St Albans City provide late drama to gain point against Oxford City

Sam Merson got the Saints' late equaliser. Picture: BOB WALKLEY

Sam Merson got the Saints' late equaliser. Picture: BOB WALKLEY - Credit: Archant

St Albans City scored a late equaliser to claim a 1-1 draw in what turned into a highly-entertaining National League South match against Oxford City at Clarence Park.

Saints laid siege in the second half, creating plenty of chances, and had it not been for a lacklustre first half they would have taken all three points.

Sam Merson got the goal three minutes from time to spark rapturous scenes and there were still chances to win it after that.

Oxford looked leggy late on after their FA Cup exploits at Notts County on Saturday and their midweek win against Truro City.

Depending on your point of view though, this could have been seen as two points dropped rather than one gained.

St Albans were lacking energy and forward movement in the first period, with possession lost all too often and players too static when City attack, and it was all a little too easy for Oxford.

They managed to turn the Saints defence on a number of occasions and it was no surprise when they took the lead.

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A ball forward to Matt Patterson saw him turn Percy Kiangebeni far too easily and lay it across to strike partner Sinclair who passed it into the back of the net.

They had one other chance which they should have scored from.

This time it was Zac McEachran who got in behind the City defence.

He took it one way, then another, eventually getting the better of Dean Snedker and when he pulled it across to Patterson, the number nine had an open goal.

Somehow Saints got a foot in and cleared.

It was only in the last 15 minutes of the half that the host pressed.

Zane Baton did well to pull away from his marker at the back post and get his head to a deep cross from Rhys Murrell-Williamson.

However, it was at a nice height for Jack Stevens and the keeper made a good if comfortable save.

He was beaten shortly after when Tom Bender’s cross almost found the top corner and the Oxford keeper had to adjust his feet quickly when another Bender cross was deflected by Godfrey Poku towards goal.

Saints slowly grew into the second half as they pushed for any glimmer of hope.

Both early chances came from City winning the ball high up the pitch.

Kieran Monlouis put the first cross in, just ahead of Sam Merson, while the second saw Bender centre if for the front man.

His challenge with Stevens let the ball ran loose but Ben Herd, arriving from right-back, could only steer it wide.

Oxford dropped deeper and deeper, two substitutions on the hour leaving them with just one up top.

It invited St Albans on, an invitation they took, throwing Charlie Walker on for David Noble.

Merson had a glorious chance on 73 minutes.

He did unbelievably well to craft the chance, flicking it over the defenders when a long cross from Bender had worked its way through to him.

However, from 12 yards he could only tamely poke it at Stevens.

There were further chances as Murrell-Williamson and Kiangebeni got into great positions on the byline but both times the Saints men failed to deliver even a half-decent cross.

Merson’s goal was not the final act as Walker’s lob was just clawed away by Stevens and Murrell-Williamson fired inches wide.

That grandstand finish though should hopefully boost confidence for both players and supporters ahead of FA Trophy trip to Whitehawk.

City: Snedker. Herd, Bender, Noble (Walker 64), Kiangebeni, Moore-Azille, Murrell-Williamson, Sambou, Merson, Monlouis, Banton (Pinney 88)

Subs (not used): Eadie, Joseph, Allinson-Stalham

Goals: Merson 87

Oxford: Stevens, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Godwin-Malife 62), Pearce, Poku, Navarro, Oastler, McEachran, Fofana, Patterson (Forde 79), Sinclair (Jones 61), Fleet

Subs (not used): Hirst, Tutton

Goals: Sinclair 20

HT: St Albans City 0 Oxford City 1

Attendance: 506

Referee: Lloyd Wood