St. Albans City v Stevenage
St Albans and Stevenage shared a point apiece at Clarance Park in tough-fought thriller
4 September 2023
The points were shared at Clarence Park this weekend as Becky Shephard cancelled out a first half goal from Sophie Hendy on Sunday. It was an enthralling and captivating match from start to finish and played at an incredible pace despite the searing heat that was present for the entirety of the game.
St Albans thought they had the first real opportunity on target which required a fabulous save from Celine Ray, but despite her heroics, the whistle blew for offside and Polina Avramova was reprieved. Moments earlier, Shephard had tried to find her range but saw her effort fly wide.
At the opposite end, Boro were creating too. Lilia Dempsey sent a good ball in from the left that Kelsey Millen couldn’t quite get under control in time, as Kalina Georgieva stole the ball from her toe before she could let fly.
St Albans felt they should have had a penalty, which was waved away by Billy Houghton and Millen thought she had a shot away before falling victim to the offside trap. Ray was bossing her box as she came to collect well from crosses and Stevenage had their own penalty appeal turned down for handball. In fairness, neither shout was particularly strong and the referee – correct.
The best chance of the half so far – and only 17 minutes had elapsed – came from another Hannah Nebbitt free kick. Her inviting ball from the right towards the near post was missed by centimetres as Jodie Southby looked guaranteed to head the ball home.
The game finally settled as both sides fought for the ascendancy. Kelsey Millen was adjudged offside when embarking on a solo run, but this paled into insignificance moments later. With just over half an hour played, Amy Gooderham broke free down the right-hand side. After a few jinks, the ball was looped towards the far post where Hendy somehow got to the ball after it had bounced and delicately lifted it away from the opponents and into the net.
Millen and Hendy nearly doubled the lead just four minutes later. Millen cut inside to her left foot where both Holly Williams and Jess Burke pulled off their best Gandalf impressions whilst not allowing the attacker to pass their defence. The ball was poked out to Hendy whose shot from the edge of the box flew away from the target.
The last action of the half saw Millen again advance before unleashing a relatively tame effort that Annie Hickey was able to collect. The first half came to an end with Borough just ahead, but good value for their lead.
St Albans came out refreshed and invigorated and tested Ray early from distance with a free kick. Ray passed that test with flying colours but two minutes later she was unable to stop Shephard from levelling after a looping shot was placed expertly beyond her reach. Boro’ fans knew all about the talent of Shephard after her clutch of goals for the club last season, but this was one they would not celebrate.
Again Boro’ grew into the half and Millen continued to pressurise Hickey, this time with a shot from outside the box which stung the ‘keeper’s hands initially, before claiming at the second attempt. St Albans considered themselves unlucky when Elsbeth Cunningham saw her effort come back off the post, amongst the collective sighs of relief from the Boro’ faithful.
A Chloe Gunn yellow card was sandwiched between a good cut inside and shot from Hendy and an even better run and shot from Gooderham following a tidy pass from Sarah Payne. Gooderham had her shot perfectly placed, but Burke again got the all-important block. Gunn also saw her low effort from the resulting corner fly just wide, a trick that was repeated by Payne during time added on at the opposite post. As Gunn herself said, “Sometimes they go in – and sometimes they don’t!”
In the end, 483 people were treated to an absolute delight of a football match, with both sides registering their first point of the season. Manager Dave Perry had mixed emotions at the final whistle, “I thought we played well, but I’m frustrated with the result. When we play football, we play good football, but we gave the ball away a little too much today for my liking.”
St Albans XI: Hickey, Burke, Santangelo, Farrell, Paton, Cunningham, L Hancock, Avramova, Shephard, Godino, Georgieva
Subs: Ford, Ward, Small, Nellis, Williams
Stevenage XI: Ray, White, Southby, Gunn, Nebbitt, Bodily, Baker-Re, Gooderham, Millen, Hendy, Dempsey
Subs: Clarke, Stubbs, Goodall, Payne
Sub Not Used: O’Brien
You can see Stevenage FCW in action in their first home game of the season as they do battle with Haringey Borough on Sunday 10th September. Keep your eye on the social media platforms for more details - @stevenagefcw.
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