St Albans City FC continued their poor league form as they suffered a 3-1 defeat to local rivals Hemel Hempstead FC in their first game of the new year.

The build up to the highly anticipated game was not without suspense, as the first derby match between the two sides, traditionally played on the Boxing Day of every year, was postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks within the clubs. However, the 2nd of January fixture was confirmed to be on after a tense wait in which yet another Saints’ league game was also postponed.

2,700 eager fan packed Clarence Park in the pouring rain to watch the duel, comically dubbed ‘El Hertsico’, unfold. The game got off to a nightmare start for St Albans, as after just 6 minutes, after a mistake by goalkeeper Michael Johnson following a corner, Cole Kpekawa of Hemel Hempstead poked in, much to the delight of their fans who were well represented in the away end. St Albans worked for an equalizer, but to no avail, with Johnny Goddard being denied twice by the stubborn Hemel goalie. These efforts soon were rendered useless, as in the 36th minute, after lazy defending from Joy Mukena, Hemel were able to double their lead, as Charlie Hughes finished with a sweet volley into the bottom right corner.

However, the Saints fought back, but not without controversy. In the 44th minute, St Albans had advanced well into the Hemel box, threatening to shoot. Kyren Wiltshere then proceeded to pass it across the face of the goal to Alex Lankshear, who briefly miscontrolled it before prodding the ball back to target man Shaun Jeffers, who cutely dinked the ball into the top right. The controversy came as the ball had initially gone off the pitch as Lankshear scrambled to win the ball back, however the linesman had not noticed it, and the goal was allowed. The Hemel players protested, yet the goal was not overturned.

The second half saw St Albans fail to capitalize on the many chances they had, squandering the opportunity to convert numerous times. The 49th minute also saw a disallowed goal for Hemel, as a foul had been committed in the build up. Hemel defended diligently, clearing corner after corner, and blocking a Johnny Goddard shot, who looked set to score in the 53rd.

Hemel’s attacking efforts in the second half did not come without a result. Alfie Williams slotted home with a low finish which travelled beyond the Saints goalkeeper. The rest of the game saw St Albans lack the finishing touch, as they got themselves into numerous attacking situations, yet failed to find the back of the net.

This was a disappointing result for St Albans, who now slip to 10th in the league. They were much expected to beat 14th side Hemel Hempstead coming in but ended up being outclassed at home in front of a large number of fans. The loss brought their league form to 3 wins, a draw, and a win in their past 5. They hope to get their first win of the new year on Saturday the 8th, where they face 17th place Welling United.