City looking to hit form as play-offs loom

Tom Ward takes on three defenders. Picture: Bob Walkley

Tom Ward takes on three defenders. Picture: Bob Walkley - Credit: Archant

Tom Ward believes St Albans City can use the next three league games, all against teams in the bottom half of the table, to build momentum as the season reaches its conclusion.

The Saints welcome basement side Bedford Town to Clarence Park on Saturday before a trip to second-from-bottom Bashley the following week. The last game this month, on Saturday, March 29, sees them back at home as they entertain 16th placed Burnham.

Three wins could all but cement City’s place in the play-offs and, if other results go their way, see them chase down the top two sides, Hemel Hempstead and Chesham United.

“The next three games are definitely ones we target to win,” Ward told the Herts Ad.

“We want to win every game but this is a good opportunity to send a message out that St Albans are here for business. This is the business end of the season and we’re ready to pick up results.

“Before Saturday’s game [against Stourbridge], Jimmy Gray [joint manager] said ‘there’s 30 points available, let’s get them then see where we are’. We’ve had a win and a draw and we’ll be trying to get nine points in the bank, which won’t be easy because there are no easy games in this league.”

While City are still in the hunt for promotion, back-to-back losses against Truro City and Corby Town saw them fall from second to fourth in the table.

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The players responded with a win 1-0 at Stourbridge but the performance was far from the polished, slick display City fans enjoyed when their team was brushing teams aside throughout October, November and December.

“When I arrived we had a sensational run when we were beating teams left, right and centre, including sides from the leagues above,” said Ward.

“We know we have the capability to do that and teams know it so they try to spoil it with negative tactics. We have got a lot of players who will score so we have to not get frustrated, relax, learn from the games, play attractive football and if we can get an early goal then we can destroy teams.”

A return to form with just eight league games left could see City enter the play-off race as the ‘hot’ team, an opportunity that could be the difference between promotion and another season in the Southern League.

I’m looking for us to put on a performance,” said Gray after seeing his side record a goalless draw away at Biggleswade Town.

“I can’t remember the last good performance; we’ve had spells in games but I can’t remember the last good 90 minutes where we’ve played the way we want, our style.

“If we’re going to get into the play-offs then it’s about our form towards the end of the season. If we can stumble in but pick up performances at the end of the season and then hit form at the end of April then we’ll be in a happy position.”

“The play-offs are a lottery but the form team tends to be the side that sneaks into the play-offs and does well,” explained Ward, who insisted that Saints will rediscover their form in the coming weeks.

“We can definitely click as it was [earlier in the season]; we’re too good not to.”