Play-off hopes end for St Albans City with defeat at Oxford

John Goddard got his first goal since February for St Albans City at Oxford City.

John Goddard got his first goal since February for St Albans City at Oxford City. - Credit: GAVIN ELLS/TGS PHOTO

St Albans City's season is over after a defeat in their penultimate National League South game at Oxford City.

It was always going to be a difficult ask to make the play-offs as they came into the contest four points behind Havant & Waterlooville in the seventh and final qualifying position.

But all their chances were hinged on winning their final two games and the 3-1 loss at Marsh Lane made all other calculations unnecessary.

There is still the final game of the season at Clarence Park to come, Tonbridge Angels visiting Hertfordshire on Saturday, but thoughts will now turn to the summer and some big decisions.

But not making the end of season party has to go down as a failure after Saints' form fell off a cliff in the second half of the year.

There was just the one change for City from the side that beat Dorking Wanderers on Saturday, Johnny Goddard replacing Zane Banton.

Goddard's moment would come on 25 minutes and it was a lovely guided finish, curling the ball into the top corner after Saints had stayed patient and passed the ball from left to right and then back into the centre of the field on the edge of the area.

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It dragged them level after Zak McEachran had scored a fine solo goal of his own, one which took him from almost the halfway line to penalty area where he let fly and found the bottom corner.

St Albans might have had questions over the lack of a tackle or even a player closing the scorer down but the remainder of the half, they kept Oxford at arms length.

Ewan Clark curled one wide from out on the left while a one-two between McEachran and Benyon was just too far in front of the midfielder.

At the other end Goddard could have doubled his and City's tally in the minutes after his goal but Charlie Rowan was able to block it behind.

Joe Neal had the visitors' other big chance but his shot brought a good save out of Ben Dudzinski.

St Albans knew they had to win at all costs, and if possible start moving their goal difference up, but the question was when Ian Allinson would give the nod to go all out.

The answer was with 20 minutes to go in the after match of Joe Iaciofano restoring Oxford's lead.

Saints made all three changes at once, sacrificing Alex Lankshear, Huw Dawson and Kyran Wiltshire for David Noble, Liam Sole and Banton.

They were planning to do it as the former Saint man tapped in at the back post after a header back across the face of goal and they will be frustrated that they didn't manage it in time.

There was already frustrations as Goddard had slipped a chance past Dudzinski just three minutes prior to the goal but Charlie Rowan arrived just at the right moment to scramble it off the line.

And the frustrations continued just two minutes after the changes as Ewan Clark was given far too much time on the edge of the box and he picked his spot past a stranded Michael Johnson.

Shaun Jeffers cushioned a side-footed volley inches wide as Saints got forward but they didn't do it often enough to make a comeback likely.

Match Stats

St Albans City: Johnson, Wiltshire (Noble 70), Clark, Jeffers, Dawson (Banton 70), Weiss, Lankshear (Sole 70), Adebiyi, Mukena, Goddard, Neal.

Subs (not used): Bender, Brown.

Goal: Goddard 25

Booked: Wiltshire 60, Noble 85

Oxford City: Dudzinski, Asare, Harmon,Ashby, Rown, Fleet, Benyon, McEachran (Coyle 86), Iaciofano (Bancroft 90+1), Clark (Owusu 84), Carroll.

Subs (not used): Matsuzaka, DaSilva.

Goals: McEachran 13, Iaciofano 68, Clark 72

Booked: Carroll 38, Rowan 45+1

HT: Oxford City 1 St Albans City 1

Referee: Alex Blake (Waterlooville)

Attendance: 1,007