St Albans City’s wretched start to life in the Nationwide South surely reached its nadir on Tuesday as Redbridge, at the fifth attempt, picked up their first home points of the season as they climbed above Steve Castle’s side and pushed the Saints back into the relegation places.
In losing for the second time in three days to fellow strugglers the severity of the Saints situation is clear for all to see. Since winning at Sutton on the opening day of the season City have picked up just four points from eight games and lost six times along the way, it is relegation form of the highest order.
Castle retained Saturday’s starting XI and was promptly repaid with a dreadful first half display but with Lee Clarke’s sixth goal of the season just twenty seconds after the restart City had sufficient time, but not the firepower, to avert this latest crushing defeat.
The overall standard of the game was poor, but City can at least take heart from an improved second half performance with the half time introduction of Matt Hann giving some width and speed to a staid midfield. While Hann shone down the right Ben Walshe also came alive after the break down the left and once fully fit the former QPR player will surely attract interest from higher up the football Pyramid.
Redbridge, scorers of one goal from their previous four home games, went close early on through Ellis Remy, who was offered a trial with the Saints in the summer, while City threatened with Adam Smith putting a pass through to Gary Wraight whose first time cross was headed over by Miguel De Souza. The duo reversed roles soon after with Wraight just missing the target after De Souza had headed the ball on.
With the lanky Remy and more mobile Allan McLeod proving a handful City never looked watertight at the back but the opening goal owed much to daydreaming as Greg Lincoln played the ball out to Remy whose low near post cross was helped on by McLeod to the unmarked Alex Fiddes who slotted it calmly to Mel Capleton’s left to open the scoring.
City had a quick opportunity to draw level when the Motormen defender Richard Halle headed a poor clearance straight to Clarke only for City’s leading scorer to fluff his shot.
Redbridge moved closer to their first win at Oakside in nine games when, in the 35th minute, a long ball by Halle sent Remy clear of Ben Martin and from his cross from the left the Motormen’s captain, McLeod, was able to force the ball in at the back post for his first goal of the season.
Four minutes later St Albans had what appeared to be a clear cut penalty ignored when Halle seemed to scythe down De Souza but City did get back into contention straight after the restart when Hann seized on a poorly directed header by Chris Perkins and crossed for Clarke to head past Alex O’Reilly.
City were now a different proposition going forward with Walshe and Hann stretching the home defence even so Redbridge themselves caused the Saints several anxious moments. Despite their improved second half display City’s persistent problem of getting in strikes on goal was once again evident as O’Reilly, other than for a crisp low drive from Hann, had few serious attempts on goal to worry about.
Redbridge, possibly exploiting City’s need to push forward, had a couple of decent chances to wrap things up but the nearest they came was a header wide by McLeod and a golden chance for Halle that disappeared under the weight of a superbly timed Adam Parker tackle.
As the game moved into added time two decent chances came De Souza’s way but the out of touch striker lost his footing at the crucial moment with the first and headed a yard wide – for the second time during the half - with the second after Walshe had cut the ball back for Richard Thomas to cross.
Report by Dave Tavener
Having conceded two first half goals against a pacy Redbridge side which belied their lowly position, a spirited second half comeback led by substitute Matt Hann was not enough to prevent City slipping to their second defeat in three days against lower placed opposition.
City boss Steve Castle selected a line-up unchanged from Saturday as Scott Cousins, Jamie Southon and Ram Marwar are not yet fully recovered from injury. The search for a strike partner for Lee Clarke continues with Miguel De Souza continuing to fill the role in a temporary capacity.
Early Redbridge pressure forced three corners in quick succession in the opening minutes which led to a Glen Poole shot from distance which was comfortably taken by Mel Capleton in the visitors goal. On 10 minutes in a sign of things to come, the speedy Ellis Remy outpaced the defence to latch on to a long clearance but his shot was wide of both Capleton and the far post.
The Saints settled and their first goal attempt came on 12 minutes when De Souza headed high after good work and an excellent cross from the youngster Adam Smith. Minutes later, an audacious flick from Gary Wraight was just too high and once again this season, the City attack struggled to find the target.
The opening goal came on 24 minutes. Slick interplay in the midfield and a fine ball down the right wing freed Remy at pace. His sqare cross found two strikers facing one defender and Alex Fiddes had time to pick his spot from 8 yards.
The home side seemed comfortably in command of the midfield and the second goal, 10 minutes later came as no surprise. Remy switched to the left wing and collected a fine pass 30 from deep from Greg Lincoln which split the City defence. A fine cross found skipper Allan McLeod at the near post who made no mistake from close range.
A demoralised City side seemed to have no answer and the strikers were forced to forage for scraps left from long balls hit deep from defence, comfortably handled by the Redbridge back 4.
Castle made a substitution at half time bringing on Hann for Smith and an early goal was desperately needed. It came within 60 seconds as Hann showed that he, too, has pace wide on the right and his inch-perfect cross was met by the head of N. Ireland U21 striker Clarke at the near post for his 6th goal of the season.
The visitors enjoyed their best spell of the match with Hann causing problems on the right and Ben Walshe, signed from QPR three weeks ago and now returning to fitness threatening on the left. The Motormen's defence was stretched, by Saints approach play but a combination of a poor final pass and wayward control in front of goal saw that the home keeper was rarely troubled.
With City pressing for an equaliser, Redbridge were able to threaten on the break and had a two chances to put the result beyond doubt but were denied, first by an excellent tackle from Adam Parker on Richard Halle, and shortly after by the wayward finish of McLoud.
Saints finished the game on the attack with half chances falling to De Souza during time added after the 90th minute but the veteran could not take advantage. The Saints fall back into the relegation places.
Report by Tom Lewis