Saints secure play-off place with draw at Frome

Steve Wales looking for a way through a crowded 18 yard box. Picture: Leigh Page

Steve Wales looking for a way through a crowded 18 yard box. Picture: Leigh Page - Credit: Archant

St Albans secured a place in Wednesday’s play-off semi-final with a tight, but at times, rather drab 0-0 draw with Frome Town on Saturday afternoon.

The Saints went into the game on the back of two consecutive league wins, and knew that a single point would be enough to extend their season.

However, when arriving in Somerset, it soon became clear that the Saints would not only have to take on Frome, but also the Great British weather. Heavy showers blown through by a very gusty breeze combined to make the playing surface difficult, and any attempt to play the long fruitless at best.

The hosts, who were looking to finish in the top half of the table, could have taken an early lead with just a minute on the clock, when a free-kick into the St Albans area wasn’t cleared, and Jack Vallis’ header came crashing off of the post before being eventually hacked away. It was the closest either side came all afternoon.

Frome had the best of the opening exchanges, and with quarter of an hour gone, came close again, but Jon Vance’s powerful strike flies just wide of the mark.

The Saints, meanwhile, struggled to get a foot hold on the game, and it took until the 22nd minute for their first real threatening attack of the game to develop. Lee Chappell, winner of the supporter’s player of the season award last weekend, ran into the area and delivered a well struck low cross which flew across the face of goal and out for a throw-in.

Ricky Hulbert and Matt Smith were next to try and find the target for Frome, but both attempts saw the ball caught in the wind and fail to threaten Bastock’s goal.

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St Albans won a corner in 35th minute, and it looked as if they had taken the lead when Ram Marwa headed home Chappell’s delivery. However, the referee immediately ruled the goal out after he deemed that Marwa had pushed the Frome defender.

With the game entering stoppage time before the interval, Comley was brought down 25 yards out, but Chappell’s resulting free-kick was easily saved down low to his left by goalkeeper Darren Chitty.

City came out after the break looking to take a hold of the game, and had two good chances within a minute of each other, when Comley played the ball to Corcoran, who took a touch before unleashing a strike which was cleared off of the line for a corner. The resulting set-piece fell to a St Albans head, but once again, a Frome town defender was in the right place at the right time to prevent the guests going in front.

On the hour mark came an altercation involving the majority of players from both sides after Ben Martin had been brought down by Ben Thomson. After referee Savvas Yianni had broken up the two groups, he gave Thomson his marching orders, while Martin only received a yellow card.

Bastock was forced into an important save in the 69th minute, as Ben Wood found space in the box before unleashing a powerful effort which the goalkeeper did well to palm away.

As the final 15 minutes approached, clearly with one eyes on the semi-final, Gray and Golds replaced Frendo with Warren Whitely, but the substitution struggled to have any effect on the game.

The Robins’ best spell of the match came in the final quarter of an hour, but a succession of set-pieces from Rhys Baggridge failed to threaten a Saints defence who have now kept three clean-sheets on the bounce.

Neither team showed real desire to go forward and snatch a winner as the game entered its final stages, and as the full time whistle went, attention turned to results elsewhere.

With Stourbridge only managing to draw with City’s neighbors Hitchin, it meant that the Saints held onto fourth place, and will now face Cambridge City in the semi-final on Wednesday evening.

Kick-off at Histon’s Bridge Road Stadium is 7.45pm.

Frome Town line-up: Chitty; Ford; Cooper; Baggridge; Vallis; Vance; Miller (Groves 5); Smith; Thomson; Hulbert; Wood. Subs: Stephenson; Armstrong; Mundy.

St Albans line-up: Bastock; Gilbert; Chappell; Marwa; Martin; Locke; Wales (Watters 79); Comley; Frendo (Whitely 74); Sykes; Corcoran. Subs: Henry; Ward; Green.

Referee: Savvas Yianni (Weston Super Mare)

Attendance: 352