Glenn Hoddle in the crowd as Bishop’s Stortford beat St Albans City 3-1 in the Isuzu FA Trophy second round
Bishop’s Stortford put their league woes behind them to beat St Albans City 3-1 in the Isuzu FA Trophy second round on Saturday in front of a home crowd of 515 that included Spurs legend and former England manager Glenn Hoddle.
In a first for this season, the Blues – who have lost nine of their last 10 in Vanarama National League North to lie second from bottom, nine points adrift of safety –came from behind to win.
Striker Mbunya Alemanji scored twice in four minutes either side of half-time – to make it three goals in two games – and Tosin Olufemi netted the third. The draw for the third round will be made on Monday.
It was the second time in three years that Stortford have beaten St Albans in major knockout football. In October 2020, in front of a Covid-restricted attendance of 600, they won 2-0 at the RDA Stadium in a televised FA Cup fourth qualifying round tie to reach the first round proper for the first time in seven years, before losing to Brackley Town.
Manager Steve Smith made three changes from the side that was cruelly beaten 2-1 at home by Vanarama National League North leaders Tamworth on Tuesday. Aaron Greene replaced Jack Thomas in midfield while defenders Sam Robbins and the previously suspended Mark Haines came in for Harry Beadle, who dropped to the bench, and Manny Adebowale.
The Saints are 16th in Vanarama National League South, having lost their last three in the league. Their side included George Hoddle, a former Bishop’s Stortford High School captain and Bishop’s Stortford Community Football Club player. In the summer the 17-year-old signed a three-year professional deal at Sky Bet League One side Cambridge United and was then loaned out to St Albans for the season. The talented midfielder’s father is Harlow-born Glenn Hoddle's cousin.
Greene – one of the two goalscorers, along with Darren Foxley, for Stortford in that FA Cup tie three years ago – had the first opening for either side. He nearly managed to get in behind the visitors’ defence when Saints captain Dan Bowry’s backward header to goalkeeper Josh McNamara fell slightly short, but the keeper managed to claim the ball before the Blues winger did.
The away side turned defence into attack to take the lead after eight minutes. Mitchell Weiss’ low cross led to Ben Smith’s shot, which was blocked by Robbins into the path of Dylan Fage, who slotted home from the left side of the box.
Ibby Akandi could have doubled their lead but his chipped effort went over the bar, before Alemanji curled a left-footed shot off target. For Saints, Gio Rasulo dribbled into the box from midfield, but his shot from a tight angle was saved by Stortford keeper and captain Jack Giddens, before Fage curled wide from the edge of the box.
Two minutes before half time, the Blues were level. Fraser Alexander won the ball on the edge of the St Albans box and slid it through to Ryan Charles, who cut it back for Alemanji to convert from eight yards.
Stortford went ahead two minutes into the second half after a corner from the left was headed clear at the near post. Alexander picked it up and his cross was won in the air by Haines. Alemanji held off a defender and poked the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
After 57 minutes, Zain Walker was brought on to replace Greene and he won a penalty almost immediately when he was blocked from receiving the ball as a defender went to ground and handled. Alemanji may have wanted to seal his hat-trick from the spot, but it was the Blues’ regular penalty taker, Olufemi, who stepped up. His kick was saved by McNamara, but the defender reacted quickest to slot home the rebound for his fifth goal of the season, making him Stortford’s top scorer.
Saints went in search of a way back into the match. Substitute Shaun Jeffers stretched to reach a low cross from the right, and while he did make contact it wasn’t enough to get the ball on target. Bowry headed wide at the near post from a right-wing corner, before Akandi dragged his shot wide from the left side of the box.
At the other end, Alemanji turned and shot from the edge of the box, but straight at McNamara. It was a rare attack in the closing stages of the match as the Blues were happy to sit in a low block to see out the win.
Finally, Hoddle volleyed over the bar, the only chance of note that St Albans could fashion late on, as Bishop’s Stortford sealed the win to pocket £3,750 in prize money.
Bishop’s Stortford: Giddens (capt), Haines, Sodje, Robbins, McGregor, Alemanji, Foxley (Thomas 75), Olufemi (yellow card 84), Charles (Marlow 66), Greene (Walker 57), Alexander. Unused subs: Beadle, Messaoudin, Peters.
St Albans City: McNamara, James, Brown (Carlyle 46), Smith, Bowry (capt), Rasulo, Weiss (Jeffers 46), Partineton, Fage, Akandi (Morrall 72), Hoddle. Unused subs: Blackman, Bentley, Georgiou, Gauthier.