St Albans City boss Howell issues rallying call

ST Albans City boss David Howell has called on the club’s supporters to get behind his team after Barry Hayles plundered an 88th-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw at home to Bedford Town on Tuesday night.

The Saints, who were installed as one of the favourites for promotion at the start of the season, have slipped out of the play-off positions after a poor run that has seen them record just one win in their last six league games.

There were murmurs of discontent among the crowd at Clarence Park on Tuesday after their failure to net the three points, but boss Howell has called on fans to keep the faith and back the players out on the pitch.

“On the back of the Weymouth performance and result; we should have beaten Weymouth and [secured] three points, and another game we should have won was Barwell here, and we threw it away in the last minute, so I can understand their disappointment and frustrations.

“No league is won in November, nothing is decided in November. As you know from last year, we’re in a much better position than we were last year and we finished eighth then.

“People also keep telling me to believe and ‘we believe we can do it’ and ‘we’re backing you’ and that’s what the players need, and that’s what the club needs to understand will help everyone achieve the ultimate aim what we all want, which is promotion back to the Conference South.

“It’s going to be a long rocky road, but if we hold strong and keep going we’ve got enough in our squad to achieve that.

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“Yes I know supporters [may] be disappointed. But if we had have won today, it doesn’t mean we would win the league, and if we had lost today it doesn’t mean we would have lost the chance of winning the league.

“Its about getting a consistent run together and holding your nerve. We have got to be in amongst it at Christmas, and then New Year, look turn the screw, and that’s always been my plan, that’s what the squad has been put together to achieve.”

St Albans had a gilt-edged chance to go ahead in the 10th minute against Bedford, but Chris Henry, after working himself into a good position in the box, blasted over the bar.

And they were made to pay for that missed chance four minutes later, albeit in fortuitous circumstances.

Eugene Libertucci strode forward and fired a shot at Nick Jupp’s goal that was going wide. But in a cruel twist of fate for The Saints, the ball ricocheted off the foot of Callum Lewis, wrong-footed Jupp, and looped into the goal.

It wasn’t until the 62nd minute that St Albans managed to draw level, and it was Henry who made amends for a number of good chances wasted.

Picking up the ball from Sean Shields, Henry kept close control of the ball, cut inside from the right before curling a beautiful effort past Ian Brown in the Bedford goal.

The visitors re-took the lead in the 75th minute when a Michael Built shot was cleared out only as far as Lewis, and the midfielder floated an effort neatly inside Jupp’s left-hand post.

Howell decided on a triple substitution with only six minutes of normal time left, replacing Tremayne Charles, Simon Martin and Micah Hyde with Barry Hayles, Juan Onieva and Matt Taylor.

And the decision paid off, when a Shields corner wasn’t cleared, and Hayles used his predatory instincts to slam the ball home from eight yards, off the post.

A minute prior to that equaliser, Saints’ midfielder David Ijaha was unlucky to see a header come back off the post as his side fought desperately to get back in the game.

In added-on time St Albans came close to snatching an unlikely win when Hayles showed good skill to get to the byline and drilled a dangerous ball across the Bedford goaline.

But unfortunately for the hosts, no Saints player had gambled, and the ball was eventually cleared.

In the end a draw was probably a fair result, and boss Howell was left pleased with the character and fight of his team, although disappointed that the win eluded his side.

“At half-time and 1-0 down, they [St Albans players] couldn’t believe the [Bedford] goal,” he said.

“We had to pick up and go again. We come back to 1-1 and then we gave another soft goal away.

“I think it was a testament of character not only that we came back to get a point, but that we’re disappointed that we didn’t actually win it.

“The lads showed what I asked for, the character that I asked for tonight.”