James Gray described St Albans City’s Southern League meeting with Biggleswade Town on Monday as ‘garbage,’ and few would argue as the Saints continued their stuttering stumble towards a play-off place with a dismal goalless draw at Langford Road.
While the Saints joint manager was not slow in slamming the performance, he did accept a point made by some of the players that three away games inside six days was difficult, and that Biggleswade did provide tougher opposition than maybe the management felt them to be.
Just for good measure, a strong and decidedly chilly wind also took some of the blame for a match that hardly enhanced the good name of the Southern League.
City welcomed back John Frendo after serving a three-match ban and the Saints leading marksman ended the match having collected his 10th booking of the season.
Frendo’s latest indiscretion has earned him another two games on the sidelines, including the potentially crucial trip to championship favourites Hemel Hempstead.
City also brought in Elliot Bailey from the XI that started at Stourbridge at the weekend as James Kaloczi and the injured Mark Nwokeji stood down.
An indication of how the evening was going to pan out came within the opening two minutes when City midfielder Sam Corcoran was booked following a late challenge on Lee Allinson.
St Albans saw a good early chance lost when Frendo, sent through by Kerrea Gilbert’s header, fired wide.
Biggleswade had a let off when Bailey drove the ball from a tight angle out on the right and then looked on as it evaded goalkeeper Ian Brown’s fingers and struck the face of the crossbar.
Two long throw-ins by Lee Chappell set up a couple more chances for the visitors before the interval.
Town defender Cameron Mawer attempted to clear the first one but only succeeded in giving the ball to Bailey whose shot from virtually on the goalline was superbly blocked by the excellent Andrew Iwediuno.
From Chappell’s second throw Frendo set up himself up with a tremendous piece of skill that ended with him sending a powerful volley across the face of the goal.
Playing into the strong wind Biggleswade struggled to create much in front of goal although Evan Key headed into the side-netting.
After the interval, in between an indeterminate amount of utter dross, there were several moments of high drama that produced much needed talking points.
Key sent an absolutely blistering drive against an upright after Ben Martin had partially cleared a Craig Daniel cross, while at the opposite end the experienced Ian Brown did well to push the ball away after a flicked Tom Ward header from a Chappell throw caused mayhem inside the home six yard box.
Frendo provided one of the more incisive passes of the night with a through ball that sent James Comley in on goal.
Brown dived at the feet of the midfielder but appeared to catch him as he veered away from goal. It seemed to be a probable penalty but Comley was straight back up onto his feet and the whistle did not sound.
City won a corner before the Waders could clear their lines, and when Comley received the ball short he crossed to Martin whose downward header was rising up off the turf at speed towards the top corner of the goal, when Brown pulled off a spectacular save for a corner.
But it was the City backline that threatened to be breached late in the day.
When a Lee Smith throw-in was headed on Jon Woolf headed goalwards only for Chappell to head the ball away from on the goalline.
Allinson clipped the ensuing corner towards the edge of the six yard box where Max York looked to have headed in the decisive blow only for Paul Bastock to pull off a spectacular save high to his right.
The second half was littered with petulant little battles and these almost boiled over during the closing minutes when Mawer, on 87 minutes, was booked for a hefty challenge on Frendo.
This was like a red rag to a bull for Frendo who, when supposedly chasing a through ball, barged into Mawer and picked up the booking that presents him with his third suspension of the season.
The attendance was Biggleswade’s third highest of the season with well over half coming from St Albans.
The draw keeps City in third place and, with their next three games all being against struggling sides, the Saints will be looking to cement their place in the end of season promotion play-offs.
First up are Bedford Town. The Eagles have lost their last 17 league games and are without a win in their last 20.
Kick off at Clarence Park on Saturday, 15th March, is at 3pm.
Biggleswade Town: I.Brown, M.York, A.Iwediuno, C.Mawer, R.Short, L.Allinson, C.Daniel, E.Key, B.Donnelly (N.Peacock 79), L.Smith, L.Reed (J.Woolf 17), subs; A.Witham, S.Reed, J.Mason.
St Albans City: P.Bastock, K.Gilbert, L.Chappell, R.Marwa, T.Ward, B.Martin, S.Corcoran (C.Henry 63), J.Comley, J.Frendo, E.Bailey (P.Dean 63), D.Green, subs; H.Hall, J.Kaloczi, R.Graham.
Booked: Corcoran, Frendo.
Referee: Nigel Smith (Skegness).