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City make dream start

CITY made a dream start to life in the Nationwide Conference on Saturday.

The Saints blew away Kidderminster Harriers with a scintillating first-half display that carried them to a stunning 3-1 opening-day win.

Paul Hakim fired them in front on nine minutes after running onto a through ball from Lee Clarke and new signing Dave Theobaldmade it two on 21 minutes.

Colin Lippiatt's men probably had to pinch themselves on the stroke of half-time when Lee Clarke made it three from the penalty spot.

In fact, Lippiatt felt a 5-0 scoreline would not have flattered his side at the break.

The only downside was the second-half dismissal of Gary Elphick - a decision City will appeal against - but by then time Jeff Kenna, the former Republic of Ireland international, pulled one back deep into stoppage time, City were home and dry.

Clarke, the captain and last season's leading scorer, was delighted to get off the mark .

"I've set myself a target - all strikers do - but I'll keep that quiet," said the skipper.

"It's nice to get the first goal out of the way and then the pressure is off.

Much rests on the form of Clarke this year if City are to hold their own in the top tier of non-league football.

"Being the striker and the captain means there is extra pressure but people like Matt Hann and Paul Hakim helped take some of that away from me last year and it's good that it's spread around."

Lippiatt has increased his options in attack by signing Josh Sozzo from Hitchin Town and Clarke knows with Hakim and Simon Martin at the club, competition for places is going to be hot.

"There are four of us now and we are all diferent," said Clarke.

"We are all going to have our rough patches and I know that if I'm not scoring or playing well then someone else is going to come in. And that's the way it should be. It keeps us on our toes."

Although City made the perfect start on Saturday, Clarke will just be content with survival.

"A lot of promoted clubs come up and do well, like Wigan did last year in the Premiership, but we would just be happy to stay in this league," the striker said.

"We would all like to finish in mid-table but, realistically, we know we are going to be around the relegation area. It's so important we stay in this league, build the foundations and then who knows where we can go from there.

"There has been a lot of talk about how we are going to do but the talking stops now."

2:13pmTuesday15thAugust2006

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