Saints squander two-goal lead against Arlesey
Visitors come from behind to steal a point
Southern Premier Division
St Albans City 2 Arlesey Town 2
IT was a case of two points dropped for St Albans City on Saturday as Arlesey Town came from two goals down to snatch a point at Clarence Park.
The Saints had looked in total control for the opening hour of the game but goals from Chris Dillon and Chris Marsh in a calamitous two-minute spell swung the momentum in favour of the Blues forcing City, who later had Ryan Watts sent off, to hang on for a point.
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It was a bitter pill to swallow for a Saints side low on confidence and in desperate need of three points, an outcome they looked well set to achieve at half-time.
City set about stamping their authority on the game from the off, something Barrie Matthews took too literally, earning a yellow card from referee Nick Cooper after just 20 seconds.
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Saint skipper David Ijaha was the first to test visiting goalkeeper Mark Osborn with a stinging drive from 20 yards that the Arlesey stopper tipped over the bar.
The Arlesey ‘keeper came through that test with flying colours but he was seriously at fault when City took the lead on 18 minutes.
A visiting defence that included former Saints Derek Brown and Ryan Frater had struggled to deal with the aerial threat of Rob Haworth for most of the game and it came as no surprise that the City forward was involved when the goal came.
Reece Yorke’s free kick from out on the right close to the halfway line was drilled towards Haworth who rose alongside Osborn and flicked the ball past the ‘keeper and into the net.
That was the striker’s fifth goal of the season for City and number six should have followed moments later. A City corner wasn’t effectively cleared by the Arlesey defence and when Ryan Moran swung the ball over from the left wing Haworth found himself unmarked and just six yards from goal. In the striker’s defence he had to stretch to make contact with the ball but the experienced front man will have been disappointed to see his effort screw wide of the target without forcing Osborn to work.
The ‘keeper was soon fishing the ball out of the back of his net for a second time though as the Saints turned their dominance into a two-goal advantage. Captain Ijaha, possibly enjoying his best display in a City shirt, seized possession in midfield before sending Danny Hart racing down the right wing. The former Barnet man stayed composed, looked up and fed Jerome Walker who beat Osborn from six yards out with 31 minutes played.
The game’s defining moment came just three minutes later as Haworth limped out of the action. The striker’s withdrawal released the pressure on the visiting defence slowly allowing Zema Abbey’s side to enjoy some pressure of their own.
The warning signs were there for City with Dillon firing over the bar and seeing a second shot blocked by Moran.
Deeney came close to marking his return to Clarence Park with a goal but fired over the bar and Lee Allinson forced Nick Jupp into a good two-handed save from a free kick.
A Moran header, from Sean Shields’ corner, nearly resulted in goal number three for the home side but Osborn did well to claw the ball away to safety.
That save proved crucial as 10 minutes later Arlesey restored parity following a calamitous two-minute spell for City.
The first goal came just after City had brought on left-back Kosi Nthle for his debut. The visitors took advantage of the City back line still organising themselves with Stuart Sinclair firing the ball into the near post where Dillon nipped in to nick the ball past Moran and Jupp and into the net.
The goal gave Arlesey confidence and less than 60 seconds later they were level. Substitute Jordan Patrick ghosted into the box unmarked and crossed for Marsh who made no mistake from six yards.
City were visibly rocking after that setback and Watts’ dismissal for an alleged kick on Cameron Mawer off the ball – which only the assistant referee on the far side saw – only made the situation more precarious.
Thankfully for the home side they were able to hold on for a point but they’ll be kicking themselves that they didn’t take all three.
City: Jupp; Yorke, Cutchey, Moran, Watts; Hart (Sol Shields 63), Ijaha �, Matthews, Sean Shields; Haworth (Bent 35 (Nthle 70)), Walker.
Subs not used: Ehui, Haisley.
Arlesey Town: Osborn; Mawer, Frater, Brown �, Bufano (Goss 63); Allinson (D Sinclair 70), Deeney, S Sinclair; Dillon, Fenemore (Patrick 70), Marsh.
Subs not used: McGovern, Toomey.
Referee: Nick Cooper (Ipswich)