Preview: A tale of two Cities

Sean Shields trying to slide the grip of the Concord defense. Picture: Leigh Page

Sean Shields trying to slide the grip of the Concord defense. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans City take the field for the first time since the resolution of the John Frendo saga when they travel to Bath City on Saturday.

James Kaloczi heads towards goal. Picture: Leigh Page

James Kaloczi heads towards goal. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

This week the club imposed the maximum fine on its star attraction for omitting himself from the line-up for the FA Cup fourth qualifying round loss to Concord Rangers and drew a line under the matter.

Fans are still divided on the club’s swift action, whether it was too lenient or not, and it is unclear how many will travel to Twerton Park and how Frendo and the team will be received.

However, in football, like all sport, winning is all that matters. It’s also the best way to gain favour with the fans. Back-to-back wins over Bath and Cheshunt on Monday will go a long way to fixing a potentially fractious situation.

Bath have their own problems. Director of football Adie Britton had the unenviable task of apologising to the fans after they were trounced 7-1 by lower league East Thurrock in the FA Cup on Saturday, making it three years since they last reached the first round proper.

It also capped a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Bath, who were unbeaten in five games, including four wins, before losing 1-0 to Bromley and left red-faced by East Thurrock.

It’s clear that there is more than three points at stake when the Saints and Romans collide.

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Different paths

Since the last time St Albans City and Bath City shared a pitch, a goalless draw in the 2009/10 season finale, the teams have trodden very different paths.

The point the Romans secured on April 24, 2010 ensured their passage into the play-offs, which they won to set up a two-year stay in the Conference Premier. Bath ended the first year in 10th place but failed to replicate their success in the following campaign and were relegated back to the Conference South.

Two so-so years followed - 11th and seventh-placed finishes - but, after a poor start, Lee Howells’ team has won four of last seven league games to push them up to 16th in the table.

For St Albans, the point in 2010 saw them surpass their total from the season before: cue celebrations. A year later they were dead last and relegated to the Southern League Premier Division. Three years and a management change later, the Saints won a return to the Conference South having built a close-knit team that could not only pass opponents off the pitch but also grind out victories if needed.

This season they are surpassing all expectations having won six of their first 13 games.