Gray and Golds steer St Albans City back to the ‘promised land’

The Saints fans errupt as John Frendo puts St Albans 3-1 up. Picture: Leigh Page

The Saints fans errupt as John Frendo puts St Albans 3-1 up. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans City are back in the ‘promised land’ after ending their three-year absence from the Conference with a 3-1 win over Chesham United in the Southern League play-off final.

After 18 months in charge, joint managers James Gray and Graham Golds can now reflect on a remarkable season that they capped off by steering St Albans to promotion.

Speaking on the pitch after the game, Gray was reminded that he made a promise to win the league after the final match of last season. And while he failed to deliver the championship, he did deliver the next best thing: promotion.

“I probably did say that because I’m a positive thinker,” he said.

“The aim for the season has always been promotion because, again, you can see what a massive fan base this club has. Another year in the Southern Premier would have held us back from what we want to achieve but now we’re at the next level.

“I’m going to enjoy tonight, reflect on what a season we’ve had with a FA Cup first round, FA Trophy second round and now promotion.

“It’s been a long time coming. The club has been in the doldrums but we’re back in the promised land.”

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He added: “If I’m honest, although Hemel won the league outright, I think we are the team in that division that has had the best season.”

It didn’t got exactly to plan for St Albans City, though, as James Potton gave Chesham a sixth minute lead. But, as they have done time and again this season, City proved they have the character and courage to win.

John Frendo levelled the game before Steve Wales gave City a 2-1 lead at the break. A second from Frendo after the interval took the game beyond the Generals, sparking a pitch invasion at the final whistle.

“We didn’t start well; we we’re sloppy and there were individual errors,” admitted Gray.

“We got a grip 20 minutes in. Frendo fooled the keeper and everyone in the ground with his free-kick but that’s his calibre. Then, a bit of brilliance from [Keenleyside] to Wales [gave us a second].

“The second knocked the stuffing out of them. It’s like boxing, until you put a boxer on the floor he’ll keep coming back. It was a brilliant occasion and a brilliant day; I’m so proud.”