Ian Allinson’s side kicked-off their delayed 2020/21 Vanarama National League South campaign with a hard fought 1-0 victory over Hampton & Richmond Borough at Clarence Park on Tuesday evening.
Summer signing Shaun Jeffers was heavily involved in the early stages and was presented with two good opportunities within a minute. The first saw the striker combine with Luke Warner-Eley before hitting an effort that Julian did well to turn around the post. The resulting corner was driven low into the area by Zane Banton towards Jeffers, however his effort was denied by 37 year old Julian.
The visitors, who had not lost at Clarence Park since 2002, started to grow into the game but struggled to turn their possession into openings. Former Yeovil Town man Jake Gray had the best for the Beavers just before the break, but his curled strike from range was easily held onto by Michael Johnson in the City net.
The away side were presented with their best chance of the game almost immediately after the interval, having won the ball inside the St Albans half. A string of passes eventually found Gray in space in the box, but with time on his side the attacking midfielder’s low attempt was easily dealt with by the diving Johnson.
Despite the impressive duo of Charlie Wassmer and Dean Inman at the heart of the Beavers defence, the Saints started to make some inroads and Julian did well to push Banton’s drilled strike wide through bodies of the post.
The winning goal came as the clock entered the 75th minute, and it was through an unlikely source. Following a foul on Banton, Shaun Jeffers stepped up and curled the free-kick around the wall towards the out-stretched Julian, who could only manage to palm it into the path of Solomon Nwabuokei and the City midfielder made no mistake as he calmly poked the ball into the far corner of the net.
The energetic Mitchell Weiss curled an effort towards target with five minutes but it never looked like troubling Julian, who dealt with it comfortably.
As the game entered the final two minutes the visitors were reduced to ten men following a reckless tackle from behind on Nwabuokei by Tyler Miller-Rodney.
Despite their man disadvtanage, there was still time for the away side to create one final opening. Hill’s header from Wassmer’s free-kick found Inman in space in the box and the 29 year old could only manage to slice his half-volley inches wide of the target.
The Saints are back in action on Saturday with a trip to Essex to face Concord Rangers. Kick-off at the Aspect Arena is 3pm.