James Gray insists St Albans City deserved to take something from Conference South leaders Eastbourne Borough and insists their performance shows how much progress the club have made.

The Saints suffered a 1-0 defeat on Monday afternoon after conceding in the third minute of the game. But the joint manager was encouraged by his side’s response as they pushed the early pace-setters all the way.

Gray said: “It was not the start we wanted but the character we showed after that was encouraging.

“I thought we were well and truly in the game and I’m really disappointed we haven’t taken anything out of the game. On chances alone I think we were probably the better side.

“It shows you how far we’ve come that we’ve come down here to the league leaders of the Conference South and we go away disappointed with a 1-0 defeat.

“I really do believe we should have got something out of the game.”

Gray added: “We put everything into that game. The manner of that defeat I can handle but the manner of the Hayes & Yeading one on the first day I can’t.”

“I’m proud of the boys and to put in that second-half performance gives you hope for next week.”

Sean Shields was a threat for the visitors as he made his first start since rejoining the club on a two-month loan from Dagenham & Redbridge.

The attacking midfielder made 92 appearances for the Saints before signing a professional contract with Dagenham at the start of last year.

Shields came off the bench on Saturday in St Albans’ 2-1 home win over Bishop’s Stortford.

James Comley chipped the ball into the net for an exquisite opener before the visitors levelled through Spencer McCall.

But Mike Suarez accidently kicked the ball out of keeper Joe Wright’s hands in the 70th minute which enabled captain Ben Martin the simplest of finishes.

The Saints are fifth in the table and four points behind unbeaten Eastbourne. Gray’s side return to action this weekend at Clarence Park with a home game against 19th placed Sutton United.