Saints have play-offs in their sights

City boss David Howell looking to build on heroics against Oxford City

ST Albans City boss David Howell insists he is happy for his team to slip quietly under the radar in their bid to earn a place in the end-of-season play-offs.

The Saints continued their recent good form in the Southern Premier Division with a dramatic last-gasp win against play-off hopefuls Oxford City on Saturday – despite being two goals down with 60 minutes on the clock. Sakho Bakare came off the bench to score twice before Cedric Ngakam netted in the dying seconds to give the Clarence Park outfit a valuable three points.

And Howell insists momentum is key at this stage of the season, saying Saturday’s win could hand his players extra belief going into the remaining games of the season.

“If you get into the play-offs with that good momentum then they are the teams that usually do well,” Howell told the Herts Advertiser.

“The sides that are currently in the play-offs have all been looking at achieving automatic promotion for the majority of the season, so to finish in the play-offs will probably be a bit of a disappointment for them come the end of the season – whereas we are happy to go quietly under the radar.”

Howell also spoke of his delight at winning Saturday’s match against Oxford, saying it was a must-win game if his team was serious about achieving their play-offs objective.

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“A draw would have been as good as a defeat really, and considering the draws against Arlesey and Totton previously we knew we had to win. So we went for broke and the lads came up trumps. We got what we deserved and it made for great celebrations afterwards.”

Attention now turns to Saturday’s visit to lowly Evesham United, and the Saints boss is hoping for a repeat performance in Worcestershire. And one player he is eager to see a good display from is last Saturday’s two-goal hero – Bakare. The Frenchman was dropped to the bench against Oxford before entering the fray and grabbing his two-goal salvo, and Howell admits it hasn’t been easy to consistently get the best out of his striker this season.

“He has had a complicated season,”added Howell. “He put in a great performance at the weekend but sometimes he just isn’t at the races, and is perhaps a little bit complacent. I’ve got to find a way to manage him but it’s a challenge I’m willing to take.

“Some of the supporters might not agree [when I put him on the bench], considering the goals he has scored, but I’ve got to make sure he is helping the team. The Oxford manager couldn’t believe I hadn’t started him after he came on – but if you’d seen him against Arlesey the other week you wouldn’t think he was the same player.

“But I’ve spoken to Sakho, and if I can get him and all the other lads playing well then we will have a better chance [of getting into the play-offs].”

The Saints players will return to training today [Thursday] ahead of Saturday’s match, and Howell hopes the break he granted them will give them an advantage before taking on Evesham – who played on Sunday and Tuesday night.

However, Howell will be without the services of Chris Seeby who went off injured on Saturday with a fractured cheekbone. It is unclear how long he will be out of action.