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St. Albans City 1 Dorking Wanderers 0

Vanarama National League South April 30th 2022

Dorking's title hopes were brought to an end after they suffered narrow defeat to St. Albans at Clarence Park. In tandem with Maidstone's home victory over Chelmsford, the results now mean that Marc White's side will have to chase promotion via the play-off route.

The manager made just the one change to the side which started in the win over Concord Rangers last Saturday, as Niall McManus returned in place of Nicky Wheeler, who was confirmed to be ruled out with a hamstring problem. After returning to action in the Surrey Senior Cup in midweek, Barry Fuller was back in the matchday squad for the first time in the league since the away visit to Dartford back in March.

Both sides have good opportunities inside the opening couple of minutes. Muitt's cross from the right found the head of Rutherford several yards out, but keeper Michael Johnson was equal to it. Straight up the other end, persistent work in the channel from Shaun Jeffers led to Kyran Wiltshire getting a shot away at point blank range, blocked at the near post by Lincoln.

Jeffers appeared to pick up a knock to the head and this did delay play with a couple of stoppages as he received treatment. It contributed to what was a slow, flat opening twenty minute period as neither team could find their rhythm, Wanderers often having to go more direct than would they normally prefer as Ian Allison's organised side grafted hard and closed down effectively in midfield.

Past the midway point of the half Wanderers started to take greater command of possession and ask a few questions of the St. Albans rear-guard. Prior had a strike blocked at the near post after Cheadle swung the ball into the box, McManus was then unfortunate to see his good work down the left not lead to an end product as McShane couldn't quite stretch enough to hook a decisive foot on his cross. McManus then attempted a deft flick at the near post from Cheadle's corner ball, but this was deflected wide.

The Saints top scorer Jeffers was an imposing presence throughout the afternoon, flanked well by supporting attackers. One of those was Mitchell Weiss, who in the lead up to half-time won a couple of aerial flicks to play in his lead striker, and after stinging the palms of Lincoln with a fierce effort from the right was then closed down well by Philpot in the follow up move.

On the stroke of half-time Muitt did zip a low half-volley into the back of the net after Prior battled well to nod the ball on at the edge of the box, but the linesman's flag was raised to rule the effort offside.

Half-Time: St. Albans 0 Dorking 0

Marc White made a double change at the break, introducing Bobby-Joe Taylor and Luke Moore for Niall McManus and Darren Oldaker respectively. It was confirmed after the game McManus had been substituted because of a neck strain suffered in the first half.

Within a minute of the restart, the hosts squandered a golden opportunity to break the deadlock. Loose play in midfield led to a quick through ball that sent Jeffers through one-on-one, opening his body up the striker tried to bend his strike into the top right corner, but sent the effort just beyond the post.

The lively beginning to the second half continued as both teams had good chances. Rutherford headed over the bar and sent a strike in the same direction after tidy work from McShane to slot the ball through from midfield. Jeffers would then spurn another chance at the other end after the ball was cut-back to him by Joe Neal, but leaning back slightly, he also struck it high and wide. Muitt then turned on the afterburners with a bustling run down the right wing, his cross was met by Prior at the back post but headed marginally wide.

Approaching the final twenty minutes, Jeffers would finally bury one of his chances to put the hosts in front. The front man had a low free kick from shooting range saved well by Lincoln down to his left, and as play was recycled by Neal the stopper made another good reaction save at close range, but Jeffers was fastest on the scene to steer home the rebound off the underside of the crossbar.

Wanderers responded as a Josh Taylor long throw instigated pressure in The Saints box, eventually leading to a point blank shot being saved by Johnson. A fizzing through ball over the top by McShane then allowed Bobby-Joe to advance down the left. After he failed to get a shot off, Josh Taylor did, but again Johnson was equal to it.

Inside the final ten minutes Rutherford had a header blocked at close quarters by Joy Mukena, before Prior flashed a strike over the bar from just inside the area.

Despite continuing to rally through five minutes of stoppage time, Wanderers couldn't find a late equaliser, and tasted defeat for the first time in seven league matches.

Subject to a very dramatic shift in goal difference, Wanderers now look set to finish the campaign as runners-up with a home play-off semi-final on the horizon. Between now and then lie the final two games of the season, where Marc White will no doubt be looking to strike that balance between restoring momentum and keeping his side in fresh condition ahead of the biggest fixture, or fixture's, in the club's history.

Wanderers final home game of the regular campaign is scheduled for just 48hrs time, as Dulwich Hamlet are the visitors to Meadowbank on Bank Holiday Monday.

Daniel Stobbart

Dorking Wanderers: 34 Dan Lincoln; 2 Isaac Philpot (22 Barry Fuller 65'), 20 Dan Gallagher, 19 Jordan Cheadle; 7 Jimmy Muitt, 26 Darren Oldaker (18 Luke Moore 46'), 17 Josh Taylor, 11 James McShane (c), 6 Niall McManus (3 Bobby-Joe Taylor 46'); 9 Jason Prior, 10 Alfie Rutherford

Unused Subs: 4 Sami El-Abd, 5 Ed Harris

Yellow Cards: Moore 48', Gallagher 90'

St. Albans City: 1 Michael Johnson, 4 Kyran Wiltshire (5 Bayley Brown 85'), 6 Michael Clark, 9 Shaun Jeffers (c), 11 Zane Banton, 15 Huw Dawson (14 David Noble 85'), 16 Mitchell Weiss, 17 Alex Lankshear, 18 Callum Adebiyi, 19 Joy Mukena, 28 Johnny Neal (10 Johnny Goddard 85')

Unused Subs: 3 Tom Bender, 8 Liam Sole

Goal: Jeffers 69'

Yellow Cards: Wiltshire 65', Jeffers 90'

Referee: Oliver Mackey

Att: 1502


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