The first game of the season would repeat to be the final home game of the Clarets’ season. St Albans visited the Melbourne Stadium for the Playoff eliminator, with the winner having to visit Princes Park on Sunday.
Despite the loss to Taunton on Saturday, it was just the 1 change for Robbie’s side. Missing out on Saturday, Dave Winfield returned to captain the side, in the vital clash. With no other changes, it was the rest of the side who played Taunton. In reserve, Jazzi joined the bench, with Harry Lodovica dropping out. Along with him, Simeon Jackson, Giovanni McGregor, Freddie Hockey and James Blanchfield were all ready to get involved when Robbie needed them. Interestingly on the oppositions bench sat Shaun Jeffers. The former Claret being the Saints’ top scorer, only second in the whole league to Dominic Poleon of Ebbsfleet United.
The sun was glaring, fans were singing as the 90 were underway, Ryan Blackman kicking off for the visiting side. They looked to it early, trying to find Tafari Moore down the left-hand side with Tom Blackwell in retreat to cancel out any possible danger. It was clear to see that neither side were going to rush into things, with a slow pace for the opening few minutes. Tafari Moore was looking most dangerous for St Albans, with the Arsenal academy graduate looking to link up and play quickly only for his teammate’s pass to go out for an Eddie Beach goal kick. From that, a chance was brewing for the Clarets. A sweet reverse pass from Arjanit Krasniqi saw Tyreke Johnson win a corner. The delivery caused chaos, as Dylan Berry’s palm away only sat it to Liam Trotter. His effort defelected to Cameron James, who cut inside the defender before forcing Norwich loanee Dylan Berry into a good save. James did pick the ball up again but failed to find a Claret shirt as he looked to knock it across the box. That chanced seemed to kick the Clarets into gear somewhat, with Tom Blackwell next to being the danger. Callum Jones rolled the ball into him, with Blackwell flicking it around his man to play a give and go with Michael Folivi. With just Tyreke Johnson in the box, he was Tom’s target but his cross just evaded him.
After losing possession, the Clarets had to soak up the pressure, with once again St Albans looking to find a pathway through with Tafari Moore. He managed to get to the by-line and hit a low cross, but it was well dealt with, and Cameron James cleared. No side were creating clear cut chances, with Oluwo being seconds away from getting on the end of Cameron James’ ball. Cameron had won the second ball from a Ben Brookes free kick and after beating a few players could only find Dylan Berry’s arms. But the best chance of the opening 20 minutes came the way of St Albans. It was that man again, Tafari Moore as he chested it down in the box but could only drag his effort wide of Eddie Beach’s goal from 15 yards out. Tafari Moore then became provider. Out on the left, he whipped a ball in which, deflected, found Chay Cooper’s head where he could only give Eddie Beach simple catching practise. Beach was called into action soon after again, with Tafari Moore being the problem once again. A quick shimmy past Cameron James saw him able to cross but Eddie, full stretch, was able to punch it away. The game went cold for a period of time, with both sides sitting back to an extent.
Then a moment of madness defensively saw St Albans almost gift Chelmsford a goal. A poor back pass saw Aidan Francis-Clarke racing back to win the ball, where he kept it on but placed it for Folivi. Michael pulled it back to Callum Jones, who thought he had more time as he only hit his opposer. The ball fell to Tyreke Johnson, and he cannoned an effort goalwards which, with a massive deflection, only ended up in a catch for Berry. They were seemingly rifled up again, as Callum Jones won the ball back and was able to cross. Tom Blackwell leapt up, and grazed a header wide, seemingly going gout for a goal kick. Michael Folivi rushed across and managed to win a corner for the Clarets. Tom Blackwell was over the corner and delivered superbly as Ade Oluwo sprung beautifully to head towards Dylan Berry, but just wide of his goal. Luckily for the Clarets, a minute before the break the Saints were forced into their first save. Tafari Moore, who had been dictating the play for St Albans was off. However, in his place was bags man Shaun Jeffers, as he looked to come back and haunt his former employers. With 1 single minute added on, Chelmsford looked to make the most of it as they won a corner with seconds left. Ben Brookes delivered, straight to Dave Winfield’s head who sent it low but wide before an offside Michael Folivi attempted to pick it up and create something. The following free kick signified the halfway point, with neither side hitting the back of the net in the first 45; 0-0.
HALF TIME: CCFC 0-0 SACFC
15 minutes later, the game was back underway with the half time team talks needing to influence this half. Neither side turned to their bench, as we kicked back off. Liam Trotter, back to Ade Oluwo saw the ball headed straight back up, as St Albans looked for a fast start. It was Mitchell Weiss who looked for it, getting a chance in some space before he could only drag it well wide of the target. They started liveliest, with Shaun Jeffers looking to cause problems, getting the right side of Ben Brookes, where they both had handfuls of each other, and the penalty was waved away as they both crashed to the floor. After riding the early storm, the Clarets were able to advance forward, and Tyreke Johnson nipped in to win the ball back. He did so and was clipped in the process seeing a free kick in a dangerous situation. Blackwell and Brookes had to wait, as Johnson required treatment, but the ball was finally delivered. It was Brookes the taker, and Winfield the target as the skipper rose highest at the front post. Unluckily for the Clarets, his header was driven up more than anything and way over the bar. Another defensive mishap brought a chance, as once again Francis-Clarke looked to invite pressure as he sliced behind. Blackwell’s delivery was good, with James getting to it but heading all the way back to Tom. He then won another corner, where Berry was able to claim in the air.
