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Harriers 1 St Albans City 3

Date: 12-08-06 Venue: Aggborough att: 1806 away fans: 99
Saints and Sinners
It was the first game in the Conference today for the Saints of St Albans City and it was us committing the sin of rolling over and letting the fans down as we slumped to our first opening day loss since losing at home to Dover back in 1999.    At the end of the day that loss came to nothing because we only went and won the blinking League title that season.

With eight players making their debuts for us today, including two that had never played with the rest of the side in a competitive game before today, it was always going to be a nervous kind of game from us.    Take nothing away from St Albans though, they came out of the traps with ease and passed the ball round cleanly.    First to the ball 99% of the time and when they hadn't got the ball they were snapping at our heels trying to get it back.

It took them just under ten minutes to fox the Harriers defence when a poor pass in midfield by Dwaine Lee was intercepted by Adam Wilde who then broke for goal, slipped a great through ball to Paul Hakim who side-footed the ball past the despairing dive of Scott Bevan for their first goal.    The eye catching Lee Clarke could have added to that lead soon after but his shot was hurried and Bevan managed to get to it and push it a way to safety.

It didn't matter anyway because a minute later the game was over as a contest for us when the Saints were awarded a corner that was taken by Matty Hann.    The ball curved alarmingly in towards the goal, avoiding our defenders on it's way towards the top far corner to be met on the goal line by Dave Theobald to help it over.    Was it already over though?

All this time and we weren't getting a look in.    Andy White was never up with the play and when he was he wasn't prepared to fight for the ball in the air.    His partner Sturridge was on a different wavelength to his team mates but he probably thought he was still at Molineux with the Wolves and not at Aggborough with players not good enough for the Football League.

Jamie McClen was out of position, Michael Blackwood had been let out of the dressing room and Gavin Cowans hadn't even had the chance to shake hands with his team mates.

Five minutes until the half time whistle and we had our first direct chance on target when Lee got onto the end of a corner from McClen to send a header straight for goal but the veteran keeper for St Albans, Paul Bastock, easily grabbed hold of it.    Blackwood did likewise with an identical header a minute later and Bastock followed suit with an identical save.

There was still time for St Albans to turn the screw before the whistle did finally blow.    Stuart Whitehead clipped the ankles of Paul Hakim on the edge of the area and ref deemed it to be inside the white line.    Lee Clarke made no mistake in putting his team three goals to the good.
HT: 0 - 3
The second half saw an immediate change for the Reds when McClen got left in the dressing room and Brian Smikle took his place.    Something that should have been done right from the start but swapping Blackwood instead.

With the un-assailable lead that they had built up St Albans understandably took their collective feet off the gas and just mopped up the more frequent attacks that we were now mounting.    We may have been getting more of a look in but we were still getting no nearer scoring with Andy White missing a sitter that was lifted over the bar from two yards out.

Midway through the half and the Harriers were handed what could have been a life-line with time remaining on the clock to add two more goals to the penalty that we had just been awarded.    Pity we missed the penalty though.

Gary Elphick was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area but from where we were it was hard to see if he had or not.    He got himself sent off, somewhat cruelly, for the offence and then Dean Sturridge committed an even worse offence by messing up the penalty completely.    Bastock got to the slo mo ball quicker than the ball did in reaching him.

We did try to get into the game even though most teams would have given up after that but the ball just didn't want to go into the net.    St Albans were still trying to add to their lead and with the end of the game fast approaching they almost got a fourth.

Simon Martin shot from the edge of the area and Bevan didn't even see it coming.    The ball rebounded off the post straight back to Martin but he could only send the ball just wide of the same post.

With the Harriers fans drifting away the club committed one of the biggest faux pas' that they'll ever make when they allowed the sponsors to name Cowan as their Man of the Match.    Shouts of uncalled for derision met the announcement, much to the shame of the fans that did such a stupid thing, and Cowan looked visibly upset by the catcalls he was getting.

Luckily Jeff Kenna gave them something else to think about when he sent a magnificent free kick curling into the net but it was all too late by then.

It's early days yet and there will still be the memories of that revolutionary 1999-2000 season to look back on and hope that time can repeat itself.
FT: 1 - 3

 Goal for Harriers: Kenna 90
 Goals for St Albans: Hakim 9, Theobald 21, Clarke 43 (pen)

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Harriers  subs   cards      St Albans  subs   cards 
Bevan     Bastock gif
Kenna     Seeby  
Cowan     Elphick gif
Whitehead gif   Davis  
Creighton     Flynn  
Penn     Theobald  
Lee     Hann  
Sturridge     Marwa  
White     Hakim  
McClen     Wilde  
Blackwood     Clarke gif
SUBS:       SUBS:    
Taylor     Cracknell  
Reynolds     B Martin  
Smikle     S Martin  
Sedgemore     Norris  
Russell     Sozzo  

Mr S Attwell

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