Harpenden man denies St Albans City in Hertfordshire derby with Hemel Hempstead Town
- Credit: JIM STANDEN
It was left to a man from Harpenden to play party-pooper as St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead Town played out a hard-fought derby draw.
Saints had got their noses in front at Clarence Park with a second-half header from Solomon Nwabuokei but with 19 minutes to go, former Sir John Lawes pupil JJ Lacey was given the chance to equalise from the penalty spot, and he beat Michael Johnson to leave the National League South game finished at 1-1.
Eastbourne Borough's win at home to Billericay Town means Saints drop down to fifth in the table, seven points behind leaders Dorking Wanderers but with three games in hand.
It was a typically feisty clash between the rivals from either side of the M1 which burst into life early.
Less than 60 seconds had been played when first Shaun Jeffers was denied by a brave last-gasp block and then immediately at the other end, Chris Paul poked wide when it looked easier to hit the target.
It set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Jeffers had a couple of more efforts before half-time. A header from a Zane Banton corner was cleared off the line and he poked a Munashe Sundire delivery inches over the top with a second touch.
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At the other end ex-AFC Dunstable striker BJ Christie was proving a thorn in the City side and he had an effort saved by Johnson low to his right before drilled a low ball across the six-yard area that beat Johnson but also the onrushing attackers and far post.
Saints started the second period brightly and it led to the opening goal on 58 minutes, Nwabuokei nodding Banton’s corner from the left into the far corner.
But the lead lasted a little over 10 minutes. Joy Mukena handled and Lacey, signed from Leverstock Green, confidently dispatched the spot-kick.
Both sides had chances to win it in the final stages.
Johnson pulled off a great save to deny a Paul free-kick while at the other end Mitchell Weiss went close to scoring against his former club but Nick Hayes made the save.
The final opening went to the home side but despite being in space Jeffers found the goalkeeper in the right place and the rebound was hacked clear.