What a difference a week makes! After assuming the role of a sponge for much of the previous week’s victory over Welling, the Peacocks went full circle to man the fire hoses as they doused the hopes of last season’s beaten Play-Off Finalists with a Ross Stearn winner in the dying embers of the game. And it was no more than the hosts deserved after demonstrating their best football of the campaign so far against a Saints side which twice fought back to equalise with frustrating goals from a home point of view but were ultimately undone by a crafty finish from the Town No 13. Unlucky for them.
On yet another afternoon when the word ‘summer’ could only be applied in the loosest possible sense, the Peacocks showed just one change from the Welling game with Joe Guest replacing Lloyd James in midfield. A busy opening period set the tone for what was to follow. St Albans earnt a corner inside the first minute from which Town broke down the right through Marcus Day who in turn found Lee Lucas and his cut back into the box was heading for Dylan Morgan until Sam Brown intervened at the expense of another corner.
The visitors posted the first effort when Ben Wyatt’s deep cross was fed back in by Jack James, only for Mitchell Weiss to fire high and wide before Town began to assume control. Lucas chipped a free kick to the back post where Nick Grimes headed into the middle and as Stearn looked to capitalise an under-pressure James headed out for a corner. This delayed the inevitable. From the Lucas flag kick Saints keeper Michael Johnson fumbled the ball and Stearn needed no second invitation to fire home with 14 minutes gone.
Moments later Town created another opportunity with another fine break. Cameron Evans’ downfield pass reached Stearn who squared invitingly for Day venturing down the opposite flank. He made ground before shooting just the wrong side of the target. Stearn then tried his luck from halfway as he received a benevolent pass from the opposition to launch an attempt which travelled wide while a Lucas free kick was recycled out to the left where Zac Smith sliced through the defence to see his strike deflect for a corner.
It was against the run of play when St Albans drew level after 32 minutes. They had just been given an opening when Joe Guest upended James on the edge of the area, only for Ryan Blackman’s free kick to deflect off the wall with no damage. However the Town defence seemed to hesitate expecting an offside flag after Dylan Fage had flicked on to Giorgio Rasulo who suddenly found himself well in the clear to run away and clip past Dan Lavercombe with a composed finish.
With the home fans momentarily taken aback by this setback, Grimes became the first booking of the afternoon after a late challenge on Fage, but the Town captain soon atoned by restoring his team’s lead two minutes before the break. When a Lucas corner was cleared, it was eventually returned to the Town midfield man who picked out Morgan with a superb pass to the far post and the low ball across the box proved perfect for Grimes to tap in from close range. As three minutes of added time were being announced the Peacocks came close to making it three when a Lucas corner was met by a thundering header from Evans, however Johnson reacted terrifically to claw it away at his post for another corner. Lucas delivered this one from the opposite side and Nick McCootie flicked it past the upright to conclude an impressive 45 minutes as the heavens opened.
Thankfully the rain had disappeared by the time the sides emerged for the second period of this engrossing encounter. St Albans began well, winning a couple of corners before Town responded with Day beating his man on the right to see his cross just gathered by Johnson as Stearn challenged. However some uncharacteristically shoddy defending cost the hosts on 53 minutes. Fage’s run took him into the box and although it was halted a poor clearance fell loose to Weiss who rifled past Lavercombe and it was all square again.
Lucas advanced to fire wide for the hosts, but it was the Saints, buoyed by their gift, who were beginning to wrestle the initiative. The commanding Austen Booth thwarted the danger when clearing a Weiss cross while James broke away, but Evans snuffed out the threat with an excellent tackle. This bout of possession though soon dissipated as the Peacocks took over proceedings for the final twenty minutes. With Nat Jarvis having replaced the hard-working McCootie, Town showed plenty of intent towards the Saints’ goal although there was a sense it might be one of those days. A Morgan cross was ambitiously volleyed wide by Stearn while a Grimes’ delivery found Stearn whose header across was clutched by Johnson as Jarvis challenged, requiring treatment for the St Albans keeper. Grimes then sent an angled effort over and Stearn’s shot went the same way as the home side put their foot on the gas while Lavercomben had to be alert at the other end to claim ahead of Weiss after Rasulo had played him through.
City introduced their final two subs in an effort to swing momentum, however the Peacocks remained in control and nearly snatched the winner five minutes from time after Lucas and Morgan combined to set up Stearn who saw his strike pushed wide by Johnson. From the corner, Guest headed back into the mix and Stearn’s touch was blocked on the line. So near yet so far…
Into nine minutes of stoppage time, much of which was accumulated for treatment to George Hoddle following a Lucas challenge which earnt a yellow. No complaints, with referee Neil Pratt doing a very effective job on the day. With Hoddle forced off, the Saints had to see out added time with ten men. Dave Sims-Burgess took over from Guest with five minutes of stoppage played and his presence proved pivotal in seeing Town over the line. The chance seemed to have gone after Smith had teed up Morgan for a pot which he put wide. However, eight minutes in Sims-Burgess found space on the right and when his initial cross had ricocheted back to him his second one across goal found Stearn whose improvised back heel located the corner of the net to send the Wordsworth Drive terraces into raptures.
What a refreshing display from the Peacocks who had swapped sitting in the trenches for advancing on the enemy to claim a well-deserved three points which puts them in 5th spot in the table,the highest level they have ever achieved in their history 🦚
Taunton: Dan Lavercombe, Nick Grimes (captain), Austen Booth, Nick McCootie (Nat Jarvis 68), Joe Guest (Dave Sims-Burgess 90+5), Ross Stearn, Zac Smith, Cameron Evans, Marcus Day, Dylan Morgan, Lee Lucas. Unused subs: Lloyd James, Rabby Tabu Minzamba, Callum Dolman
St Albans: Michael Johnson, Jack James, Sam Brown, Ben Smith, Dan Bowry (captain), Ryan Blackman (George Hoddle 82), Giorgio Rasulo, Mitchell Weiss (Shaun Jeffers 83), Dylan Fage, Nathan Carlyle (Andronicos Georgiou 76), Ben Wyatt. Unused subs: Michael Clark, Bobby Dunn
Referee: Neil Pratt (Evesham)
Referee’s Assistant 1: Imran Khan (Camberley)
Referee’s Assistant 2: Daniel Malyon (Reading)
” We were snappy, we were intent, we were sharp, we were very disciplined………..” watch Rob Dray’s Match Reaction on Peacocks TV HERE
Match highlights can be seen on Peacocks TV HERE
Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance MOM
Ross Stearn receives the Taunton Town Man Of The Match award from Match Sponsors Unofficial TTFC Away Travel Group
Many thanks to our Matchday Mascots