RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
ST ALBANS CITY – 2 [Martin 42. Evans 52]
SUTTON UNITED – 0
Plans for a report based around a good old fashioned all day drinking binge were cosigned to the bin when St Albans thoughtlessly got themselves suspended from playing a week before our visit after their creditors got a bit arsey earlier this season.
Thankfully, the Saints have sorted all that out and are now back playing with a new owner. But sadly for us, it means a mid-week game and hugely reduced drinking time in the best boozing town the Ryman Premier has to offer.
One bonus is my company’s recent relocation to Wimbledon, which at least gives me quicker access to London. And thus makes the journey a little easier. After an umcomfortable journey on a packed Thameslink service out of Kings Cross, I stroll down to the ‘Farmers Boy’, a favourite watering hole of ours.
Pint ordered, I decide dinner is on the cards. Having scoffed my Sausage & Chips, I discover that I’ve broken a tooth. A marvellous start to the evening and no doubt a marvellous addition to my local dentists bank balance.
Arriving at Clarence Park, we purchase our match proggies, only to discover that we’re either at the wrong game or the U’s have sneaked through a dodgy merger since we last looked, as the away team is printed as ‘Heybridge Swifts’. Hmmm.
Walking round we notice a man with a sandwich board walking round the ground. The board carries the words “I’m a twat”. That’ll be the program editior then?
Taking our spots on the terrace and the teams run out. Sutton resplendant in their Green and White quartered shirts, black shorts and red socks.
Eh? Hang on a mo! RED socks?? What the…
A quick double take confirms that we’re not seeing things and that St Albans are wearing white socks, our usual choice. Hmm. Nice to see we’re organised to carry an alternative set, of say, black? Then again, it suits the theme of this season. Bloody chaotic!
Sutton’s one change for the night see’s Tommy Dunn rested and Jamie Ribolla replacing him between the sticks. The home side have the better of the early exchanges and move the ball around well on an excellent looking surface. Our new ‘keeper is called into action a couple of times during the half but it’s little more than to cut out a couple of crosses.
After around 20 minutes, the U’s start to make a bit of an impression on the game themselves. The first opportunity falls to Phil Wingfield, who nods Nick Drew’s cross goalwards. But it lacks power and Wilmot in the Saints goal is able to hold it on the line.
Wingfield is presented with another opening soon after when a Matt Gray cross finds Haworth in the box. He turns and plays in the ex-K’s man, but his shot is hurried and bounces across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
With half time approaching, Matt Gray rips in one of his low crosses that Corbett meets at the far post, but the pace of the ball is too much and he skies his lunging effort well over the bar.
Of course, a couple of mintes later, shitty marking at the back allows a somewhat quiet opposition to take the lead. A throw from the right is flicked on just inside the area and drops 8 yards out near the back post for a completely unmarked Martin to sweep past the completely exposed Ribolla and into the bottom far corner. Much slapping of heads and “Doh!-ing” follows in our section of the ground.
We soon amble off to the bar, but all we find is no beer and the latest episode of ‘The Bill’ on the telly. This distresses one of the U’s contingent as they’re taping it and don’t want to know what occurs. Christ…….
Soon we’re back out on the terrace and the U’s fare no better with Ribolla making one good stop to a well hit low effort just moments in. The’ U’s create a good chance as we stroll round infront of the stand. A free-kick earns us a corner, which Corbett volleys across goal and Gray can’t divert the ball in. But just 7 minutes in, a swift St Albans move ends with a deep cross finding an unmarked Evans. He fires past the once more exposed Ribolla and into the corner of the net. Ooops.
Don’t worry Jamie ol’ son. You’ll get used to the non-existant marking eventually. God knows we have!
Sutton do manage some response to the second goal, with Haworth being the main outlet. His best chance comes when he muscles a defender off the ball after a long clearance forwards. With just the ‘keeper to beat he toes the ball past Wilmot, only to be clattered on the edge of the area. Quite how the Saints man stays on the park amazes us as he escapes with just a caution.
St Albans continue to cause the Sutton rearguard problems, with the tricky looking Youness Nabil being a particular pain in the arse. Their best opportunity falls to the little man after a sweeping move down the left, but he fires well over from close range with the goal at his mercy.
The U’s finally find a forward gear and start to assert some pressure on the home side. Scott Corbett has one storming run from midfield ending in a shot that Wilmot does well to push wide. Matt Gray is given 2 opportunities atfer Wilmot blocks other efforts, but both shots from an angle on the right are blocked by the recovering ‘keeper.
The U’s best opportunity of the half falls to Haworth with a few minutes remaining, when a corner picks him out at the back post. But his powerful header is kept out on the line by a goalkeeper/defender combination.
So, another defeat and another blank scoresheet. Strolling off into the Hertfordshire night, talk is of an impending pasting at the hands of title chasing Canvey on saturday. But we eventually find better things to occupy our thoughts with a swift beer or two in an Everards pub nearby. A rare find!
MAN OF THE MATCH : Jamie Ribolla. A solid debut for the young ‘keeper
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. Better than most recently.
TEAM : Ribolla, Drew, Palmer, Mison, Gonsalves, Gray, Corbett, Honey, Wingfield, Haworth, Akuamouah SUBS : Hammonds, Timothy, Fowler