By Owen Pinch at Clarence Park

The FA Cup made a guest appearance at St Albans City's Clarence Park ground before tonight's game but it was not the only precious commodity on display.

An Arsenal XI with the emphasis firmly on youth contained a few gems of its own and indicated that the future does indeed look bright. 21 year-old defender John Halls captained the side that contained Latvian international Igors Stepanovs as its most experienced player.

In a lively opening the Saints had the ball in the Arsenal net after just four minutes, but the whistle had gone for an infringement long before Simon Martin poked the ball past Gunners 'keeper Michael Jordan.

The Ryman Premier League side did however carve out the first real opportunity when on 13 minutes Nic McDonnell rose at the far post to narrowly head a dipping cross over the bar.

Arsenal responded with a few warning shots of their own. Brazilian Paulinho, playing a central attacking role, had two good opportunities over the next few minutes but both were screwed wide from promising positions.

The first goal of the evening came on 19 minutes. Arsenal were awarded a free-kick which was shifted back and forth before Moritz Volz took control. Our German defender took one stride before drilling the ball across the 'keeper and into the opposite side-netting.

Arsenal continued to press with wide-man John Spicer being the main outlet on the right wing. His crosses proved a constant threat.

On 35 minutes Arsenal perhaps should have made it 2-0. Jerome Thomas slipped a well weighted pass into the path of the onrushing Paulinho, but the Brazilians touch allowed Saints 'keeper Conroy to smother the shot.

With three minutes to go until the break a mix-up between Volz and Jordan nearly allowed Simon Martin a simple equaliser, but our 'keeper redeemed himself with a fine block.

With seconds to go in the half, a high ball to Arsenal's far post saw Jordan and Nic McDonnell both jump for the ball. McDonnell appeared to make the best of the physical encounter and the ball bounced once before nestling into the corner of the net to make it 1-1.

It took just six minutes of the second half for Arsenal to regain their lead. A marauding Moritz Volz picked the ball up on the left hand side and headed for goal. He cut inside onto his right foot and buried the ball low to the 'keepers right.

City's Mark Graham had the dubious honour of being the first player in the game whose effort at the target ended up outside the ground.

Despite this, Volz very nearly completed his hattrick on 53 minutes, with the replacement ball, but saw his powerful shot scrambled away at the foot of the post.

With an hour on the clock it was 3-1. Jerome Thomas made another trademark run down the right wing before cutting inside and laying a pass to the feet of John Halls.

Our captain was no more than three yards out and simply tapped the ball into the net. The simplicity of the goal surprised both the players and fans who looked to the referee, but Mr Evetts was running back for the restart.

The third goal sparked a rash of substitutions for both Arsenal and St Albans, and after these there was little goal-mouth action.

St Albans had the best of what chances there were when White was put through with two minutes to go. His attempted cut-back however was intercepted and the chance was gone.

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25 May 2004