ST ALBANS 2
WEYMOUTH are one win from the Conference South championship after overcoming title rivals St Albans City in a Wessex Stadium stormer.
Loan striker Raphael Nade and skipper Matt Bound’s double earned the ten-man Terras moved Garry Hill’s men five points clear of their Hertfordshire opponents with two league games to go.
The home side clinched the crucial victory having survived relentless pressure from the visitors and losing midfielder Shaun Wilkinson to a red card midway through the second half.
But at the ﬁnal whistle none of that mattered to most in the massive 5,000-plus Bank Holiday crowd who were treated to arguably one of the most thrilling matches ever held at the Radipole Lane venue.
After all the pre-match hype and expectation, this was one of those games that had it all although that was no consolation to the visitors who on reﬂection deserved at least a share of the spoils.
The Saints attacking trio of Lee Clarke, Paul Hakim and former Dorchester Town star Matt Hann were rampant and caused Weymouth all manner of problems throughout.
But Hill’s side seemed to have mastered the trick of sticking the ball in the net at crucial times this season and that was again the case.
For the opening quarter, the contest was pretty much a non-event as both sides cancelled each other out.
The only efforts of note fell to the hosts as Bound volleyed wide and Nade’s snapshot was easily gathered by Saints keeper Paul Bastock.
But the clash exploded into life on the half hour when Weymouth took the lead with a goal out of nothing.
Nade and marker Gary Elphick gave chase to Wilkinson’s hopeful punt down the right ﬂank, only to both temporarily stop as the ball appeared to be heading into touch.
But the pass failed to go out, leaving the alert Nade to gain possession past Elphick, race towards and coolly beat keeper Bastock.
But within 120 seconds, City were back on level terms when dangerman Clarke finished off a well worked move.
The striker combined with Hakim to get in behind last-man Steve Tully before tucking past the helpless Lee-Barrett from close range.
The setback swung the momentum in the visitors’ favour and for the rest of the half, it was one-way traffic.
Colin Lippiatt’s men, who forced seven corners in quick succession, threatened mainly through the lively Hakim and Clarke but their best opening came four minutes before the break.
Hakim squeezed through the challenges of Weymouth‘s Ben Smith and Trevor Challis to send Hann away with a delightful pass.
The ex-Magpie winger seemed to have the relatively simple job of beating Lee-Barrett but could only hold his head in his hands after his shot slid agonisingly past the far post.
And Hann paid for that miss big time in the sixth minute of first half stoppage time.
Referee Eamonn Smith upset the Saints by awarding Weymouth a free kick for a foul of Kirk Jackson, despite Nade being caught offside following the clash.
Like so often this season, skipper Bound was the man for the task, drilling a left foot rocket through the wall and past Bastock for 2-1 to the Terras.
If Hill’s full-timers could perhaps count themselves fortunate to be ahead at the break, they opened the second period determined to extend their advantage.
And just six minutes in, they again got the rub of the green when Lee Flynn and Tom Davis made a hash of a high ball inside their own area.
The error gifted possession to Smith who Went crashing to the turf under Flynn’s challenge, prompting referee Smith to point to the spot.
The decision was bitterly contested by the visitors and it was Bound who again kept his cool to blast home the penalty.
With a 3-1 lead, Weymouth seemed set to coast to victory but within seven minutes Saints again halved the deﬁcit.
Clarke’s pinpoint low cross from the right took out a couple of Terras defenders and there was Elphick to tuck away at the far post.
Weymouth nerves began to show as midfielder Lee Elam was booked for shoving visiting coach Nick Roddis just, seconds before the hosts were reduced to ten men.
Wilkinson received a straight red card after lunging into a wild challenge on playmaker Tom Davis on half-way.
With 25 minutes to hang on, Hill replaced striker Kirk Jackson with defender Simon Downer and for the remainder, Terras looked to hit on the break.
Nade nearly sealed the points when his was denied by Bastock at point-blank range, and put the rebound over the top.
That was the Frenchman’s last action before he too was withdrawn, with the fiery striker booked for dissent while leaving the pitch.
Amos Foyewa then saw a headed effort ruled out for a foul on Lee-Barrett, before Clarke’s spectacular overhead kick was just over.
At the other end, chances were limited although substitute Darren Wheeler’s chip clipped the top of Bastock’s crossbar.
With Saints throwing men forward in a bid to salvage at least a point, the equaliser nearly came on 82 minutes.
A three-man move involving Elphick, Clarke and Hann saw Hakim wriggle his way through and send a delightful chip over Lee-Barrett.
But with the ball drifting into an empty net, Bound raced back to avert the danger by clearing off the line.
Seconds later Weymouth survived another scare when Hakim’s chip brushed the home side’s cross bar.
Despite six minutes of added time, the visitors could not find a way past Bound and company to leave Terras on the verge of the championship.
As jubilant home fans celebrated at the final whistle, Terras chairman Martyn Harrison joined his team for the lap of honour, shaking hands as he went paraded the pitch.
Weymouth: Lee-Barrat, Tully, Challis, O’Brien, Bound, Harris, Elam, Smith, Wilkinson, Nade.
Subs on: Downer, Wheeler, Dutton.
Unused subs: O’Connor, Matthews.