A 1-1 draw and share of the Boxing Day spoils was a just outcome at Clarence Park on Monday as St Albans City and Chesham United fought out a highly competitive and entertaining Southern League encounter in front of the Saints highest crowd of the season.
The match fell just short of being a pulsating 90 minutes but even so was open and end-to-end as both sides sought to strengthen their play-off aspirations.
City came into the game on the back of two successive 3-0 wins where as Chesham have wobbled of late and were without a win in four upon their arrival at Clarence Park.
Overcast skies but mild temperatures help draw 606 spectators to the Park and after an opening spell during which the sides battled for supremacy the chances began to flow although two solid defences limited the number of clear cut opportunities.
Inside the opening 18 seconds Simon Martin caused a flutter in the Chesham defence when partially blocking a clearance by goalkeeper Harry Ricketts, the ball was eventually put out for a City throw.
St Albans could well have gone down to ten men as early as the eighth minute when Paul Furlong caught United defender Danny Gudgeon with an elbow long before the duo rose to challenge for a header. The City striker was fortunate not to receive a card of any colour.
The first real opening came midway through the first half when the industrious Ryan Watts won the ball in midfield and exchanged passes with Simon Martin before teeing up Furlong whose low shot was fumbled unconvincingly wide for a corner by Ricketts.
United responded with Danny Talbot, receiving a quickly taken throw, crossing low from the right to Chris Watters who hit his first time shot sweetly but Nick Jupp pulled off a stunning save low to his right.
Although the play was even the Chesham attack was quick and incisive but City defended as well as they have at any time this season with skipper James Gray and a central defensive partner Matt Cutchey in outstanding form.
Gray pulled off one stunning interception in particular while Cutchey made a number of timely interventions and twice went close to scoring at the opposite end of the pitch.
A crazy few seconds on 33 minutes almost resulted in City taking the lead.
Ricketts raced from his penalty area to clear as Furlong burst through and denied the City striker with an impressive slide tackle but his follow up clearance ricocheted off Watts to Danny Hart who cut across Gudgeon and shot over from 23 yards as Mark Lambert and Talbot raced back to cover the vacant goal.
Again the Generals replied swiftly with the impressive Watters beating Michael Harriman and passing to James Potton whose shot struck Cutchey in the face. Leon Archer, part of a Â£15,000 deal that once took him and Watters to St Albans from Boreham Wood, latched onto the rebound but in-keeping with a poor display blazed the ball way off target.
Cutchey remained in the thick of the action with a firm header from a Hart corner that Ricketts did well to cling on to close to goal.
The opening goal finally arrived five minutes from the interval and was a wonderful effort that started on the edge of the home penalty area.
Micah Hyde, a big influence on the recent upturn in Cityâ€™s fortunes, blocked a through ball with Hart immediately playing the loose ball to Ijaha.
The former City captain, in the middle of the home half, sprayed the ball out to the right to Harriman who in turn found Furlong deep inside the Chesham half in front of the main stand.
The former Chelsea striker rolled the ball inside to Ijaha who had continued his run and darted between Gudgeon and Dave Fotheringham before shimmying to the right of Talbot and touching a pass to Hart who beat Ricketts with an excellent left-footed ground shot from 14 yards.
The second period continued in much the same vein with both sides looking to attack and just three minutes after the restart Simon Martin, looking suspiciously, raced clear of the defence but his firm drive was again well stopped by Ricketts.
Chesham certainly deserved a goal even though their finishing was a good deal less accurate than that of their hosts and it duly arrived in spectacular fashion on 54 minutes.
Narada Bernard was possibly harshly penalised for a foul on Steve Wales just in front of the visitorâ€™s dug out. Talbot swung the dead ball into the penalty area, Simon Thomas brought it down only for his shot to be blocked by the diving Gray.
There appeared to be little danger as the rebound fell from the sky but Robert Bartley produced a right-footed overhead kick of the highest order that flew at some speed past the static but blameless Jupp.
Wales, brought on in place of Fotheringham just before the interval, posed an increasing menace and from one of his many crosses the free Archer was wasteful for a second time.
But after a spell of Chesham dominance City hit back by winning three successive corners and in the latter stages almost snatched victory.
Hart, picking up a headed clearance, chested the ball down and drove in a rising shot that Ricketts appeared to tip over although a corner was not forthcoming.
Ijaha, playing his best football since joining the club following the arrival of Hyde, played a one-two with Harriman and hit a dangerous left-football effort across the face of the goal that the incoming Hart just failed to reach.
Furlong, following a low cross by Watts, was the next to just miss out when the combined efforts of Bartley and Lambert blocked the strikers shot.
Furlong had one final effort when Talbot inadvertently glanced a long kick by Jupp towards his own goal, Furlong pounced quickly but a rushed shot saw Ricketts push the ball to safety.
In between these efforts Watters clipped the top of the City crossbar with a cross.