Division Two championship before signing for Bedford Town, his hometown club. Followed manager Kevin Wilson to Aylesbury United but after a short stay signed for Hitchin Town in January 2004. Released by St Albans on 26thSeptember after making six Nationwide Conference appearances. 2006-07 6app, 1Y
David Theobald(17) – Central defender who signed for St. Albans City during the close season from Conference North side Kettering Town, his debut for the Poppies coming during an FA Cup tie between the two clubs at Clarence Park in October 2005. Marked his St Albans City debut with the Saints second goal during the 3-1 win at Kidderminster Harriers on the first day of the current season, his second goal was in front of 6,190 spectators during St Albans 2-1 defeat at Oxford United on 1stSeptember. As a youngster he was on the books of Cambridge United before being signed by Ipswich Town. Left Portman Road before breaking into the First team but did make 53 appearances as a professional during spells with Brentford, Swansea City and back at Cambridge United. After a short stay at the Abbey Stadium he had a stint with local rivals Cambridge City before establishing himself at Canvey Island whom he assisted to the Isthmian League championship in 2004. Surprisingly left the Saints to return to Kettering Town in January 2007. 2006-07 25app, 3gls, 6Y
Ben Walshe(6) – Returned to St Albans City on 24thOctober 2006 for a third spell, his two previous stints at Clarence Park proving highly successful. First joined the Saints at the start of the 2004-05 season having appeared against the club in pre-season friendly for Luton Town just two weeks earlier. Left in the summer of 2005 to join Fisher Athletic but rejoined the Saints the following December and as the player with the best points per game ratio played a significant part in St Albans’ promotion to the Conference National. After leaving for a second time he concentrated on a burgeoning acting career, principally in SKY’s Dream Team football soap. As a youngster he was with Queens Park Rangers, made his debut as a substitute when still a teenager in April 2001 but an injury sustained in his first starting appearance, a 4-2 win at Chesterfield the following February, brought about a premature end to his days at Loftus Road. Has also had spells with Aldershot Town and Gravesend & Northfleet; it was from the latter that he first joined St Albans. His third spell at Clarence Park proved to be short as he left the Saints once more in December 2006. 2006-07 10app, 2gls, 2Y
Chris Watters(11) – One of two players signed by St Albans City on a two-and-a-half-year deal from neighbours Boreham Wood for £7,500 at the start of January 2007. An influential figure at Meadow Park who was credited with assisting in a high percentage of Wood’s goals from his position wide on the left of midfield. Joined Boreham Wood in January 2005 scoring 14 times in his 82 games for the club. Began his career with fellow Hertfordshire club Cheshunt where, during two spells, he scored 20 goals in 97 Isthmian League appearances. In between times he scored four times in 73 Isthmian League games for Hemel Hempstead Town. Made his debut for the Saints on 6thJanuary 2007 during a 3-1 Nationwide Conference defeat at home to Northwich Victoria and notched his first goal during a 2-2 draw with Southport on 10thMarch. Struggled to make an impact and injuries restricted his appearances. Was transferred back to Boreham Wood at the end of the season with the Saints suffering a significant loss on his fee. 2006-07 11app, 1gl, 2Y
Adam Wilde(11) – One of three summer signings made by St. Albans City since winning promotion last May. Predominantly a left-sided player although he is also comfortable with his right foot. Born in Southampton he was a member of the Saints School of Excellence but was released for being too small. Cambridge United had no such qualms and acquired his services and played him in four Football League matches. Had a spell on loan to Kettering Town before joining Cambridge City, which was followed by a £7,500 transfer to Worcester City in October 2002. The 2005-06 season saw the qualified hairdresser have spells with Weymouth and Salisbury City, winning the Southern League Premier Division with the latter. Has gained international honours with the England semi-professional side. Released by the club on 25thSeptember after making ten appearances in the Nationwide Conference. 2006-07 10app, 2Y
Colin Lippiatt(Manager)– One of the most experienced and successful managers currently in the game with his CV being enhanced since joining St. Albans City in October 2004. Was brought to the club as assistant manager to Stuart Cash but when Cash walked out within a week of taking the job Lippiatt took over on a temporary and then permanent basis. The club was at the foot of the Conference South table at the time of his appointment but after four winless matches the side put together a run of form that had it been maintained from the start of the season would have seen the Saints finish third in the table. As it was they went one better in 2005-06, Lippiatt’s first full season, and after finishing second to Weymouth secured promotion to the Conference National via the play-offs. He led the Saints into the Conference with the best points per game record of any City manager in charge for 25 games or more, by the end of the 2006-07 season he was down to 11th. His record with the Saints was slightly tarnished with the club finishing bottom of the Conference National and relegated back to Conference South. Prior to a final day of the season win over Weymouth the team endured a 15-match winless run, City’s poorest record for 33 years. He has also managed Chesham United and Yeovil Town but will always be remembered for his partnership with Geoff Chapple at Woking, the duo taking the Cards through the Isthmian League to the Conference, three FA Trophy successes, memorable FA Cup ties with West Bromwich Albion and Everton, and success in numerous smaller cup competitions. Lippiatt also had a spell as manager at Woking and worked as Chapple’s number two at Kingstonian. Prior to his success at Woking he was assistant manager to Brian Caterer at Leatherhead and Maidenhead United, and had a spell with Windsor & Eton. As a player he turned out for west London clubs Hayes, Ruislip Manor and Uxbridge before ending his career in the mid 1970s at Wokingham Town. At Rushden & Diamonds on 17thFebruary 2007 he became only the fifth individual to manage St Albans City for 100 league games and celebrated his 65thbirthday on 1stJanuary 2007 with a 2-1 win at Woking. Left Clarence Park and retired from football management at the end of April 2007 to become Director of Football at Woking and began interviews for a new manager at Kingfield in the days leading up to the Saints final Conference National match.
(Squad number in parentheses)
Action photos by kind permission of Robert Walkley, all others David Tavener.