St Albans City hungry to emulate FA Trophy success of Hornchurch

Michael Johnson of St Albans City covers his near post

The success of Concord Rangers and Hornchurch in the FA Trophy is inspiring according to St Albans City's Michael Johnson. - Credit: DANNY LOO

When first Concord Rangers and then Hornchurch reached the FA Trophy final at Wembley, there was a pair of envious eyes watching from St Albans wondering why on earth it wasn't them.

Concord lost by a solitary goal to Harrogate Town in the delayed 2020 final before Hornchurch, a step three club from one level below St Albans City, went on to shock Hereford in the 2021 game.

And Saints keeper Michael Johnson believes his club is more than capable of matching those feats and bringing success to Clarence Park.

He said: "I’m more driven after missing out on the [FA Cup game with Bishop’s Stortford that was on TV] through injury that it makes me want success even more, whether it is the FA Cup or the FA Trophy.

"I’m not fussed either, I want to go far in both of them, I want to get to Wembley and why not? You’ve got to believe, haven’t you?"

Michael Johnson of St Albans City FC

Michael Johnson is confident St Albans City can repeat their miserly form and clean sheets of last season. - Credit: DANNY LOO

But while celebrations beneath the Wembley arch are firmly on the radar, it is promotion from the National League South that remains the club's main goal.

Before the season was finally curtailed last year, Saints had lost just once in 15 games and were firmly among the favourites battling for the title.

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And Johnson is more than confident that City can replicate that form and challenge again, despite the increased expectations.

"There is no pressure in football," said the 27-year-old. "You are doing what you love and people pay good money that they work hard to earn, just to watch us because it is enjoyable. 

"They want to see players enjoying themselves and expressing themselves so for me there is no pressure. 

"We’ll pick up from last year, I’ve no doubts about that. 

"I’m sure the league will be tougher. Teams will take stock of what happened and the big boys have made their squads stronger but that will not faze us. 

"We’ll do what we did for the majority of last year and see if they want to match it."

The former Hitchin Town stopper has played his part too, with only 10 goals conceded in those 15 league games last year, although he would be happier being an under-used spectator.

He said: "Since I’ve come here I think our main positive is that we don’t concede many goals. 

"It is looking to be the same again. It looks like everyone is going to pick up defensively from where they were last year. 

"And that’s not just the defenders either, it’s Shaun [Jeffers] up top, Mitch, everyone. It’s from front to back and everybody contributes. 

"To me it doesn’t matter if I'm massively busy. Pre-season has been about getting minutes into the legs and getting into scenarios I’ve not been in for a few months. 

"We shut down early last year and I felt like it was a whole new world [in the first couple of games], like I’d never seen the game before. 

"Being busy is great, it gives you the headlines and makes you look good, but when you are not busy it is all about the mental side, staying switched on, concentrating and talking. 

"That is more important than making flash saves every week."