|18th April 2015||3:00 pm||Conference South||2014/2015|
Another big gun came and failed on Saturday as teenager Jack Green sunk big spending Ebbsfleet United with his first goal for St Albans City as the Saints clinched a notable 1-0 Conference South victory over the Kent club.
Overall the match, in spite of a reasonable opening 45 minutes, was very much a tame end of season affair.
But that will not detract from the pleasure City will take from beating a side that has splashed the cash to a level alien to practically all non-league clubs.
And, as joint City manager James Gray was quick to point out after the game, the Saints match-winner was a home-grown 17-old-year who has cost the club not a single penny.
Jack Green has progressed through the City Youth and Reserves sides and after just three – unpaid – starting appearances in Conference South has already rubber stamped his name into City’s plans for next season.
His tenacity in midfield and quickness in spotting an opening is now matched by an awareness close to goal. If the youngster can keep his feet on the ground then a bright future within the game awaits.
By a strange coincidence, this match saw a City starlet from earlier this decade, Sean Shields, come off the bench to briefly add new life to Ebbsfleet’s flagging challenge before the Fleet finally admitted defeat and limped back to base.
St Albans made one change from the side that defeated Eastbourne and Gosport in its two previous games with Jo N’Guessan coming in for the injured Steve Wales; the duo swapped roles midway through the second half.
On a sunny afternoon City kicked off attacking the York Road goal and, with a wild shot by N’Guessan that went well wide, the Saints made the first threat on goal.
Jamie Day’s side, playing in front of a sizeable away following, replied with a firm drive by Danny Kedwell, following a short free kick by Luke Rooney, flying wide of Joe Welch’s goal.
Soon after Kedwell turned provider when heading on a long free kick by Brandon Hall that Adam Cunnington sent comfortably wide with an ambitious over-head kick.
From one of the best moves of the entire match Kedwell and Cunnington moved the ball down the right touchline with a couple of headers that sent Matt Godden charging towards the Hatfield Road goal.
After doing well to hold off James Comley, Godden shot low but City keeper Joe Welch did well to block the shot.
City, with Michael Malcolm and Simon Thomas in attack, were competing well but offered little genuine threat until taking the lead on 22 minutes.
The again outstanding Sam Corcoran played a short free kick to Jack Green but the move looked to be breaking down until Danny Green played the ball to his left, where a clever dummy by Corcoran let the ball run onto Lee Chappell.
The City captain unleashed a powerful low drive from 25 yards that Hall parried to his left but only into the path of Jack Green.
The youngster looked to have scored his first goal for the club only for the grounded Hall to pull off a remarkable save with his outstretched right hand, but the keeper was helpless as the teenager stroked the rebound into the back of the net.
United to hit back with a quick break through Godden but good work by Chappell and Darren Locke got the ball out for a corner.
City won a couple of corners for themselves on the half hour. From the second of which the ball was returned to Corcoran only for the midfielder to be unceremoniously upended by Stuart Lewis, who duly collected the first booking of the match.
The second half, played on a dry and dusty pitch that has not seen serious rain for several weeks, was a scrappy affair.
For a while Ebbsfleet, around the time that Shields replaced Godden on the hour, pushed forward with a measure of belief in their play but it fizzled out quickly and an uninspiring 45 minutes was endured in piercing sunlight.
That said, City were still grateful for another excellent display by their Player of the Year, goalkeeper Joe Welch, that helped secure a fourth consecutive home clean sheet and third straight win, as Ebbsfleet’s run of seven consecutive victories at the Park was brought to an end.
Welch made his first save of the half when Lewis seized upon a loose ball and drove a powerful effort from 20 yards that Welch dived low to his right to push away for a corner.
Michael West struck the resulting set piece to the back post where Kedwell headed downwards, as the ball bounced up Welch pulled off a stunning save and was relieved to see Kedwell head the rebound over the target.
Shields set off on three promising runs down the left wing but each was snuffed out by a City defence – Comley and Locke flanked by Chappell and John Kyriacou – that was as impenetrable as it has been at any time this season.
City threatened to increase their lead on the counter-attack on a couple of occasions.
One good opening was created when Malcolm and Thomas worked the ball up to Jack Green who burst forward at speed and sent a return pass to Thomas. But as the experienced striker dithered Anthony Acheampong was able to step in and clear his lines.
In the first minute of added time City looked to have scored a second goal in the most bizarre of circumstances.
Comley cleared from just outside the home penalty area and substitute John Frendo gave chase more in hope than certainty.
But as the ball dropped on the edge of the United penalty area Frendo saw his chance and clashed with Acheampong who had stepped across his path.
The duo collided with a perfectly fair shoulder-charge but Acheampong went down most meekly and just in time for his keeper to slam the ball into his legs.
The ball rolled back towards and into the goal with Frendo in pursuit but referee John Busby came to rescue of the Fleet and awarded, most harshly, a free kick against Frendo.
Fortunately it made no difference to the outcome; City were home and dry while the Ebbsfleet chequebook was being prised open ahead of another heavy workout during the summer.
St Albans round off their season next Saturday, 25 April, when they face Hayes & Yeading United at York Road, Maidenhead. Kick off is at 3pm.
Following the Ebbsfleet match City held their end of season awards.
As expected for some weeks, Joe Welch won both the Supporters and Players’ Player of the Year award.
Steve Wales’ second goal of the game at Staines Town last August won him the Goal of the Season trophy while commercial manager Tom Norman collected the Clubman of the Year award.
St Albans City
|#||Player||Position||Goals||Assists||Yellow Cards||Red Cards||Penalties|
|3||Lee Chappell||Captain, Defender||0||0||0||0||0|
|Jamal Lowe 11||Forward||0||0||0||0||0|
|John Frendo 9||Forward||0||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Wales 10||Forward||0||0||0||0||0|
Ebbsfleet United FC
|Position||Goals||Assists||Yellow Cards||Red Cards||Penalties|