Play-off hopes take a blow as St Albans City lose to Hampton & Richmond Borough

Zane Banton pulls St Albans City level in the first half against Hampton & Richmond Borough. Picture

Zane Banton pulls St Albans City level in the first half against Hampton & Richmond Borough. Picture: BOB WALKLEY - Credit: Archant

St Albans City’s play-off hopes took a potentially lethal blow as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to Hampton & Richmond Borough.

Zane Banton goes close for St Albans City against Hampton & Richmond Borough. Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Zane Banton goes close for St Albans City against Hampton & Richmond Borough. Picture: BOB WALKLEY - Credit: Archant

They had battled back from the loss of an early goal but another conceded right on half-time and a third late in the second half has left them now depending on other results.

It was built as a season-defining game for Saints and the crowd was bigger than normal in response.

And they saw an unchanged Saints side take to the field, a reward from manager Ian Allinson for their fine performance away to Gloucester on Tuesday.

However, in the first 45 minutes there were a few perhaps guilty of freezing in the spotlight.

A brisk Hampton start saw them take the lead on 10 minutes, with the perfect definition of a bullet header.

A set-piece had been partly cleared but only out to the left wing.

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And the inch-perfect cross was met by Charlie Wassmer charging in, the big centre-half having stayed up for the corner, and he powered the header beyond Dean Snedker.

It was perhaps a deserved lead and when you’ve only lost six all season, you know you can close out games.

The tactics used mind didn’t sit well with the large Clarence Park crowd, who were angered at the apparent gamesmanship being used by the Beavers.

Often players would go down seemingly under the softest of challenges causing play to be halted.

It took a while for Seny Dieng to be tested in the Hampton goal, and when he was, David Noble’s free-kick was straight down his throat.

But it was an error from the stopper that brought the equaliser.

The keeper came to punch a long Sam Merson throw from the right but succeeded only in slicing it off his fist straight to Zane Banton who took a touch and volleyed home.

That was on 39 minutes but like Tuesday night in Worcestershire, City switched off right on the stroke of half-time, allowing Borough to retake the lead.

A quick break set Shaun Jeffers away. His first shot was well-saved by Snedker but the ball ran loose and Jeffers stuck away the rebound.

It had been noticeable that the intensity was missing from some of Saints’ play.

In a game like this you want to see players crawl off the pitch after 90 minutes and clearly Allinson felt the same, sending his players out a good three minutes earlier than the visitors.

And he got a much-better response.

City were on the front foot throughout and their endeavour should have brought a second equaliser just before the hour.

Merson received all the plaudits in the week for his nine-minute hat-trick but he should have took his season’s tally to 25 when he was sent clean through.

However, with plenty of time to pick his spot he only managed to hit the side-netting.

It left everyone, including the watching Peterborough striker Junior Morias, with head in hands and a shocked look on their face.

A glancing header from a Tom Bender cross and another header put wide, this time from a Noble free-kick, continued Merson’s profligacy in front of goal.

They proved to big misses as Hampton, who had really threatened after the break, made it three 12 minutes from time.

A free-kick again wasn’t cleared but the finish from Taurean Roberts was first class, curled in from the edge of the box.

It knocked the stuffing out of Saints, who only had a late penalty shout for a tackle on Banton to shout about.

The result leaves St Albans in seventh on 65 points, and although that is level with both Truro City and Braintree Town, both of the rivals have a game in hand.

It means that Saints must win away at Bath City, which will be a first if they do, but they will need help from others to have another game.

It will be a nerve-biting week.

St Albans City: Snedker, Gardiner (Herd 72), Bender, Noble (Lucien 72), Sendles-White, Moore-Azille (Monlouis 59), Murrell-Williamson, Sambou, Merson, Kiangebeni, Banton

Subs (not used): Walker, Bradbury

Goal: Banton 39

Hampton & RB: Dieng, Long, Casey, Cook, Wassmer, McAuley (Kamara 90), Roberts, Mulley, Jeffers (Charles 90), Kiernan, Hudson-Odoi (Wynter 74)

Subs (not used): Sheldrick, Randall

Goals: Wassmer 10, Jeffers 45, Roberts 78

HT: St Albans City 1 Hampton & Richmond Borough 2

Attendance: 1,021

Referee: Lloyd Wood