FA Trophy: Saints and Stones in stalemate

Nathan Green having a shot at goal. Picture: Leigh Page

Nathan Green having a shot at goal. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans City will travel to Wealdstone’s Grovsenor Vale ground for a FA Trophy third qualifying round replay on Tuesday evening, following a 1-1 draw at Clarence Park on Saturday afternoon.

The Stones, visiting The Park for the first time since a FA Cup First Round fixture in 1989, were the fastest of the two sides out of the trap, and displayed their early intent as they saw a effort deflected wide of Welch’s goal, before a 40 yard strike from Joe Turner whistled inches over the bar.

City, looking to secure their first back to back home victories this season, could have easily taken the lead against the run of play with just 12 minutes gone. A long ball over the top caught out a sleeping Wealdstone defence, allowing Steve Wales to latch onto the ball and take a touch, before unleashing a strike which bounced off of the inside of the post.

The visitors managed to clear, but found themselves under pressure almost immediately, as Lee Chappell’s long throw was flicked through to Ben Martin, who saw his downward header palmed away by an acrobatic Jonathan North.

Gary Bartlett’s men demonstrated an air of control over the first half, and almost opened the scoring mid-way through, but Joe Welch was on hand to palm a Shaun Lucien strike over the Clarence Road end goal.

Elliot Godfrey was next to go close for the away side, who looked to building in confidence, but his speculative effort from range curled just wide of the post.

With the half time break approaching, referee Sam Purkiss pointed to the spot, after Saints captain Ben Martin was deemed to have handled in the area when he blocked a cross with his upper arm.

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Sean Cronin, who was forced to wait at least two minutes to take the spot-kick as the officials dealt with the aftermath of the decision, stepped up confidently, but his powerful strike came crashing off of the woodwork, before St Albans were able to clear.

It was a let off for the hosts, and managers Jimmy Gray and Graham Golds were pleased that half time came when it did.

Wealdstone were forced into a substitution during the interval, having to bring on Thomas Hamblin in place of Captain Wes Parker.

The Saints came out after the interval looking more impressive, and were the first to try and find the opening goal, when good play from James Comley ended in the ball falling to Steve Wales, but the wide man could only volley his strike well over the target and out of the ground.

The Stones, however, weren’t short of chances themselves, and saw leading goal scorer Scott McGleish head over from a corner, before Joe Turner embarked on an ambitious run which ended in Joe Welch having to make a fingertip save to keep the score level.

As the final ten minutes approached, and City went two up top with the introduction of Jon Nouble, both sides went searching for a winner.

Nathan Green, who signed on loan from Dagenham & Redbridge on Thursday afternoon, looked to have secured City’s progress to the First Round with six minutes left on the clock.

A loose ball fell to Green, who unleashed a speculative strike, which took a devilish bounce in front of Wealdstone goalkeeper Jonathan North, and found the back of the net.

That goal looked to be the winner, but the Stones fought back, and won a free-kick around 35 yards out, with a minute left.

Elliot Godfrey delivered a perfect ball into the box, and Scott McGleish, who lost his man, was on hand to head the ball past an out-stretched Welch, sending the travelling support wild, and guaranteeing that the two sides have to do it all again on Tuesday evening.

Kick-off at Grosvenor Vale is 7:45pm.