Five talking points from St Albans City's draw with Chippenham Town
PUBLISHED: 07:12 04 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:30 04 August 2019
In a new feature Herts Advertiser's Neil Metcalfe reflects and analyses St Albans City's 0-0 draw with Chippenham Town on the opening day of the National League South season. Paraphrasing the title of an Ian Dury song, this is what he found.
1) Defensively better - They managed 11 clean sheets last year but conceded 64 goals in the league so to get a nil this early on will be a huge positive going forward.
Yes, there were a few shaky moments in the first half, especially with balls swung in from free-kicks or corners, but they rode their luck and came out much stronger after the break.
Ian Allinson revealed at the fans forum on Thursday that it's going to be a back four this year and the centre two, James Kaloczi and David Longe-King, looked a fine partnership.
The rest are all solid no-frills defenders too, something you'll never hear this old centre-half complain about, but all showed a willingness to play out from the back too.
2) Selection dilemma - Quite possibly. Beforehand I thought the selection may be tricky with a number of players competing for certain places until I realized that City were minus five players due to injury, suspension or holidays.
But one of the expected missing quintet, Scott Shulton, was on the bench (although he never got on) and Joe Howe's holiday ended yesterday so both could be back for Tuesday's trip to Dartford.
Allinson admitted the final choice for right back and other places could be difficult and Shulton has proven that his combativity in the middle dovetails beautifully with Taylor Miles' creativity.
It's possible that away from home he may also go with one up top which would mean three in the middle.
So if Shulton is still not 100 per cent does that open the door for David Noble?
And I haven't even got to Tom Bender who returns for Dulwich on Saturday and would have seen Oli Sprague have a decent game. Plenty of things to mull for the manager.
3) Clue to the future - Can you read anything into the game that will help predict Saints' final position this season? Well no, far too early really but the lack of a cutting edge was a worry.
Yes, there are a lot of new faces and there will be the obvious gelling period but Chippenham should be a team that you would expect to beat at home if you fancy yourself as a play-off contender.
However, the flip side to all this is that defensively it was half-decent and this is exactly the type of fixture where Saints would have tripped over their own feet in the last couple of years.
Certainly there's no need to fear a relegation battle just yet, wait until at least the end of this month before deciding whether that could happen, but one thing that does look likely from glancing at the results elsewhere is that this season could be the most open in recent memory.
4) Zzz factor - As opening games go, this one was instantly forgettable. In fact as a game at any time of year it was a snoozefest.
There are reasons for this and there will obviously be ongoing tweaks needed to both formation and instructions given to individual players.
I felt the wingers were coming inside to allow space for the full-backs to overlap. Asked the boss and he said it wasn't the tactic, just their style.
What it meant though was the midfield got crowded and with Chippenham not fancying breaking out too much, especially in the second-half, most attacks floundered.
And that's a shame because this year's crop has tonnes of ability and can open up most defences on their day.
It will get better but wasn't the best advert for the season ahead.
5) The crowd - The official attendance was 549, just 17 shy of the number that saw Saints host Hungerford on the opening day of last season.
Whether that did include all season ticket holders, regardless of attendance, is unsure. I was told that the new system would allow for the club to only include those who cross the threshold.
Either way, after the increase in prices during the off-season and subsequent uproar it was always going to be a point of interest.
Some fans did stay away but the club will no doubt be delighted with the number that did turn up.