Saints ready for trips to AFC Totton and Redditch United

WHEN ST Albans City travel to Hampshire to face AFC Totton on Saturday, boss David Howell and his players will have had a two-week break to ponder a blip in results following good early season form.

The Saints suffered four defeats and a draw in their last six games, exiting three cup competitions in the process.

However, the one victory among that half dozen fixtures saw City put in a superb display to secure a 1-0 league victory over Arlesey Town, who face Coventry City in the first round of the FA Cup on Saturday.

Following their 3-2 loss at St Neots Town just under two weeks ago, City are well placed in sixth position in the league table, just outside of the play-off places at this early stage of the season.

Boss David Howell told The Herts Advertiser: “We have been training, and have had four sessions since the St Neots game, as well as two reserve matches in which some of the first team lads have played in.

“I had them in on Saturday as we didn’t have a game so did some work with them.”

The break has given Howell and his players an opportunity to reflect on that group of matches and look ahead to the next busy schedule.

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Howell has been left frustrated at not having a settled back line so far this season.

James Gray, Danny Gordon, Curtis Ujah and Moussa Diarra in various combinations have played in central defence with injury, suspension and unavailability robbing Howell the chance of a stable central defensive pairing.

“During the run of five consecutive wins the defence was good whichever combination I used,” he said.

“We’ve not managed to have a settled back four, the recent games have seen them make uncharacteristic mistakes.

“The squad is down to 15 or 16 players now and we have a couple of reserve lads that I may start to integrate as well as the youth team players.”

Totton on Saturday and then another trip on the road this time to Redditch United on Tuesday night will provide stiff tests for The Saints.

“We go into this next round of matches with two difficult away games.

“If Totton [17th in the table but with games in hand] won all their games in hand they would be not too far behind us and Redditch are a side who we have had close encounters with.

“They are matches we have to be prepared for.

“The Redditch game will be a midweek trek with traffic and other factors to contend with but we have talked about all of that.

“We of course hope to get as many points as we can from those games.”

Looking at the standings so far, in which Hemel Hempstead are top with Leamington in second, Howell does not see any one side pulling away from the rest of the pack at the moment, as Brackley Town managed to do last season.

“There’s nobody in the league at this time that looks like they will be able to do what Brackley did, everyone kept expecting them to stutter, but they just kept on going.”

Howell knows his side must get back on a winning streak as they did in September as they won five matches on the bounce.

He added: “It’s important we get consistency going as soon as possible.”

For Saturday’s game Howell will be without the unavailable Chris Henry and long term absentee Gareth Risbridger.