Summer signing Louie Theophanous came to the rescue of St Albans City once more on Saturday, as the Saints battled back to salvage a National League South point in a 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Hayes & Yeading United at a warm and sunny Clarence Park.
Louie Theophanous scores the equaliser.
Cityâ€™s joint-manager James Gray felt that his side deserved no more than a point but rather than dwell too long on another disappointing performance pushed forward the point that City have lost just once in five games and are showing signs of recovering from their poor start to the campaign.
Certainly there were moments that offered encouragement but over the full 90 minutes this was not a display that suggested St Albans are likely to rise far above the position of 17th that they held prior to kick off.
Gray expressed concern that Theophanous remains the only player scoring on a regular basis; a fact borne out by the striker having scored seven of the Saints 11 goals in a dozen league and cup ties this season.
That statistic was seldom under threat against Tristan Lewisâ€™ side as Theophanous had two of Cityâ€™s four on-target efforts, and the other two barely reached the â€˜keeper.
St Albans made one change from the side that defeated Basingstoke the previous Monday with new signing Billy Gibson replacing Jack Green, who was side-lined by a knee injury.
Midfielder Gibson, 25 at the end of the month, has played a handful of games for a number of clubs since being released by Watford five years ago.
He appeared in one of Cityâ€™s pre-season friendlies but was clearly unfit, he featured for an hour on Saturday â€“ on the right of the midfield â€“ before making way for Ade Yusuff.
United made four changes from the side beaten 4-0 at Hemel in midweek â€“including a recall for popular former Saint Howard Hall - and will have been pleased with the response after avoiding defeat for only the second time in six away games this season.
Playing down the slope towards the Hatfield Road goal, St Albans could have made a dream start when Lewis Hilliard played a short ball to his left to Kevin Krans.
The Frenchman twisted and turned before picking out Theophanous with a low pass but the Saints top scorer, having just evaded being caught offside, saw his shot from eight yards strike â€˜keeper Dan Lincolnâ€™s right hand and fly wide of the target.
The lively start was maintained with the Dingâ€™s leading marksman, Ismael Ehui, blocking a Ben Martin clearance and racing clear only to be denied by the outstretched right leg of Joe Welch.
Just like the Theophanous chance, as good a save as the keeper made, both opportunities should have resulted in a goal.
Once more the balance swung back in Cityâ€™s favour as James Comley and Theophanous combined to send Hilliard away. Hall excelled to make up lost ground and did enough to put Hilliard off, causing the City player to roll a tame effort through to the keeper.
Given their poor away record, United played with increasing confidence as the half wore on with the strike pair of Ehui and Elliot Benyon â€“ still remembered fondly at the Park for his successful loan spell in the winter of 2006 â€“ causing the Saints several anxious moments.
Ehui and Benyon combined on 17 minutes with the latter firing in a shot on the turn that Welch took cleanly.
Hayes maintained the pressure with Hall winning a heading duel with Hilliard and sending the ball into the penalty area where Brandan Kiernanâ€™s ambitious volley went straight to Welch.
Four minutes from the interval United, whose first half shot count outshone Cityâ€™s by 8-2, scored their first goal in 345 minutes.
Welch hammered the ball long down the pitch and won a corner off the head of Lewis Ferrell, but, not for the first time, United counter-attacked to great effect.
Lee Chappellâ€™s corner on the City left was punched away by Lincoln and played up to Benyon by Ehui. After holding off Gus Sow, Benyon laid the ball back to Hall who cracked an excellent pass from midway inside his own half over a square City defence for Ehui to break away.
Ehui neatly stepped inside City substitute John Kyriacou â€“ on for the injured David Longe-King â€“ and shot right-footed from just inside the penalty area. Welch dived to his left to beat the ball away but only succeeded in putting it straight to the completely unattended Benyon who carefully shot low into the City net.
Having ended the first half looking increasingly devoid of ideas, St Albans began the second period in refreshingly confident and attacking mood.
An early half-chance came the way of James Comley before the Montserrat international sent a cross behind the visitorsâ€™ defence that Martin volleyed high over the goal.
But at last City were now creating chances and four minutes after the restart they were back on level terms with a superbly worked and executed goal.
United looked to catch City on the break once more but Martin intercepted an intended through ball to Ehui and quickly fed Krans.
After controlling the ball with his left foot, Kransâ€™ second touch bisected the United backline and sent Theophanous away â€“ the striker staying onside by the slimmest of margins.
Darting away from static defenders the Croydon-born forward waited for Lincoln to advance from his goalline before clipping a perfectly placed first time shot to the left of the Hayes custodian.
St Albans had chances to secure victory during the remaining time but hardly forced Lincoln into another worthwhile save.
Gray claimed that City were denied two penalties, one of which, for an alleged foul by Max Worsfold on Yusuff, was said to be a cast-iron certainty. Video footage, however, suggests that referee Sam Purkiss did not deserve the criticism that came his way and may well have been correct in dismissing City appeals.
A free-flowing City move saw Sow and Krans work the ball out to the right where Chappell crossed deep to the back post.
Martin cushioned a header to Theophanous whose miscued snap-shot was diverted goalwards by Yusuff, but a relieved Lincoln saved with ease.
Darren Locke was next to blaze off target, following a header by Theophanous, but it was from an unlikely source, skipper Adam Everitt, that United almost regained the lead when the veteran of 92-games for St Albans flashed a fine shot narrowly wide from distance.
City had a couple of late chances to claim a second successive victory, the first of which saw Yusuff wastefully head over after Chappell had curled a precise free kick over the United backline.
And in added time Comley sent a teasing diagonal cross into the box that sailed over substitute Simon Thomas but fell nicely for the incoming Theophanous, whose first touch looked to have set him up for a certain winner, only for Alex Osborn to make a stunning intervention and hook the ball high to safety.
Sandwiched between those efforts Josh Scott went close to snatching victory for the visitors when he met a deep Jake Nicholson corner at the far end of the penalty area and sent a powerful half-volley dipping just over Welchâ€™s goal.
Due to Margate chalking up a second successive win, St Albans slide back to 18th in the table and now have a two-week wait for their next league encounter, as the FA Cup takes centre stage next Saturday, 26th September.