Despite conceding two or more goals for a seventh successive match, St Albans City battled back from twice being behind to Jack Pearceâ€™s enterprising Bognor Regis Town side on Saturday to salvage a much needed Ryman League point at a bitterly cold Clarence Park.
Ben Cogger in action
In avoiding a home defeat for the first time since Christmas the Saints showed commendable spirit even if their second half performance was little more than an endless stream of long punts down the pitch. The most frustrating part of St Albans second half showing is that during the opening 45 minutes they matched Bognor when keeping the ball on the ground and playing some neat football in all areas of the pitch.
That criticism aside, this was still a welcome improvement on previous home performances since Steve Castle took the reins four months ago.
As has been their wont lately, City started well although their early efforts were well off target. All that nearly changed on 15 minutes when the improving and promising Lee Clarke broke down the right and pulled the ball back to Gary Wraight whose toe-poked shot rolled just wide. An excellent chance went begging when Harry Willis smartly brought down Michael Shinnâ€™s fine through ball only to shoot tamely through to keeper Craig Stoner.
Although City were holding their own Bognor possessed the greater attacking threat and but for two athletic and spectacular touches over the bar by the full stretch George Clark from Rupert Sansom and the outstanding Rob Collins the Saints would have been in serious trouble. But the Rocks were not to be denied for long and on 34 minutes Collins ran across three City defenders before drilling a powerful right-footed drive low inside Clarkâ€™s left hand post.
City took just six minutes to draw level with a fine opportunist goal by the popular Miguel De Souza who just beat the advancing Stoner to the debut making Dave Sargentâ€™s long ball before tapping it past the keeper and then running on to tuck it into the Hatfield Road goal.
Playing into the winter breeze after the interval City almost notched an amazing goal when a Bognor clearance fell to Wraight some 45 yards from goal, with Stoner well off his line the midfielder tried his luck and was only a matter of feet wide of the target. But it was Bognor who struck for a second time on 51 minutes when Collins set up the long serving Michael Birmingham for a crisp and well placed angled drive high to Clarkâ€™s right.
Five minutes later Clark saved well as Brett Poate broke free and for a while the Rocks, in front of the smallest ever attendance for a league match between the two clubs, looked to be heading for their first win at the Park for 13 years as City struggled to string two passes together. Clarke went close midway through the half but there were just seven minutes remaining when City clinched their 13th point in 16 Ryman League matches under Castle.
Sargentâ€™s cross into the goalmouth from the left eluded the anonymous Harry Willis but was seized upon by Wraight who, with the aid of a deflection, hammered home his 12th goal in 101 games for the Saints.
Report by Dave Tavener