Saints’ play-off hopes are over, insists Gray

Michael Malcolm is caught by Christian Smith with an over the ball challenge. Picture: Leigh Page

Michael Malcolm is caught by Christian Smith with an over the ball challenge. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

James Gray insisted that St Albans City’s hopes of reaching the Conference South play-offs are over after Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Chelmsford City.

The Saints are 14th in the table and 10 points off the final play-off place, currently occupied by Havant and Waterlooville, Tuesday’s opponent, with 12 games left to play.

But Gray has put a pin in even entertaining the idea.

“I felt it was really important; my team talk was that we needed three points for our season to continue. If we have any hope of reaching the play-offs then three points was a must. That’s gone now,” he told Saintsnet after the game.

“Now I feel we need to kick on and finish as high as we can. I don’t think we can reach the play-offs, so it’s more about stabilising and looking to see what we need next season.”

Gray admitted he’d left the players’ ears ringing with his team talk at the break following an inexcusable first-half performance. Joe Ward scored in the second-minute of injury-time to cap a dominant opening 45 minutes for the Clarets.

The lead was doubled by an Darren Locke own goal, although he redeemed himself by scoring at the other end to half the deficit. Then, despite overwhelming pressure in the final 10 minutes, St Albans couldn’t find an equaliser and recorded their 14th loss of the season, the third highest in the division.

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“I expected us to get something and they were hanging on but damage was done in the first half. We didn’t play well in the first half and to lose a goal so close to [the break], it gave us a mountain to climb,” added Gray.

“We made a better fist of it second half but if we’d have snatched a draw it would have been stealing something because we didn’t deserve anything.”

He added: “It was a disappointing performance although we didn’t make a fist of it toward the end and how we didn’t put the ball in the net in last 10 minutes with the pressure we were causing, I’ll never know.

“This season has been a story of too many missed opportunities. If you look at the defeats column, we’ve lost too many when we could have picked up points.”