Three red cards highlight dramatic draw with Bideford

In a game where they had two players sent off in the first half, St Albans City were unlucky not to steal all three points off Bideford at Clarence Park.

John Frendo cancelled out Sean Downing’s opener before becoming the second City player to see red, following James Comley to the dressing room.

Facing 50 minutes with nine men, City put in a titanic defensive effort to keep Bideford out. And in the last 10 minutes, Nick Milton was sent off to slightly address the imbalance in numbers. And Chris Henry, introduced late, came close to winning the game but it ended 1-1.

The game marked Paul Bastock’s 300th appearance and the club made a presentation before the game. Saints didn’t shake niceties early and Bideford capitalised.

Matt Bye curled an early free-kick towards the back post, it was headed back across goal for Stephen Reed to test Bastock. His shot was blocked, as was the next shot, before City cleared their lines.

It was only a minor respite as Bideford came straight back and scored. The visitors capitalised on sloppy defending and Sean Deering rolled the ball into the net.

John Frendo had Saints’ first chance and it was engineered by Lee Chappell. The left back swung in a teasing cross for the front man but he couldn’t bring the ball under control and the chance went begging.

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City’s positive response continued with James Comley bursting forward but, after turning the defenders, his shot was scuffed wide. Chappell was next to have a go as his driven cross took a wicked deflection and just missed the top corner of Steve Oliver’s goal.

City’s pressure told and they hauled themselves back into the game via Frendo’s left foot in the 19th minute. Chappell’s long throw into the box saw Bye cautioned for a foul, a penalty awarded and the Saints’ top scorer beat to goalkeeper to his right.

The hosts continued to push forward and from one corner Comley picked out Ward who headed just wide. Martin then had a header cleared off the line.

City’s attacking impetus then took a hit as the referee sent off Comley for a second yellow card, which soft at best and farcical at worst, with 10 minutes of the first half remaining.

The game took another twist five minutes later as Frendo became the second City player to receive his marching orders in the first half.

With nine men City were on the back foot but still they defended valiantly, led by Bastock who made three fantastic saves to keep the scores level.

Considering the circumstances, City did well to get into the half time break at one-all.

After the break City were on the back foot with a two-man disadvantage but, following Bastock’s save from Richard Groves, James Kaloczi had the first real chance of the half. Mark Nwokeji cut the ball back from the touchline but the teenager curled his shot beyond the far post.

Despite being two men down, City crafted the better of the chances as Bideford, seemingly, didn’t know how to take advantage of their extra numbers. The opportunities they did craft, and there weren’t many, were rarely on target.

The game took another turn in 10 minutes left when the visitors’ Nick Milton was shown a straight red for a last-man challenge on substitute Chris Henry, who had two chances to win the game but both went begging.

St Albans City starting line-up: Paul Bastock; Kerrea Gilbert; Lee Chappell; Ram Marwa; Tom Ward; Ben Martin (capt); James Kaloczi; James Comley; John Frendo; Mark Nwokeji; Jamal Lowe. Subs: Chris Henry; Peter Dean; Matt Taylor; Howard Hall; Richard Graham.

Bideford starting line-up: Steve Oliver; Nick Milton; Nick Barker; Sean Downing; Rob Farkins (capt); Ben Gerring; Richard Groves; Matt Bye; Owen Howe; Daniel Sullivan; Stephen Reed. Subs: Graham Mercieca; Kevin Squire; Ethan Phillips.