The Saints gained their first home win of the season against Basingstoke Town on Monday evening. Louie Theophanous scored in the 13th and 62nd minutes whilst Lewis Hilliard curled a stunning shot into the Basingstoke net in the 56th minute.
Photos: Leigh Page
St Albans left Clarence Park on Monday evening with their second three points of the season, and three impressive goals to boot. Though the scoreline perhaps flattered the Saints somewhat, a strong all-round defensive performance meant that there were few real threats to their goal, and the chances that were presented to them were taken well.
Louie Theophanous continued his strong start to the season with an impressive brace, although it was Lewis Hilliard (who also assisted the first) who scored the goal of the night, with a beautiful curling effort from just outside the edge of the box.
The game started fairly quietly, with both sides getting into decent positions but finding chances hard to come by. The City defence were forced into a couple of smart challenges early on to deny Basingstoke a clear shot at goal, and Hilliard twice missed the opportunity to send Theophanous racing through.
That changed in the thirteenth minute, when the two did manage to link up down the left-hand side, and the striker cut inside the area before firing a low shot under Basingstoke keeper Aaron Howe at his near post.
City appeared buoyed by the goal, with good work after a corner from Lee Chappell and James Comley leading to a chance for Ben Martin, who could only head into the ground and towards Howe, before Theophanous found the ball at his feet in the area a few minutes later, but could only get off a weak effort.
The rest of the half however saw the Saints placed under considerable pressure by the visitors. After Simon Dunn was replaced on twenty-eight minutes due to injury, Basingstoke picked up their game, and nearly immediately took advantage of a miscue at the back from a corner. Liam Enver-Marum and Chris Flood posed a constant danger, but the back four of Chappell, Longe-King, Martin and Locke were mostly equal to them, alongside Joe Welch making a good save from Enver-Marum, and David Ray spurning the two chances presented to him.
The second half started in much the same way, with Locke and Chappell both called into defensive action early on. But after a good opening ten minutes for the visitors, they found themselves 2-0 down thanks to some great City play.
Theophanous won a corner in the fifty-sixth minute, which was initially overhit, but the ball found its way out to Martin who saw Hilliard in space on the corner of the box and squared it across. Hilliard instinctively took aim for the top corner, and placed it superbly to give the Saints breathing space.
Then, six minutes later, they put the game to bed.
Kevin Krans started a break from a Basingstoke attack with a fantastic run, before eventually finding Ghassimu Sow in the box. The midfielder backheeled the ball across the area, superbly finding the lurking Theophanous, who had no trouble placing his effort beyond Howe.
City had not been consistently on top, but three splendidly taken goals meant that they had made their chances count.
All four City defenders were called into action throughout the remainder of the half, and Comley offered his support, with Basingstoke not giving up without a fight, but few further chances of note arose, with the most important moment for the Saints being an injury to Theophanous that saw him substituted off in the eightieth minute. It looked more like a knock than something serious, and at 3-0 up there was little need to risk the striker for the final ten minutes.
It might not have been as spectacular as the scoreline suggests, but this was a fairly impressive City performance, despite coming under pressure at times, and the team should take confidence into their next fixture; at home this Saturday at 3pm against Hayes & Yeading.
St Albans: Welch, Sow, Chappell, Longe-King, Martin, Locke, Krans, Comley, Theophanous (Ndjeka 80), Hilliard, Green
Subs not used: Thomas, Kyriacou, Nikolaou, Coulton
Basingstoke: Howe, Smart, Bird, Harper, Gasson, Ray, Soares, Dunn (Gilkes 28), Enver-Marum, Flood, Williams (Macklin 67)
Subs not used: Rice, Akinde, McAuley
By Elliot Gibbons
Post match interview with Jimmy Gray