FA Cup fourth round qualifying
Alfie Bendle 72
St Albans City
David Diedhiou 90+4
Diedhiou destroys Casuals' dreams to grab replay for St Albans City
- Credit: LEIGH PAGE
A goal with almost the last kick of the game gave St Albans City an undeserved replay against Corinthian Casuals - but one they rightly celebrated with huge gusto.
Trailing 1-0 to an Alfie Bendle header, one which looked destined to put the home side into the next round for the first time in 38 years, they won a free-kick in the fourth of the minimum minutes announced by the referee.
It was floated into the packed area and as forwards and defenders went for it, goalkeeper Daniel Bracken became unsighted.
It slipped under his body and rolled in front of substitute Dave Diedhiou who lashed it home from about a yard.
It was tough on the Isthmian League Premier Division side who created almost all of the chances and harried and hustled an off-key Saints from the first minute.
But it also, at least until Tuesday, stopped an unwanted record of the National League South side ending their hopes against lower-league opposition, a run that has gone on since 2018.
Oddly the round before that year's exit at Taunton Town had seen City beat Casuals in a replay, Diedhiou getting the third and final game.
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It will also be a third replay for Saints in this year's run and once again they will need to be much better after struggling to get a shot on target through the 90 minutes at King George Field.
Ian Allinson made two changes from the side that beat Braintree Town last time out, David Noble and Romeo Akinola coming in for Liam Sole and Huw Dawson.
The 18-strong squad contained four survivors from the previous meeting. Diedhiou was one of them while Noble, Tom Bender and Zane Banton also played.
For Casuals there were three changes from their last game, a 3-0 loss at home to Merstham which left them third bottom in the league, while they had six involved in that tie at Imber Court.
And for the first 45 minutes it looked like a meeting at Clarence Park was going to be the outcome here.
Saints had plenty of possession but it was in areas that wasn't going to harm the hosts.
And when they did get forward they then found the Casuals hunting them in packs, especially the likes of Kieron Cadogan and Jack Tucker.
Saints were also guilty of coughing up the ball in dangerous areas, one such instance earning Akinola a booking.
And the majority of the chances came the way of the Isthmian League side.
Andrew Mills headed wide from a corner while a scuffed effort from Warren Mfula and a long-distance free-kick from Cadogan was easily gathered by Michael Johnson.
As the half closed, Mfula had an effort deflected behind from a corner with the set-piece headed behind by Bendle.
For Saints their best chance was a Zane Banton shot that just cleared the crossbar but when they did get into promising positions, crosses were either overhit or lofted in, allowing the big Corinthian centre-backs to head effortlessly clear.
The break seemed a Godsend for Saints who looked in desperate need of an injection of intensity.
They did start on the front foot but couldn't really carve out anything, Callum Adebiyi with a header on the stretch from a corner that went comfortably wide their best opportunity of the opening exchanges.
And it was Casuals who should reached the hour in front.
Cadogan played a lovely-weighted pass in behind the defence and Mfula beat the offside trap to go in one on one with Johnson.
He beat the keeper too with a low shot to his right but unfortunately for the hosts it came back flush of the near post and bounced gratefully back to the keeper's arms.
It brought an instant substitution as Mitchell Weiss replaced the ineffective Akinola, and for a moment it looked as if it would make a difference, Mills producing a superb tackle to deny Banton after the goalkeeper had pushed a Johnny Goddard cross out under pressure from Shaun Jeffers.
But in the end all the chances continued to come from the home side.
Jack Strange headed a free-kick at Johnson and then Bendle should have down much better when a poor clearance from Alex Lankshear landed at his feet in a central position.
He blasted over.
Saints then almost contrived to gift Casuals a goal, Bender deflecting a long ball forward towards goal.
Johnson missed his kick but fortunately for City pair the ball bounced inches wide.
It was just a momentary let-off though and came after Saints had switched to a back three.
Cadogan got in down the right and a lovely dinked cross floated over Johnson's head to Bendle at the back post.
He would usually been marked by a right back but instead he had the simple task of heading into the empty net.
The remaining time looked to have been played out in relative comfort for Casuals who kept Saints from having a shot on goal.
That is until the very last moment.
St Albans City: Johnson, Bender, Wiltshire, Akinola (Weiss 58), Jeffers, Banton (Diedhiou 71), Noble, Lankshear (Sole 80), Adebiyi, Mukena, Goddard.
Subs (not used): Gauthier, Austin, Brown, Dawson.
Goals: Diedhiou 90+4
Booked: Akinola 39, Bender 67
Corinthian Casuals: Bracken, Tucker, A.Mills, Williams, Strange, Bendle, Bolton, Cadogan, Mfula, Thompson, Cheklit.
Subs (not used): Pinney, Efambe, Adelakun, Ekim, B.Mills, Paratore, Owusu.
Goals: Bendle 72
HT: Corinthian Casuals 0 St Albans City 0
Referee: Jack Packman (Margate)