Mouth of the Tyne: A season of two halves for St Albans City and it hangs in the balance

St Albans City's season definitely changed after the win over Forest Green Rovers in the FA Cup.

St Albans City's season definitely changed after the win over Forest Green Rovers in the FA Cup. - Credit: GAVIN ELLIS/TGS PHOTO

An hour before kick-off at Clarence Park, I got curious.

A St Albans City fan had said he hadn't seen them score in the last four matches he was at which made me wonder. I knew my last game had been goal-less, the 1-0 defeat to Braintree Town.

Turns out that was the only the second City game I've seen this year without a goal for them but it did reveal something else.

The 1-1 draw with Oxford City was the 15th St Albans game of my season.

If you ignore the first two as they were pre-season friendlies, the first nine brought nothing but positive results, seven wins and two draws.

Since then though the results have been altogether different with two draws and two defeats.

And, if you ignore the last win being the Herts Senior Cup success at Hertford Town, which was predominantly a reserve fixture, the last win I saw in the flesh was Forest Green Rovers.

That just about sums up Saints' year so far.

Herts Advertiser sports reporter Neil Metcalfe watches on during the pre-season friendly between St Albans City and Stevenage

Herts Advertiser sports reporter Neil Metcalfe watches on during the pre-season friendly between St Albans City and Stevenage at Clarence Park. - Credit: DANNY LOO PHOTOGRAPHY

Tuesday night was better than it has been, at least in the second half, but there is no doubting that the City side up to that dazzling evening in the FA Cup and the one on show now are very different, even if the squad remains virtually the same.

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There was a swagger when St Albans were on their unbeaten run back in October, carving through defences and attacking with grace and excitement.

Now there is a very prescriptive style, with the players seemingly lacking in confidence to do the unexpected or maverick.

Anybody who knows me is well aware of my thoughts on the so-called tiki-taka style of football. You pass and you pass and you pass until the ball gets back to where it started from and then you get bored, thump it long and lose it.

Pepe Guardiola is not some tactical genius with messiah-like qualities - he is a very naughty boy.

John Goddard in action for St Albans City against Oxford City.

John Goddard in action for St Albans City against Oxford City. - Credit: JIM STANDEN

There were signs of improvement against the Hoops though. John Goddard and Mitchell Weiss among others ran at defenders, moving the ball from back to front with speed and precision.

It was those moments that stirred the crowd and made you think Saints could get a valuable three points. It is those moments when the team comes alive.

But there needs to be more of it, much more, As I said in my player ratings, Goddard is now the team's playmaker, their quarterback. He calls the shots and when he is on form, it drives the rest of the team on.

He needs to do this way more consistently though and his mates also need to step up.

I was pleased to hear Ian Allinson mention the first few months of his Clarence Park reign in his post-match debrief. Even with the excitement of that Junior Morias-led team in the first part of the 2016-2017 campaign, the squad that completed the great escape back in 2016 still ranks as the one with the most fondness of memories in the near-seven years I have covered the club.

They were full of attacking players, almost going with four up front with Charlie McDonald, Louie Theophanous, Michael Thalassitis and Harry Anderson. 

They had to of course but with 12 games to go in this season, so too do the current crop of Saints.

This still promises to be the year that City get into the play-offs. Only a catastrophic final month will see them fall away.

But to build a run now, is to potentially earn promotion. Nine times out of 10, it seems to be the club that comes into form late that triumphs in the post-season party.

I said after the Forest Green game that this had the potential to be a season to remember. It still can, even if it hasn't gone exactly as I envisioned back in November.

But games are running out and it is now that matters, now is the time to cut loose and stamp your authority on the campaign City.

Hopefully by my next game, the team will be back to winning ways.