Weather the winner as City settle for point

St Albans City 0 Basingstoke Town 0

A DELUGE meant that St Albans City’s first home Blue Square Bet South game of the new campaign was anything but plain sailing.

The threatening clouds started to accumulate around Clarence Park prior to kick off and the game was only a matter of minutes old when the heavens opened. The torrential rain lasted for a good 10 minutes and at one point made visibility from one side of the pitch to the other difficult.

The Saints would have been keen to demonstrate some of the free flowing football that was on show at Thurrock on Saturday but the weather made sure the only thing flowing freely was the rainwater. Credit should go to referee Neil Hair who controlled the game well and took the conditions into account. On a night when it was easy for players to lose their footing and slide in the referee could have been the game’s central figure. As it was you hardly noticed him – just how it should be.

City started and finished the game the stronger but they just lacked a bit of quality in the final third while Basingstoke, despite enjoying the better of the possession for the middle hour, were restricted to long range pot shots at Paul Bastock’s goal.

The City stopper was making his 200th league appearance for the club and a clean sheet was a nice way to celebrate the milestone.

Steve Castle opted to stay with the same starting XI as Saturday, but welcomed Ryan Frater back to the bench alongside new signing Adam Martin.

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The home side came racing out of the blocks, taking advantage of the open nature of the game’s early moments.

Inih Effiong continued where he left off on Saturday with a surging run at the Basingstoke defence before slipping the ball to Hassan Sulaiman. The winger’s cross was cleared by the visiting defence but only as far as Rob Magwood whose drive was deflected to James Fisher, but the City skipper’s header was saved by Chris Tardif.

The City defence was disappointed by the nature of the goals they conceded against Thurrock and were determined to put that right against Basingstoke. Town’s New Zealand born striker Glen Draper threatened to break the deadlock when he got in behind the City defence but Ben Martin raced back and dispossessed the striker just as he was pulling the trigger.

With the rain now thrashing down Basingstoke took the upper hand. Bastock did well to push out Matt Warner’s well struck free kick and the Town midfielder also had an effort from distance that drifted past the post.

A marauding run from David Deeney nearly reaped rewards for City as the full-back picked out Drew Roberts, but the striker slipped and his effort was deflected behind.

From the resulting corner Pete Smith picked out Ben Martin but his header crashed off the post. The defender’s miss mattered little though as referee Hair awarded a free kick for a foul on the goalkeeper.

There were a nervy few minutes for City just prior to half-time as Basingstoke went in search of the opener. First Draper got away a shot that Bastock saw late but did well to keep out and then with the ball bouncing around in the box, the visitors felt they had a good shout for a penalty for handball but the referee wasn’t interested.

The second half started slowly and chances were at a premium. Effiong wriggled free down the right and picked out Sulaiman at the far post but the winger lifted his shot over the bar.

Warner looked the most likely scorer for the visitors with another drilled effort flying past the post but it was City who carved out the best chance of the night.

A long ball down the right touchline wasn’t dealt with by Basingstoke defender Jay Gasson, allowing Roberts to race clear. As the striker got into the box he elected to pass to Effiong instead of shooting but his pass went behind Effiong making it hard for the young frontman to get any power or accuracy behind his shot.

The Saints were indebted to Smith on two occasions as the left-back came across to remove the danger with Basingstoke threatening to get shots away. The City defender was also playing his part at the other end picking out Leon Simpson from a corner, but the striker headed well over.

City ended the game in the ascendancy with a series of corners threatening to produce what surely would have been a winner.

First Everitt saw his goalbound header deflected over and from the following corner a spell of pinball saw the ball fail to fall kindly to a City man.

As it was a draw was probably a fair reflection on a night when the weather killed any hopes of entertaining football.

Man of the Match: Pete Smith

St Albans City: Bastock; Deeney, B Martin, Everitt, Smith; Sulaiman, Fisher (A Martin), Magwood, R Martin (Sullivan); Roberts, Effiong (Simpson)

Subs not used: Peters, Frater.

Basingstoke Town: Tardif; Rice, Adams, Gasson, Finlay; Pattison, Laidler, Williamson, Warner; Draper, Pratt (Downes).

Subs not used: Hankin, Smart, Lake, Ogunbote.

Referee: Neil Hair (Peterborough, Cambs)

Att: 311