City remain unbeaten after bore draw

Steve Castle’s side are still looking for their first win of the season after a third successive draw

St Albans City 0

Braintree Town 0

ST ALBANS City ended Braintree Town’s perfect start to the new Blue Square Bet South campaign but are still in search of their first win of the season after a dour 0-0 draw at Clarence Park.

It was a frustrating afternoon for City who were unable to take advantage of their numerical advantage following Adam Bailey-Dennis’s first half dismissal for two bookable offences.

In the end it was the visitors who carved out the best opportunities but they were frustrated in their attempts by an excellent performance from Paul Bastock, who pulled off three saves to deny what seemed almost certain goals.

With Hassan Sulaiman unavailable due to work commitments, City boss Steve Castle made just the one change giving Adam Martin his full debut.

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Just like their previous two outings, the Saints made a blistering start with Inih Effiong going on a bullocking run into the Braintree box inside the first minute only to fluff his shot.

The striker’s combination of pace and power means he is a handful for defences and Braintree nearly found this out to their cost as the 19-year-old bust past Bailey-Dennis but fired the wrong side of the post from an acute angle.

After spending the opening 10 minutes on the back foot Braintree began to find their feet and may have felt they should have been ahead when Sean Marks rose highest to meet Phil Starkey’s cross but the striker’s header was high and wide.

Effiong continued to looks like City’s most likely source of a goal but he too was off target with a header after beating goalkeeper Nathan McDonald to Pete Smith’s excellent free kick.

The game’s biggest talking point came just before the interval when Bailey-Dennis was sent off after collecting two yellow cards in six minutes.

The big defender’s first came after he clattered in Drew Roberts as the City man advanced down the right and his second came after he tangled with Effiong one too many times.

Rod Stringer’s side could even have been reduced to nine men just minutes later after Matt Paine lunged in on Smith but referee Mike George took an extremely lenient view and only booked the centre-half.

The Iron made changes at half time introducing Michael Alaile for Brad Quinton and the move seemed to pay dividends with the visitors seizing control of the game following the restart..

A rare mistake from Smith was seized upon by Marks but the striker was denied brilliantly by Bastock who then bounced straight back up to block Kenny Davis from the rebound.

Moments of quality were few and far between throughout with substitute Chris Sullivan the only City player who came close to scoring after the break. The winger ghosted in between the full-back and centre half to meet Robbie Martin’s superb cross but his header was straight at McDonald who palmed the ball behind.

With 10 minutes left Braintree created two good opportunities to take all three points but on both occasions they were thwarted by Bastock.

The first saw a clever free kick from Nicky Symons pick out substitute Dave Bryant who spun and shot but saw his effort pushed behind. The second saw Sam Lechemere’s pace rip open the City defence only for the winger to see his goalbound shot palmed away and with Bastock still prone, Bryant should have done better with the rebound but he dragged his shot wide.

It was an effort that summed up the afternoon, an afternoon which, Bastock aside, lacked any quality and left the home side extremely frustrated.

St Albans City: Bastock; Deeney, B Martin, Everitt, Smith; Fisher (Sullivan 59), A Martin, Magwood, R Martin (Peters 72); Effiong (Kweme 82), Roberts.

Subs not used: Simpson, Frater.

Braintree Town: McDonald; Starkey, Bailey-Dennis, Paine, Jones; Lechmere, Quinton (Alaile 46), Symons, Davis, Green (Bryant 64); Marks (Guy 64).

Subs not used: Holloway, Bruno.

Referee: Mike George (North Walsham)

Att: 330.