Howell seeking home comforts

Saints boss points towards season-defining period of matches

Southern Premier Division

AFC Totton 1

St Albans City 1

ST Albans City boss David Howell believes the run of four straight home fixtures between March 17 and April 7 will define whether or not his side will compete in the end of season play-offs.

The Saints came through a tough away fixture at second-placed AFC Totton on Tuesday night when a Danny Hart goal just after half-time cancelled out Mike Gosney’s 44th-minute penalty.

And things don’t get any easier on Saturday as they will host in-form Oxford City at Clarence Park, who have won four out of their last four matches, before travelling to Evesham United the following week.

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Howell is hoping to get through the next two games unscathed before pushing on and making home-advantage count in the subsequent four league outings.

“If we can hang in there for the next two games we have four consecutive home matches against Bashley, Banbury United, Stourbridge and Weymouth,” Howell told the Herts Advertiser.

“I think this will be a defining period in our season but we’ve got to get through the next couple of games in order to put ourselves in a position where we have a chance.”

Saturday’s opponents Oxford, who are currently fourth in the league – four places above St Albans – beat the Saints 3-1 in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, and Howell is wary of the threat they will pose come kick-off.

“Oxford are on a good run of form so nothing is a given [on Saturday]. They are a decent side who are very organised, they have players with long throws and are good from set-pieces. They are very typical for this level and they come at you from all angles.”

Howell was pleased with his side’s efforts on Tuesday night at the Testwood Stadium, and says he was impressed with the players’ determination to get back into the game after falling behind to a 44th-minute penalty.

“It was a good result,” added Howell. “We worked hard against an experienced side and it was unfortunate to go behind to a penalty just before half-time. I said to the lads at the interval they would get a 10-15 minute spell in the game where we would get on top and they were a bit dejected at half-time after the goal.

“But we showed what we are about by getting the early goal and we could have gone on and won it. They put us under a lot of pressure but they were vulnerable at the back when pushing men forward. In the end it was a well-earned point.”

AFC Totton: Bittner, Hill, Knight, Bottomley, Whisken, Campbell, Pettefer, Stockford (Davies 62), Osman (Sherborne 82), Moss, Gosney

Unused Subs: Tomasso, Brown, McKie.

St Albans City: Jupp, Seeby, Watts, McGonigle, Gray, Ngakam, Hart (Bernard 84), Hyde, Lansiquot (Bakare 56), Martin, Henry (Shields 74).

Unused Sub: Ijaha.

Att: 353