Play-off hopes all but over

A MISSED penalty and a goal that wasn’t awarded were crucial as Easter Monday’s 2-2 draw at Chesham United realistically ended St Albans City’s play-off ambitions this season.

With three games left the maximum points return the Saints can finish with is 68, the same number as AFC Totten and Cambridge City already have in the last two play-off places.

City boss David Howell had targeted maximum points from the two games over the Easter weekend.

However, the home clash with Weymouth on Saturday also ended 2-2 handing him just two points from a possible six.

He said: “Even if we had won the Chesham game, it would have been quite difficult to make the play-offs, we’d really have needed around 72 points.”

The draw did stretch Howell’s side’s unbeaten run to 11 Premier Division games, although he felt they had done more than enough to deserve the three points.

“The performance was there,” he said.

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“The lads gave a really good account of themselves.”

Chesham took a 25th minute lead as a Danny Talbot corner came off Brad Wilkins and dropped for Simon Thomas who fired home his 20th goal of the campaign.

City got the leveller they deserved four minutes into the second period.

The in-form Howard Newton, who had netted in his three previous games, hit the back of the net once more shooting beyond ex-City stopper Shane Gore.

Howell then introduced Sakho Bakare from the bench in place of Paul Furlong.

However, despite the change in attack it was United who re-took the lead.

An almightly goalmouth scramble, following Bruce Wilson’s corner, ended with Thomas netted his second of the match.

In an entertaining clash St Albans hit back once more.

Substitute Bakare strode into the penalty area and his deflected effort found its way past keeper Gore.

City had a golden opportunity to take the lead for the first time in the match on 80 minutes as Simon Martin was hauled back in the area and the referee pointed to the spot.

However, the chance was wasted as Bakare’s weak effort was saved.

With the clock ticking there were two further contentious decisions.

Firstly home defender Chris Watters put the ball over his own goal line before it was hacked clear, however the assistant referee failed to give the goal.

And then winger Sean Shields was tripped when racing towards goal with just the keeper to beat, however not only did City not get the free-kick they deserved, but Shields was booked for diving.

Those incidents cost St Albans all three points.

Despite his play-off hopes now being ended, Howell is pleased with his side’s showing this term.

He said: “Against all the top teams we have done well, winning or given a good account of ourselves.

“We have beaten Stourbridge, Cambridge City and Oxford City, drawn with Chesham and only just lost to Brackley [the league leaders] with 10 men and we play them again on the final day.”

Looking ahead to the 2011/12 campaign when The Saints will be targeting promotion, he added: “We will look to keep the squad, strengthened in some places which will mean some players come in and look at others to develop from within and keep the club moving forward.”

St Albans City travel to Cirencester Town on Saturday in the Premier Division for their penultimate away game of the term.