FA Trophy heartbreak for St Albans City as Harrogate Town grab late equaliser

Tom Bender headed the opening goal for St Albans City. Picture: LEIGH PAGE

Tom Bender headed the opening goal for St Albans City. Picture: LEIGH PAGE - Credit: Archant

A goal in the final added minute of the FA Trophy denied St Albans City a place in the last 16 as they drew 1-1 with Harrogate Town.

Tom Bender rose majestically to head David Noble’s left-wing corner back across the keeper and into the bottom corner midway through the second half.

It was a cracking goal and seemed it was exactly what was needed to win a game between two seemingly evenly-matched teams.

And with just 25 seconds left of the three minimum added it looked for all the world as if it would be.

But it wasn’t – as Harrogate got out of jail.

Joe Leesley pounced on a Dominic Knowles knockdown to send the tie to a replay and plunge Clarence Park into frustration and disappointment.

Prior to the game one question that was posed was about the standard of the respective leagues at level six.

Most Read

Harrogate started the day second in the North and Saints eighth in the South.

And on the balance of the first half there was little to separate the two.

Harrogate may have started the better in the opening 10 minutes but by the end City had turned the tables and edged matters.

The hosts also had the more chances.

Kieran Monlouis stung the hands of James Belshaw with a drive from distance and then Rhys Murrell-Williamson and Solomon Sambou both had efforts that were blocked or scrambled away.

But despite being behind on shot count, Harrogate did lay claim to the best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes.

A break from Joe Leesley down the left saw the winger deliver a perfect cross. However, Jordan Thewlis made a hash of his header from right in front of the goal and the ball sailed over.

Tackles were another noticeable part of the first half, with both teams nothing in the locker.

Oddly, those tackles were not the reason for Town losing the services of left-back Louis Swain and keeper Belshaw, both going down with innocuous injuries.

Fortunately for the visitors they did have a substitute goalkeeper on the bench and Joe Cracknell was out early in the second half to warm-up.

And for the majority of it you kind of wished everyone else had joined him.

It lacked the urgency of the first but Saints continued to edge possession and territory without really testing the replacement stopper.

The first real chance fell to Murrell-Williamson who curled one wide just after the hour with Charlie Walker bearing down on it at the back post.

The goal changed all that and the intensity of Harrogate increased as they pressed forward for an equaliser.

But after a few moments of panic in the City defence, play switched back to the Hatfield Road End where the City faithful roared their favourites forward.

And with attack the best form of defence it seemed, it was Saints who continued to press.

Noble dipped a volley straight at the keeper and there was plenty of play in the Harrogate end.

But then came the heartbreaking finish for City and we will do it all again on Tuesday night in North Yorkshire.

City: Snedker, Herd, Bender, Noble, Kiagebeni, Moore-Azille, Eadie (Lucien 57), Sambou, Bradbury (Walker 57), Monlouis, Murrell-Williamson

Subs (not used): Joseph, Gardiner, Hippolyte-Patrick

Goals: Bender 66

Harrogate: Belshaw (Cracknell 41), Fallowfield, Swain (Vann 32), Agnew (Knowles 79), Kennedy, Lees, Thewlis, Emmett, Ainge, Kerry, Leesley

Subs (not used): Beck, Thomson

Goals: Leesley 90+3

HT: St Albans City 0 Harrogate Town 0

Attendance: 634

Referee: Christopher Pollard (Stowmarket, Suffolk)