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St Albans City boss Gray wants side to push on after climbing into play-off spots
St Albans City joint manager James Gray insists his side are determined to push on after climbing into the Southern Premier Division play-offs for the first time since September.
The Saints’ 4-2 home win over AFC Totton on Monday night was enough to take them into the top-five of the league and Gray is adamant the team will not ease up now.
Gray said: “It is now that we need a big push from everyone and hopefully we can put a strong run together.
“We have had some good cup runs which meant we fell behind in our league games. We’re now in the play-offs with a couple of games in hand but we’re not going to take it for granted.
“We need to cement our position and we don’t want to just finish fifth. We want to go as high up the league as possible and if we can’t win the league then we want to make sure we can have home advantage in the play-offs.”
Gray added: “We have been pressing hard to get into the top-five and have had opportunities which we didn’t take. But looking at the league table now it’s looking quite rosey for us.
“We’ll go into the rest of the season full of confidence but there will be lots of twists and turns before the end. The main priority is the league and to get right into the play-offs.”
St Albans handed debuts to their new signings Kerrea Gilbert and Connor Calcutt with the pair both making an impact.
Former Arsenal, Cardiff City and Leicester City right-back Gilbert has been out of the game for a long time since leaving Shamrock Rovers. But he capped his return with a goal against AFC Totton.
Calcutt has been prolific this season for Berkhamsted having scored 34 goals in all competitions.
Gray said: “Kerrea comes here with a really big pedigree and hopefully we can keep hold of him. I thought he had a really good debut especially considering he’s been out for 18 months.
“I’ve been speaking to Kerrea for a while and he came into training and jumped at the chance to come here.”
The manager continued: “I can see Connor scoring a lot of goals and there were plenty of clubs interested in him after the form he’s shown for Berkhamsted.
“They are both good assets for the club and I can see them pushing for regular first-team football.”
The Saints had to show patience on Monday as their pressure did not lead to a breakthrough before half-time.
But City scored their 50th league goal of the season just after the restart when Jamal Lowe netted from ten yards out.
The visitors caused a surprise when they grabbed a quick equaliser after Luke Roberts headed in a free-kick.
City restored their lead in the 56th minute with a soft goal after Lee Chappell’s cross was missed by goalkeeper Steve Mowthorpe and Gilbert took advantage to head home.
The Saints extended their lead when a scramble in the area resulted in Chris Onoufriou deflecting the ball into his own net.
The hosts grabbed their fourth in the 68th minute when Chappell’s corner hit the post and rebounded off Mowthorpe for another own goal.
AFC Totton kept going and were rewarded late on with a second goal after Roberts headed home.
Gray said: “I was really pleased with the performance. They did all that we asked of them and created a lot of chances.
“They were a tough side to break down and we were frustrated not to score in the first half. But we used a lot more width in the second half and were a lot more clinical.
“The players kept going and the overiding feeling is getting the job done after getting back into the play-offs.”
St Albans were denied maximum points at Chippenham Town on Saturday after a late equaliser earned a 1-1 draw.
Gray said: “We have to keep our concentration until the death because we’ve conceded late on against Hemel Hempstead and Bedford.
“It was just a lapse in concentration and we are working on it in training. But the lads are taking it on board and it’s a good place to be.”
City return to action this weekend with a home game against fifth bottom St Neots Town.
Gray said: “They have made a lot of changes recently and are completely different to the team which started the season.
“We know it will be a tough game because they’re a physical side. We need to put in a good good performance to come away with the three points.”
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