Hawthorne strike gets Rebels off the mark

| League
Att: 843
St Albans City
0 - 1
Slough Town
Hawthorne (81)
Youness Nabil
Slough Town fired an ominous warning shot to the rest of the Ryman League Premier Division after beating one of the title favourites on opening day for the second season running.

Although their 1-0 victory at St Albans City was less unexpected than last year's win at Sutton, it was a good indicator that the Rebels should expect to be there or thereabouts next May.

They had to wait until nine minutes from full-time for the game's only goal, chipped coolly into the City net by new midfield signing Mark Hawthorne.

Mark Hall found space on the right, cut infield and slipped the ball to Hawthorne, who left former Welsh international keeper Tony Roberts helpless.

A Slough winner had seemed inevitable from the 62nd minute, when St Albans defender Ashley Vickers got his marching orders for chopping down the impressive Youness Nabil for the second time.

Nabil was a handful throughout and will be an even more potent threat once Rebels manager Graham Roberts finds him a target man to play off.

It was Nabil who almost put Slough ahead early on. He latched on to Hall's flick-on and wriggled away from his marker to hit a shot which was deflected onto the post.

But St Albans striker Wayne Andrews, signed from Watford two days earlier, gave the Rebels problems of their own.

He was denied by a crunching tackle from Al-James Hannigan and then lashed a shot just wide after Slough failed to clear a corner.

Before the break, Chris McMenamin headed past Paul Wilkerson's left-hand post and Andrews poked the ball wide following a frantic goalmouth scramble.

Slough went close to breaking the deadlock when Micky Engwell whipped in a cross and Roberts dived to his left to push away Nabil's glancing header.

In the second half, Nabil and Andrews continued to threaten at either end. But the dismissal of Vickers left the home side clinging on grimly and it was Slough who gradually took control of the game.

Roberts kept out low free-kicks from both Engwell and Dave Rainford, while Hannigan attempted a spectacular volley which deflected tamely into the goalkeeper's hands.

Slough never looked like losing the lead once Hawthorne's late strike had eased the tension, with the Rebels boss leaping from the dugout to punch the air in relief. He said after the game: "We thoroughly deserved the win. The lads worked very hard and stuck to the job. It was a team performance, but it's only one game. We've got a long way to go."

St Albans City Line up

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