City hold league leaders
St Albans City 0 AFC Wimbledon 0 James Ronayne at Clarence Park THE width of a post was all that stopped an impressive St Albans City from ending AFC Wimbledon s 15 game undefeated streak in a highly entertaining game in front of Clarence Park s biggest
St Albans City 0
AFC Wimbledon 0
James Ronayne at Clarence Park
THE width of a post was all that stopped an impressive St Albans City from ending AFC Wimbledon's 15 game undefeated streak in a highly entertaining game in front of Clarence Park's biggest crowd of the season.
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Hassan Sulaiman was the man whose shot cannoned off the right hand upright at the York Road end of the ground which would have condemned the league leaders to their first defeat since they lost to Eastleigh on December 2.
The visitor's attack which boasts Jon Main, the league's top scorer with 31 goals in 30 games, failed to register a single effort on target in the 90 minutes due to a high energy performance from City that saw them harass their opponents all over the pitch.
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Choosing a Man of the Match was a near impossible task, with the defence outstanding and the midfield duo of James Fisher and Solomon Shields irrepressible. Shields was the sponsors choice in the end but it could have gone to any one of the City players.
Steve Castle was forced to throw in loanee Lee Butcher in goal, after Paul Bastock's 42-game run in goal was bought to an end by a fractured eye-socket, and the 20-year old replacement excelled.
The Dons put the young 'keeper under early pressure but the City defence repelled the danger and it was City who enjoyed the better opportunities.
First Jonathan Hunt blocked a clearance in the visitor's box and with the ball rebounding to Fisher, the rejuvenated midfielder drifted past a Dons defender and fired a shot that James Pullen did well to keep out.
Then with the game barely 15 minutes old Paul Hakim, back from suspension and a nuisance to the Dons defence throughout, set up Sulaiman and although his effort beat Pullen it hit the post and was cleared.
The constant City pressure continued when Hakim curled a shot over the bar from the tightest of angles and only quick thinking from Pullen stopped Gary Cohen from getting on the end of a Hunt through ball.
The fact that the closest Wimbledon came to testing Butcher was in the 53rd minute when Danny Kedwell turned and fired over the bar from 25 yards is testament to the level of performance of the City players.
A surging run from Shields epitomised the energy of the performance. The 19-year old picked the ball up in his own half drifting past four players in Maradonna-esque fashion before being up-ended by Dons captain Jake Leberl just outside the visitor's box.
With ten minutes remaining Hakim saw a free kick saved by Pullen and he then followed that up with a shot on the turn less than 60 seconds later that Pullen held onto.
With time running out the Dons pushed for a late winner, winning several corners but all were repelled by a galvanised City rearguard.
It was a point well earned for Castle's men and takes their unbeaten run to four, with four clean sheets to match.
It's hard to imagine the team putting in this kind of performance a month ago but so many players have stepped up a gear. Sulaiman, James Quilter, Fisher and Hector Mackie look different players and the additions of Shields and Alex Bailey have turned City into a side that are extremely hard to beat.
With Main and Hakim, two of the league's leading marksmen, on the pitch you'd have expected at least a goal, but no one in the 1,105 crowd could have complained about the standard of football on show in a thoroughly enthralling game.
St Albans City (4-4-2): Butcher; Sulaiman, Quilter, Cousins, Bailey; Hunt (B.Martin 59), Shields, Fisher, Mackie; Cohen, Hakim. Subs not used: S.Martin, Frater, Mortimer, Seeby.
AFC Wimbledon (4-3-3): Pullen; Conroy, Judge, Inns, Haswell (Hussey 43); Hatton, Leberl, Davis (Godfrey 56); Finn (Adjei 75), Main, Kedwell. Subs not used: Gindre, Mason.
Referee: John Rowbury (Orpington).