BRIDPORT came within touching distance of securing a shock replay during their 2-1 FA Cup third qualifying round loss to St Albans at Clarence Park.

First-half goals from Shaun Lucien and Percy Kiangebeni put the Bees on the backfoot, but a Leigh Bailey strike on 54 minutes allowed the visitors to set up an uncomfortable finish for National League South side City, a full three leagues above the Bees. 

Bridport came close to forcing what would have been a memorable draw through Mark Salter and Oscar Latas, but Saints survived to progress to the next round. 

Bees’ manager Adam Fricker named three changes to the side that began the 5-0 win over Bitton last weekend, dropping Dane James, Alan Hill and Oscar Latas to the bench. 

Their replacements were Kameron Andrews, Tom Richardson and Leigh Bailey. 

Bridport had reached the third qualifying round for only the second time in their history, emulating the achievement of 60 years ago in the 1957-58 season.

And they defended well in the opening exchanges, a Tom Bender header the closest St Albans came to scoring in the first 15 minutes. 

Saints were forced to remove the injured Kieran Monlouis for Lucien and four minutes after his introduction the midfielder scored a fine individual effort, firing a 20-yard finish past Bees’ stopper Jason Hutchings.

Salter hit Bridport’s first shot on target in a spirited response, but on 31 minutes, Saints doubled their lead when Kiangebeni’s deflected strike found the net. 

Zane Banton could have added a third were it not for the woodwork, but it was Bridport who netted next when Leigh Bailey tapped in a cross six yards out. 

Banton almost replied immediately, cracking a 25-yarder against the bar, from then on Bridport had the better chances. 

Salter’s header was kept out by the Saints’ defence and Ed Butcher aimed a rising drive from 25-yards before a golden chance for Latas.

Butcher was the architect, his fine run and pass picking out the midfielder, who could only scuff a shot straight at Saints’ keeper Dean Snedker from eight yards. 

But St Albans recovered and almost grabbed a third in the 96th minute when Kingsley Eshun drew a great stop from Hutchings. 

St Albans: Snedker, Herd, Eadie, Kiangebeni, Gardiner, Bender, Murrell-Williamson (Eshun 83), Sambou, Merson (Walker 83), Monlouis (Lucien 20), Banton. Subs not used: Joseph, Russell

Bees: Hutchings, Martin, Bailey, Andrews (Latas 70), Vere, Symes (Hayter 85), Richardson, Hebditch, Thomas (James 60), Butcher, Salter. Subs not used: Hill, Cornish, Handyside, Smith

Attendance: 683

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