Momentous match for Saints on Sunday
- Credit: Will Tyrer
Thousands of fans are expected to pack the terraces at Clarence Park on Sunday, as St Albans City returns to FA Cup first round action for the first time in five years.
The Saints will be hosting League Two table toppers Forest Green Rovers, in a game to be shown live on BBC Two for what is a huge occasion for the city.
Over two million people are expected to tune in to watch the game live on Sunday afternoon's Match of the Day, which will be showcasing the city, the club and the community.
It is 97 years since the Saints' one and only victory against a side in the Football League, a 5-3 victory over Brentford, but Ian Allinson and his squad will be aiming to make history and push into the second round for the first time since the 1996-97 season.
Packing out the stadium provides a huge boost for every player, and for those not fortunate enough to have tickets, a number of the local pubs will also be showing the game..
For those who are attending Clarence Park, the club will be putting on an array of pre-match options, with a beer and food festival in and around the ground from the opening of the gates at 2pm.
With the crowd expected to be in excess of 4,000, the club is encouraging fans to arrive in plenty of time as delays on the gate are probable, but believe the carnival atmosphere inside the stadium will be building for all three hours before kick off.
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For manager Ian Allinson, it’s a spectacle he’s experienced before as a manager, and he knows just how special it can be for everyone involved.
“The target I set for the players was to make the first round, get on TV and make themselves heroes.
“I think it’s fantastic, from my own point of view it’s an achievement for any non-league manager to reach the first round, that’s what you set yourself out to do, especially when you enter at the second qualifying round.”
The Saints' path in the competition has been a long one, requiring replays in all three of their qualifying rounds to get over the line.
A tricky second qualifying draw away to fellow National League South side Concord Rangers ended in a stalemate, but a Shaun Jeffers’ goal topped off a 2-0 victory when the Essex side made the journey to Clarence Park just three days later.
A visit to Met Police was next on the agenda, and again a goalless draw while away from home packed out the Saints’ schedule further.
It was that man Jeffers again with a double to help Allinson’s side through to the next round, with Zane Banton opening his FA Cup account as their 3-1 win led them deeper into the competition.
Most recently, the Saints drew the historic Corinthian Casuals, and until the stoppage time in the second half looked to be crashing out to lower league opposition once again, but a mistake from the Casuals’ goalkeeper allowed Dave Diedhiou to secure yet another Tuesday night replay.
That game went the full 120 minutes after a Huw Dawson wonder strike was neutralised by the visitors, leaving only penalties able to separate the two sides following a brace of outstanding penalty saves from Michael Johnson.
A club spokesperson said: "This upcoming fixture against Forest Green Rovers is a momentous occasion for St Albans City Football Club. There is currently a great feeling around the club, with attendances on the up, great football on the pitch, and a growing presence both online and within the community. This Sunday is a fantastic chance to put on a sell-out show, get behind the team and promote St Albans to all those around the country watching at home."