Howell laments ‘fearful’ display

ST ALBANS City boss David Howell was left to rue what he described as a “disappointing, lacklustre, fearful performance” on Tuesday evening as the Saints crashed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Ryman Premier Division side East Thurrock United.

The defeat was the Saints’ third in their last six outings with just one win coming in that time and the 52-year-old admitted the players’ confidence has been shattered.

“The game is all about confidence and at the moment the team are bereft of any confidence what so ever after tonight because that was quite a pretty heavy blow,” the City boss said afterwards.

“I’ve got faith in the squad but at the moment we’re in a very difficult place. It doesn’t matter what personnel you have in a squad if you don’t have confidence, if you don’t believe in each other, if you don’t believe in yourself and your team-mates, if you don’t believe in the team, if you don’t believe we can score goals, if you don’t believe you can defend and keep clean sheets then none of that will happen.

“It’s my job to try and get the players back believing and get that confidence back.

“It was very difficult night because everyone knows what the FA Cup does to the club and the positive atmosphere it has around it let alone the financial implications.

“First thing we’ve got to do is get back in on Thursday, get it out of our systems, and prepare for Arlesey and try to get the three points to try and get ourselves back on the road to believing in ourselves.”

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Some fans were critical of what they felt were the Saints’ long ball tactics during Tuesday night’s defeat but Howell says that is because the team is scared of playing a more intricate game because of its lack of confidence.

“The last two or three games I think the fear factor has kicked in and we’ve gone safety first because people don’t want to get caught in possession, people don’t want to make mistakes and as a result of that the passing game suffers,” explained Howell.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place because the team aren’t confident enough to get the ball down and want to pass and want to help someone on the ball so somebody who gets the ball and is looking for options feels he is out on the park on his own. As a consequence they just say ‘go on then, aim for big Rob (Haworth) and we’ll get on with it that way’.

“The disappointing thing was at three-nil we started to pass it or looked to get the ball down and the only reason that happened was because the fear factor had gone and the pressure had lifted because they (Thurrock) thought ‘three-nil, we’ve beaten them’.”

The Saints will be looking to bounce back on Saturday when they welcome Arlesey Town to Clarence Park.

Arlesey, who feature ex-Saints Ryan Frater and David Deeney as well as St Albans City Midweek Youth coach James Gray in the ranks, caused one of the shocks of the FA Cup when they beat Conference South side Hampton & Richmond Borough 6-2 on Saturday and Howell insists his side will have to brush themselves down and forget about Tuesday night’s disappointment.

“We’ve got to brush ourselves down and go again - the Arlesey game and the Bedford game which has been rearranged – that’s two games in a short space of time and the best thing to do when you fall off a bike is to get back on it and that’s what we’re going to do.”

* Supporters attending Saturday’s game are being given the chance to attend three games for the price of one.

Anybody who goes to cheer on the Saints against Arlesey can then attend the Reserves’ game with Kings Langley on Tuesday evening and the Midweek Youth team’s game with Kentish Town on Wednesday. All supporters need to do to gain free entry is show their Arlesey ticket stub at the turnstile.