Action packed evening ends all square

Saints and Dartford share the points

Blue Square Bet South

Dartford 2 St Albans City 2

RYAN Hayes’ missed penalty in second half stoppage time extended St Albans City’s unbeaten run to four games after an action-packed evening at Princes Park.

It would have been easy for this young side to crumble when Charlie Sheringham netted his second goal of the evening to put Dartford ahead just after the break but these players don’t know when they’re beaten and they were rewarded with a fine headed equaliser from Ollie Kelly.

It was understandable when referee John O’Brien, a controversial figure all night, awarded the home side an injury time penalty that several Saints players dropped their head into their hands fearing that they wouldn’t get the point their effort so deserved but thankfully lady luck was smiling on the Saints on this occasion as substitute Hayes saw his spot kick thud off Paul Bastock’s up right.

Steve Castle started with the same XI that held league leaders Braintree on Saturday but the Saints spent long spells without the ball. Despite Dartford’s domination of the possession stats they failed to create much to worry Bastock in the City goal with Sheringham’s header against the outside of the post the closest the Darts came to opening the scoring.

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It therefore came as a surprise when City took the lead on one of their rare forays into the Dartford half.

James Fisher looked to feed the ball into the feet of Kelly on the edge of the Dartford box but the former Reading youngster slipped and fell to the ground. Some quick thinking from the midfielder, though, saw him stick out a boot to divert the ball into the path of Inih Effiong who fired home his 14th goal of the season via Andrew Young’s right-hand post.

Castle was over the moon with that goal but his mood soon turned to despair as Dartford equalised immediately.

A quick free kick caught City napping and Lee Noble cut inside but was denied by Bastock only for the ball to fall kindly to Sheringham who shot into the empty net.

Tempers boiled over minutes later when former City man Matt Jones appeared to go in late on Jonathan O’Donnell. A 20-man brawl ensued, with just goalkeepers Young and Bastock staying away. Jones was booked for his initial challenge before referee O’Brien randomly picked out Rob Magwood, Fisher and James White to join Jones in the book for their part in the handbags.

The home side should have gone into the interval in front only for Bastock to once again come to City’s rescue. A long free kick into the box was knocked against the bar by Paul Goodacre and from the rebound Tom Bonner was denied by a fantastic double save from the veteran goalkeeper on the line.

However, it took Tony Burman’s Darts just six second half minutes to forge ahead when Burns latched onto Bonner’s long ball and rounded Bastock before sliding the ball across goal for Sheringham to notch his second goal of the contest.

What City needed was an immediate response and that was exactly what they got when Man of the Match Kelly netted his first goal for the club.

Effiong provided the assist with a delicate left footed cross from the right and Kelly timed his run to perfection before guiding the ball inside Young’s far post with his head.

The home side should have been reduced to 10 men when White was penalised for a shirt pull on Glodi Kweme but despite escaping with that one the midfielder was sent off just minutes later for a second bookable offence.

Magwood had a golden opportunity when a free kick fell to the midfielder six yards out but he shot wide and then Young produced a good diving save to keep out Effiong’s swerving effort from distance.

City came the width of the crossbar from regaining the lead when Effiong latched onto Petrucci’s sublime defence splitting pass and despite the tight angle the City man hit it first time only to see the ball cannon off the bar.

The Dartford goalkeeper then came to his side’s rescue once more as Effiong received another Petrucci pass only for the stopper to nick the ball off his toes.

Just as both sides looked like settling for a point referee O’Brien handed the home side a penalty after Bastock and sub Jon Main tangled underneath a high ball. Up stepped Hayes to net all three points for the home side but his penalty smashed off the post and City were able to breath a huge sigh of relief.

Dartford: Young; Jones, Goodacre �, Bruce, Bonner; Noble (Hayes 79), Champion, White, Harris; Sheringham (Main 84), Burns.

Subs not used: Burgess, Birchell, Ibrahim.

City: Bastock; Fisher, Frater, Everitt �, Smith; Kweme (Flavin 77), Magwood, Kelly, O’Donnell (Chaves 62); Battersby (Petrucci 65), Effiong.

Subs not used: Dedman, Abdulai.

Referee: John O’Brien (Surrey)

Att: 674.