St Albans looked to come forward, but a break in play was required as Cameron James put in an awkward tackle, seeing a nasty reaction as he lay on the floor. Despite the stretcher being taken on, James was assisted off, seeing the fullback’s day end early. On in his place was Jazzi Barnum-Bobb, whose first task was to help deal with the resultant free kick which had somehow been awarded to the Saints. He played no part, as the delivery was straight down the throat of Eddie Beach, who palmed away well once again. With James’ replacement then being forced down, it was up to 17-year-old Freddie Hockey to fill in, as he was out in at right-back. With neither side managing to make many chances, the final 10 were approaching with the prospect of extra time on the horizon. However, Shaun Jeffers should have put the dagger into the Clarets heart. Some great give and go, quick feet, quick play with Zane Banton saw a clear-cut chance, one Jeffers would, should score but he somehow squandered it and sent it just wide of Eddie Beach’s goal. After having to be sat in, soaking up all the St Albans pressure, the Clarets got forward with 2 minutes to go. Liam Trotter picked out Tyreke Johnson and he advanced to win a corner. It was swung n and fell kindly to Freddie Hockey on the edge of the box, seeing him fire an effort in but blocked. The ball was recycled, and Oluwo managed a shot which took a deft deflection, behind for a corner. Winfield was
once again the winner, heading down and into the ground. Berry palmed clear, and St Albans dealt with it. The fourth official, Stephen Hughes, then raised the board to show 8 minutes which were added on. If there was ever a time to score, it was now.
It was do or die out on the pitch with Dartford watching from afar. The Clarets looked to commit forward as a Ben Brookes throw was taken down beautifully by Callum Jones. He then tiptoed through 3 players, before he overrun it and lost possession. Zane Banton then looked to be the star of the show. Blackman feigned an injury, seeing St Albans win possession and able to shift it wide. Banton cut inside, up against Tom Blackwell and almost looked to cross but to no one as it went straight through and out for a goal kick. And with that, there was nothing to separate the 2 sides, sending them to extra time.
FULL TIME: CCFC 0-0 SACFC
An extra 30 minutes arrived at the Melbourne Stadium, with neither side able to hit the back of the net in the initial 90. It was the Clarets who started the better, as they were able to capitalise on another mistake. Ryan Blackman slipped, and Liam Trotter was off. He drove forward and looked up, sending Simeon Jackson wide. The Canadian took it down well before he put a great ball across the face of goal, where Freddie Hockey was millimetres away from turning it home. St Albans dealt with it and were straight up the other end. It had to be him. The villain, Shaun Jeffers was there and turned home. He got across his man at the near post and managed a side footed effort well and past Eddie Beach. The Clarets were now committing men forward, they had to if they wanted to stay alive in this playoff push. Then, arguably the best ball of the game was fizzed in by Ben Brookes. It looked inch perfect, destined to be poked home. It evaded all the Claret players in the box and went though for a goal kick. From the resulting kick, Jeffers was able to bring it down and win a throw in, off Dave Winfield. St Albans did get the ball in the back of the net with just a minute to play in the first half of extra time. It was Glenn McConnell who cut inside and turned home, but past a standing Eddie Beach as the linesman’s flag was up and Eddie was desperate to restart the play. The first 15 was soon up, with a lot of work to do for the Clarets.
It was just 15 minutes left, possibly of Chelmsford’s season as Robbie Simpson had the most important team talk of his career to give out.
HALF TIME EXTRA TIME: CCFC 0-1 SACFC
Liam Trotter got the last 15 underway, with possibly the last kick off in his career. The Clarets got forward as Callum Jones did well to win a corner. It was floated across by Ben Brookes, where Dave Winfield was once again on hand to win it where it was sent behind for another corner. The next followed suit, this time Dave Winfield winning wonderfully and forcing Dylan Berry to produce one of the saves of the season. He got up, stretched high and to his left to claw the ball up and out, for another corner. The next delivery did not find a Claret head as the ball dropped to Hockey, who dragged wide. It was all Chelmsford at the Melbourne Stadium as they continued the search for an equaliser. If it was not for Dylan Berry, it could have been as multiple chance were palmed away, cleared away by the Saints shot stopper. There was a brief period of jubilation as the ground rose, with Tom Blackwell turning home from close range, only for the flag to have been raised.
Blackwell continued to pose a threat, as he spun McConnell inside out, before the Cambridge loanee tripped Blackwell to give away a free kick. Essentially a corner, Brookes whipped in but only for a St Albans head to be on hand to clear the ball. With 5 left on the clock, St Albans got possession and then resulted to the keep the ball in the corner tactic, as they looked to utilise Shaun Jeffers’ strength to keep the ball. But, with Jeffers clean through, he opted to go for goal but, in what could have been a tactical approach, won a corner. The St Albans players walked over to the corner and
took the same route, wasting time. The 15 were up, and St Albans had not performed their mind games well as 3 minutes were added on. With just a minute to play, referee Farai Hallam pointed to the corner flag and Chelmsford then seemingly had one more chance. Then, after being surrounded by 5 St Albans players, he subsequently changed his mind, and a goal kick was awarded.
FULL TIME EXTRA TIME: CCFC 0-1 SACFC
Beach (GK), James (Barnum-Bobb 63’ (Hockey 73’)), Trotter, Winfield (C), Oluwo, Johnson, Folivi (Jackson 84’), Blackwell, Jones, Brookes, Krasniqi (McGregor 104’)
Unused subs: Blanchfield
Cautions: Trotter 82’
St Albans City:
Berry (GK), Stanley, Francis-Clarke, Adebiyi, Blackman (C), Banton (Dawson 112’), Weiss (McConnell 96’), Mukena, Moore (Jeffers 44’), Smith, Cooper (Neal 66’)
Unused subs: Di Trolio
Goals: Jeffers 95’
Cautions: Francis-Clarke 74’, Blackman 109’, McConnell 114’
Words by Josh Lowe