Merson screamer gives St Albans City a draw with M1 neighbours Hemel Hempstead

Sam Merson scored a late equaliser for the second week running. Picture: LEIGH PAGE

Sam Merson scored a late equaliser for the second week running. Picture: LEIGH PAGE - Credit: Archant

A thunderous Sam Merson volley with almost the last kick of the game rescued a point for St Albans City in a rip-roaring 2-2 draw with local rivals Hemel Hempstead Town.

Three minutes had been shown by the match officials as the minimum amount of time to be added.

But thanks to a number of fouls by Hemel, the clock was showing 94 minutes when Merson pounced.

And it was from a superbly-worked free-kick, awarded after one of those home misdemeanours.

Shaun Lucien overran the ball before darting down the side of the wall. He was found by David Noble and when the cross was helped into the middle, Merson thumped it into the roof of the net to cue pandemonium among the City faithful behind the goal.

Jamie Cureton had earlier put City back on terms for the first time, sweeping in a Louie Theophanous centre.

Jake Robinson had twice put Hemel in front, both times following a defensive error.

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This was the fourth 2-2 draw between the sides in the last four leagur games, with all four containing a late equaliser.

But there was nothing to suggest the breathless conclusion to follow as the game kicked off.

Hemel were out of the traps extremely quickly and it was the equally rapid Justin Amaluzor who was causing the most problems.

The right winger forced James Russell to come out and make a good block on five minutes before a shot across the City goal was deflected just wide.

Jordan Parkes then hit an effort straight at Russell after another fast counter-attack, led by Amaluzor.

The fact that Hemel were getting so many attacking breaks was that City were limited to long throws, with the second ball invariably falling to a red shirt.

It was the 24th minute before Saints fashioned a chance on target, Cureton’s flick header being tipped behind by Jamie Butler.

Scott Thomas fired wide after winning the ball deep in Hemel territory, before

City had their two best chances.

First Cureton scooped over after being slipped through and then only a good tackle denied Lee Chappell after the ball had run loose to him.

Hemel had a huge shout for a penalty in between and despite the linesman on the far side waving frantically, it was quickly waved off by referee Josh Smith, who had taken up a good position.

But if Hemel had edged the first half, City certainly looked much better in the second.

That said Robinson was the one who broke the deadlock, jumping onto a loose ball that had slipped past Thomas.

Cureton was denied by a fingertip save from Butler but had the better of the Hemel keeper on 71 minutes when he finished off a lovely flowing Saints move.

City looked the more likely to get the go-ahead goal at this stage but it was Hemel who managed it, five minutes later.

Ben Herd’s backpass was stabbed clear by Russell but seemed to hit Amaluzor’s hand. But there was no whistle and the winger’s bobbling cross was tapped home by Robinson.

Yet still City threatened.

Twice Theophanous was denied, first by Butler then by former teammate James Kaloczi.

Cureton had a great chance to level three minutes from time but again Butler was equal to it.

That was until the sensational ending.

City: Russell, Herd, Bender, Chappell (Lucien 65), Gardiner, Saville, Cureton, Thomas, Theophanous, Merson, Noble

Subs (not used): Montgomery, Martin, Allinson, Swales

Goals: Cureton 71, Merson 90+4

Hemel: Butler, Diagne, Connolly, Parkes, Kaloczi, King (McNamara 66), Amaluzor, Saunders, Robinson (Thalassitis 81), Greenhalgh (Neilson 74), Mendy

Subs (not used): Spring, Henly

Goals: Robinson 56, 76

HT: Hemel Hempstead Town 0 St Albans City 0

Attendance: 856

Referee: Josh Smith