St Albans City unbeaten in eight

ST Albans City’s 1-1 draw with relegation-threatened Banbury United on Saturday stretched their unbeaten run to eight games, but their failure to claim all three points leaves their play-off hopes hanging by a thread.

City were in danger of coming away empty-handed from the contest after falling behind to Ricky Johnson’s second-half penalty, but Howard Newton’s well-taken goal earned The Saints a share of the spoils.

Picking up from where they left off against Bashley last weekend, City seized control of the first half, with Sakho Bakare influential throughout. The French forward demonstrated both the sublime and the ridiculous as he rattled the crossbar with an acrobatic overhead kick minutes after inexplicably firing over an open goal from inside the six-yard box.

The lively Simeon Williams tested City stopper Nick Jupp twice before the break, but Danny Hart and Bakare were guilty of squandering chances when through on goal as City failed to capitalise on their dominance.

It was a similar story after the interval, as Newton poked the ball wide of an unguarded Hatfield Road goal after Bakare had beaten Banbury stopper Andy Kemp to James Comley’s long pass down the right flank.

The visitors’ somewhat awkward playing style had begun to make life difficult of the Saints though, and The Puritans were presented with an opportunity to take the lead when Jupp fouled ex-Peterborough forward Howard Forinton as they competed over a loose ball in the penalty area.

After Jupp had been booked by Darren Stobbart, Johnson firmly placed the penalty low to the keeper’s left.

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With their play-off chances quickly diminishing, the Saints had to recover swiftly and a well-worked goal brought them level within 10 minutes. David Ijaha – a formidable presence in midfield once again – won the ball in his own half and exchanged passes with Bakare before swinging in a cross from the right.

The ball fell to the feet of Newton who made no mistake this time, neatly placing the ball beyond Kemp’s reach.

The goal should have given St Albans the impetus to go on and win the game, but it was The Puritans who had the best chance to take all three points late on.

Williams’ cross from the right evaded the reach of Jupp, cannoned off the far post and fell to the feet of Forinton.

Only a determined block from James Gray prevented the 36-year-old from giving his side a valuable three points in their fight against relegation.

The result leaves City six points adrift of the top five and manager David Howell will ultimately see this as two points lost rather than one gained in his side’s bid to return to the Conference South at the first time of asking.

St Albans are back in action on Tuesday night as they host Stourbridge at Clarence Park.