St Albans City ’s run of pre-season friendlies came to a close on Wednesday with an enjoyable encounter at a warm Clarence Park that ended with county rivals Stevenage gaining a 2-1 victory.
City gave a trial to former Stevenage striker Barry Hayles and the 40-year-old Jamaican international soon made his presence felt when setting up Lewis Toomey for the Saints only goal.
Saints manager David Howell also gave a first start to former Staines Town midfielder Gareth Risbridger and after the game secured the signing of central defender Curtis Ujah on Southern League forms.
Stevenage also included a couple of trialists as well as two members of their academy squad and players with international experience ranging from Northern Ireland Under 21’s, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana to Guadeloupe.
The visitors dominated possession during the opening 45 minutes but caused City few serious problems while after the break St Albans enjoyed what was possibly their best 45 minutes of eight summer friendlies.
Stevenage offered the first threat with a crisp effort from recent signing Lucas Akin forcing Nick Jupp to palm the ball out for a corner.
Toomey, making his first start since scoring a hat trick at Enfield, caused the visitors several problems and tested Steve Arnold for the first time on 17 minutes after being sent clear by Chris Seeby.
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Former Preston and QPR striker Patrick Agyemang skilfully sailed past Ujah as Stevenage hit back only to wastefully scoop his shot well over the York Road goal.
Although Stevenage generally bossed the midfield during the first half City did carve out some decent chances and midway through the half both Seeby and Toomey went close.
But it was Gary Smith’s side that made the breakthrough on 32 minutes when Jupp took the sting out of a shot by Agyemang only for Robin Shroot to put the loose ball into the net.
After a Richard Graham corner was only partially cleared keeper Arnold had to move swiftly to tip over the top a splendid drive from 25 yards by City full-back Ryan Watts.
City drew level four minutes from the interval when with a perfectly timed leap Hayles flicked the ball on for Toomey to nip behind the Stevenage defence and shimmy to Arnold’s left before slotting the ball home.
The visitors made a lively start to the second period with Shroot seeing his drive spectacularly pushed onto the crossbar by Jupp before Akin raced clear only to dither and be disposed by City substitute James Gray.
With the impressive David Ijaha starting to make a serious impact on the midfield and Sean Shields moving inside to find more space to demonstrate his undoubted ability, St Albans began to impose themselves on the game.
At the back the Saints were held together by the calming and faultless performance of Danny Gordon and from one of his long forward passes Hayles sent Toomey clear with another fine flick but this time the strikers low shot rolled just wide.
But City were also kept busy trying to contain Femi Ilesanmi who gave Watts a particularly difficult second half.
From one Femi cross Anthony Furlonge was only denied by Hayles’ goalline clearance and moments later Jupp saved smartly from Michael Thalassitis.
Again City hit back strongly with Watts sending a free kick just over and when Richard Graham touched a free kick to Seeby his blocked shot ricocheted to Watts whose perfectly struck volley went, unfortunately, straight at Arnold.
St Albans now moved forward with confidence with Ijaha playing the ball wide to Shields whose cross was clipped goalwards by Toomey but again Arnold was in the right place to save.
Stevenage secured victory on 78 minutes when Seeby was adjudged to have tripped Shroot inside the penalty area.
After dusting himself down Shroot shot low to Jupp’s right from the penalty spot and was relieved to see the ball spin its way slowly over the line after Jupp had got an arm to the ball.
City’s north Herts rivals almost added a third when academy player Joe N’Guesson went on a blistering run through the home defence only to see his shot thud into an upright and away.
St Albans City: N.Jupp, C.Seeby, R.Watts, D.Ijaha (M.Taylor 88), C.Ujah (J.Gray 46), D.Gordon, Se.Shields (C.Henry 78), G.Risbridger, L.Toomey, B.Hayles, R.Graham.
Stevenage: S.Arnold (M.Gill 82), L.Akin, A.Furlonge, T.Smith, J.Parsons, JP Kalala (J.Taylor 78), P.Agyemang (M.Thalassitis 61), D.Russell (M.Ball 46), F.Ilesanmi (J.N’Guesson 78), R.Shroot, M.Comminges.