Awful second half from St Albans City leaves them hanging on to a point with Hungerford
- Credit: Archant
It was a match they needed to win by hook or by crook but a shambolic second half saw St Albans City surrender a half-time lead and end up with a 2-2 draw with Hungerford Town.
On a day where 40-year-old Aaron Wilbraham had scored Rochdale's equaliser in the 1-1 FA Cup draw with Newcastle United, it was apt that 41-year-old Jefferson Louis was the star for Saints.
Making his first start for the club he bagged two wonderful first-half goals to give his side the impetus in the must-win National League South clash.
But all that momentum disappeared after the break and the side who started the day bottom of the table thoroughly deserved their point and probably should have took all three.
It is a point that does little for either team at the minute and sees both occupying the relegation spots at the end of the day.
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But questions will need to be asked of St Albans, especially with their performance after the break.
Yes, they can say injuries and reshuffles played their part in the downfall but in truth even when they were trailing 2-1, it was Hungerford who looked the more likely to win.
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It had been a tentative start from both sides with only a Joe Iaciofano effort to note.
That was a typical effort from the top scorer, sniffing in the box and jumping immediately on a sliced clearance by the Hungerford defence. His flick was close to the keeper and it bounced off Adam Sivitier and away from danger.
The goal and the broken stalemate therefore came as a relief to most supporters inside Clarence Park.
Zane Banton had slalomed across the area before the ball was fed to the right. The cross when it came in wasn't controlled but Louis pounced and with wonderful technique sent it arrowing inside the keeper's near post.
His second was very similar and was hit with yet more precision that the keeper didn't move.
In between that though St Albans were indebted to Dean Snedker for keeping them in front.
His distribution may have been suspect at times in the first-half but his stop from a Liam Ferdinand header was superb, tipping the header after an excellent Joe Tomlinson cross from the right over the top.
The keeper also kept the two-goal lead intact right on half-time as he palmed a long-range shot from Jose Da Silva behind.
Ferdinand was Hungerford's main threat and he pulled two shots across goal and wide as the Crusaders looked to get back into things.
Saints had to make a switch at half-time as Munashe Sundire succumbed to an injury just before the break and he was replaced by Sprague.
That change took its toll on the home side who struggled to find any rhythm in the early stages of the second period.
And after Taofiq Olomowewe had glanced a header inches wide Hungerford got the goal their bright start had threatened.
It was another goal where a deflection favoured the attacking player, this time the ball was stroked home from the edge of the box by Ralph Graham, the side-foot shot beating Snedker at his near post.
As if to compound the problems the hosts had in getting back on the front foot they were forced into a second change when David Noble limped out of the action to be replaced by James Kaloczi.
Ferdinand almost got in again after robbing Tom Bender but Saints' longest-serving current player raced back well to block the shot.
That became a theme late on and the now-skipper made two superb blocks in the space of a minute to keep the score the same.
Manager Ian Allison responded to the Saints problems of holding the ball up by removing Iaciofano and bringing on Taylor Miles in their final change.
But it had no effect bar two chances for Louis to clinch a hat-trick, the first fired over after the keeper had lost it on a charge out of his box and the second saved when it seemed odds on for the striker.
And as he had in the first Snedker was the hero with a double save of the highest quality.
He got down low to palm out a Matt Jones effort from outside the box and then recovered while on the ground to push the rebound round the post.
But Hungerford still pressed and finally got their just rewards with an equaliser as the clock moved into stoppage time.
Tomlinson was credited with it after a scramble in the box, although Conor Lynch may have got the final touch, but if you thought that the Crusaders would take that, you'd have been wrong as they almost snatched a winner.
They won the ball back in a 50-50 with Snedker inside the box and when the ball ran loose Ferdinand hit it goalwards.
Fortunately the outside of the post prevented even more strife for Saints.
St Albans City: Snedker, Fielding, Clark, Longe-King, Bender, Nwabuokei, Noble (Kaloczi 61), Sundire (Sprague 46), Banton, Louis, Iaciofano (Miles 69).
Subs (not used): Diedhiou, Merson.
Goals: Louis 22, 39
Booked: Longe-King 82, Sprague 90+3
Hungerford Town: Sivitier, Tomlinson, Smith, Olomowewe, Rusby, Mike Jones, Ferdinand, Matt Jones, Graham (Akers 82), Jarra (Webb 30), Da Silva (Lynch 67).
Subs (not used): Johnson-Schuster, Rees.
Goals: Graham 57, Tomlinson 90+1
HT: St Albans City 1 Hungerford Town 0
Referee: Matty Bounassisi (Northampton)