Castle proud of his player's efforts

ST ALBANS City boss Steve Castle says he is very proud of his players efforts this season after last weekend s defeat to Dover Athletic looks to have scuppered their play-off dreams. The 2-1 defeat to their fellow play-off hopefuls has left City a mammot

ST ALBANS City boss Steve Castle says he is very proud of his players' efforts this season after last weekend's defeat to Dover Athletic looks to have scuppered their play-off dreams.

The 2-1 defeat to their fellow play-off hopefuls has left City a mammoth task of trying to sneak in with City running out of games to over turn the 10 point deficit and Castle believes realistically the dream is over for another season.

"I'm really, really proud of them," he told the Herts Advertiser afterwards.

"It'll be difficult to get into the play-offs, mathematically there is still a chance but not realistically. We've probably blown that and obviously we're not going down, it's an awkward stage really.

"We'll have the opportunity of blooding some of the younger lads and the people that are playing for their futures next year. There's still loads to play for and to leave us as high up as possible."

The Saints will be looking to get back to winning ways on Saturday when they welcome Hertfordshire rivals Bishop's Stortford to Clarence Park.

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Stortford have used a vast number of players this season and are currently struggling near the bottom of the Blue Square South ladder.

"I think they're having a tough time as well financially," said Castle.

"I live over there and I'm aware of the local paper's back pages. They've had a huge turnover of players, unlike ourselves who've had a very loyal bunch of players, they've had a group of lads basically once the money's gone they're off which I certainly can't say about my lot.

"They'll always put a decent team out and we've got to take them on and hopefully get three points."

Castle is hoping that with the play-offs now looking unrealistic, his players can enjoy the freedom that brings and play a bit more football.

"I think we're all realistic to know that the play-off spot is gone, it's not mathematically, but I think it is especially with our inferior goal difference as well," he said.

"I would like to go and have a fresh impetus on things and - not overplay - but maybe get the ball down and lets play with a little bit of freedom and that little bit more belief that we can play a little bit more than we do."

Gary Cohen returned to the Saints squad on Saturday after missing the previous three weeks while he carried out his paramedic training. Castle admitted afterwards he thought long and hard about bringing the striker straight back into the side before deciding to stick with the same XI that drew 0-0 with Worcester seven days earlier.

"In fairness if Gary Cohen was in double figures I think he would've been an automatic selection," explained Castle.

"Paul Hakim was at the start of the week available but his ankle didn't bare, I'll be honest Paul Hakim would have come straight in because he is a recognised goalscorer.

"Gary struggles with his goals despite his application. That's a tough one, I couldn't disagree with the notion of putting him straight in. We went with what we got and obviously a fresh Gary Cohen for the last half an hour helped create a few chances but it obviously wasn't to be."

Cohen had one glorious opportunity to earn City a share of the spoils but visiting goalkeeper Ross Flitney pulled off a fantastic point-blank save to deny the former Grimsby forward.

"It was a great save," continued Castle. "Unfortunately everybody who comes to watch St Albans and Gary in particular, had he been getting double figures he would be playing Conference Premier at least because he's the real deal and the perfect package other than his lack of goals and he hasn't got a natural instinct in front of goal which is a shame especially if you're a centre forward but his work rate, his athleticism and his leap are out of the world.

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