Saints respond to Cheshunt shocker with hard-fought draw at Chelmsford

Shaun Jeffers put St Albans City ahead in the first half at Chelmsford City.

Shaun Jeffers put St Albans City ahead in the first half at Chelmsford City. - Credit: NIGEL FRENCH/PA

St Albans City's reaction to their FA Trophy shocker against Cheshunt on Saturday was a point away to Chelmsford City.

Whether they deserved the 1-1 draw in the National League South will have been debated in the bars of Chelmsford and the cars heading back to Hertfordshire.

The crucial thing was they didn't lose and the result, if maybe not the performance, at least restored some wounded pride to Ian Allinson's men.

Shaun Jeffers had put them ahead in the first half with a rare foray forward and they held onto that lead until 11 minutes from the end of normal time.

They remain one place outside of the play-offs but remarkably, despite the funk they are going through, they are just nine points behind leaders Dorking Wanderers with thee games in hand.

Saturday's result, and perhaps tomorrow's Herts Senior Cup game with Hitchin Town, prompted five changes from the boss.

In came Tom Bender, Bayley Brown, Romeo Akinola, Liam Sole and Dave Diedhiou with Zane Banton, Huw Dawson, Mitchell Weiss, Alex Lankshear and Joy Mukena all dropping out and onto the bench.

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All eyes then were firmly on the first-half performance from City to see if there was any response.

And in truth there wasn't, but somehow City found themselves in front.

The goal was something out of nothing too. A 25-yard Chelmsford free-kick was floated over the wall but padded down and gathered by Michael Johnson.

He then launched it quickly down the right wing to Akinola whose low ball into the middle was lashed into the roof of the net by Jeffers.

There was no question it was undeserved, it was the visitors' first attempt on target, but for all the possession the Clarets had, they were restricted to half chances at best.

Corners formed their best supply chain but even there headers were blocked and loose balls scrambled away.

There was one penalty shout that on another day may have been given but even there, the appeals were half-hearted at best.

Any flicker of attacking confidence shown by Saints after the goal was left in the changing room as they resumed their defensive mind-set.

Chelmsford almost undid that in the opening 10 minutes of the second period with more opportunities.

A header from Dave Winfield just ran in front of the strikers and a lovely cross from Simeon Jackson gave Hady Ghandour a clear header, but from five yards out he put it straight at Johnson and Saints escaped.

St Albans could have stretched their advantage when a loose pass in midfield was given straight to Akinola.

He had Jeffers to his right but rightly went himself, trying to outpace Ade Oluwo. The defender though denied him a shot at goal with a great tackle.

An interruption when a Chelmsford fan fell and hit his head behind the goal took the sting out of the game slightly but the match was able to continue while medical staff kept them warm.

It allowed City to push the play from their own third and into midfield but they still couldn't create anything, and moments after the stricken fan was wheeled on a chair out of the ground, Chelmsford got their deserved equaliser 

And it was some goal too. Diedhiou got to a ball forward first but it looped off the defender and out to the right-side of the box where Jackson was lurking.

Untroubled by a blue shirt he volleyed it first time into net past the despairing Saints keeper.

Parity almost disappeared instantly as an effort from distance from Jeffers bounced back into play off the crossbar.

But Chelmsford, as they had been throughout, ended the stronger.

However, a goal-bound effort from Blackwell was blocked behind and Charlie Sheringham saw an even later header saved by Johnson.

St Albans City: Johnson, Bender, Wiltshire, Brown, Akinola, Sole (Banton 83), Jeffers, Diedhiou, Adebiyi, Goddard (Weiss 90+5), Jones.

Subs (not used): Dawson, Lankshear, Mukena.

Goal: Jeffers 36

Booked: Akinola 54, Diedhiou 90

Chelmsford City: Marsden, Vaz, Oluwo, Sheringham, Ghandour (Dunne 85), Jackson, Frimpong, Isaac, Freeman (Dada 63), Winfield, Blackwell.

Subs (not used): Norton, Hockey, Simpson.

Goal: Jackson 79 

Booked: Freeman 16

HT: Chelmsford City 0 St Albans City 1

Referee: Jack Packman (Margate)