So, this Saturday, I filled up my modern day chariot will petrol and headed off for what was a double first for me. It was my maiden visit to St Albans City and, I had also managed to persude a Gooner colleague of mine to leave his armchair and brave the non-league scene. His initial questions about getting tickets and 'would we be able to sit together' just highlighted the gulf between the elite and 'proper' football.
The stadium itself is situated a little outside of St Albans city centre, close to the train station. A parking spot was easily found on York Road, just a short stroll to the entrance.
The entrance fee at Clarence Park is at the upper limit for this league at £12. However, the stadium does boast covered stands on 2 sides and open terracing behind both goals. The long stand, featuring seating, on the railway side of the ground could possibly create a fairly tight and intimidating atmosphere were the pitch not some distance away from the crowd. Having said that, St Albans do have a fairly large and nosiy contingent that stand behind the goal that they are attacking each half.
With only a single point between the sides at kick-off it was always going to be a tight game. Both teams were coming into the match on the back of 1-0 defeats, St Albans against Cambridge City and Stourbridge away at Hungerford.
Neither team seemed to be able to string many passes together and the first 20 minutes were littered with long balls. Then a defensive mistake lead to Ben Billingham hammering Stourbridge in front. From then on, until half-time, St Albans had the better of the play and were slightly unfortunate to go in 1-0 behind.
In the second half both sides looked to play more football and both made good chances to no avail.
Just past the hour mark came the decisive incident in the match. After winning the ball in an innocuous looking 50-50, St Albans keeper Paul Bastock kicked out at Will Richards for no apparent reason. Both linesman and referee saw the incident and duly signalled for a penalty. Bastock, luckily in my opinion, got a yellow card where he should have got a straight red. Sean Geddes stepped up and fired in his 7th penalty of the season to put the Glassboys two up.
Despite a late deflected goal for St Albans, Stourbridge held on for a much needed 3 points.
My Arsenal supporting friend enjoyed his day out and was pleasantly surprised by the the stadium, the game and most of all the enthusiasm of the supporters from both sides.
Do we have another convert to the non-league side of the game. I doubt it to be honest. The lure of comfy seats and multi-millionaire players will still probbaly be too much for him. Still you never know. He has already signed up for the Hitchin game at the end of the season.
@OfficalSFC - Stourbridge FC
@stalbanscityfc - St Albans City