The sense of relief which greeted the full-time whistle at Clarence Park on Saturday was palpable as the Saints finally returned to winning ways.

Eight games and nearly two months since their last National League South triumph, City were victorious again, claiming a battling 1-0 win over play-off bound Dartford.

Pressure has been mounting on both Ian Allinson and his underperforming squad and the City boss’ delight at the win, only the club’s second in 17 games, was clear.

“I felt it was going to be one of our toughest games this season, but I felt the players bought into what we wanted to do,” Allinson said.

“Dartford have been on a tremendous run, have not lost many games at all this year and are very well organised.

“It was the way we saw the game out which pleased me the most. At 1-0 we could have dropped deeper and deeper.

“Apart from one scare where James Russell has had to make a good save in the top corner, we never really came under pressure.”

Saturday’s win, which takes City up to tenth in the table, came courtesy of an excellent Charlie Walker finish as the striker scored an acrobatic overhead-kick.

The match was also notable for the introduction of three new players to the City ranks as Zane Banton, Solomon Sambou and Kieran Monlouis all made their debuts.

Their arrival at Clarence Park comes after the decision to allow a number of senior players to leave the club.

Allinson believes the trio’s displays, coupled with City’s return to winning ways, offer the first signs of progress being made in his attempts to reshape his squad.

“Today was a start and hopefully we can progress from here. We have a young squad and we don’t quite know what is coming round the corner,” he said.

“The progression has been made because last year we got 49 points and this year we have got 52.

“Performances have been poor, results have been poor, but sometimes you have to make big decisions and rebuild a side.

“It is difficult to do during the season, but you can see the first signs of what we are trying to do here. Hopefully that will get better in the last few weeks of the season and certainly into pre-season.”

The next test for Allinson’s side is to carry the form they showed against Dartford into a meeting with play-off chasing Hungerford Town.

Saturday’s hosts are four points adrift of fifth place Poole Town and are unbeaten in their last three league outings, having been held to a surprise 0-0 draw by strugglers Welling United last time out.

Allinson is aware of the challenge awaiting City, but wants to see a committed display.

He said:”We have a tough, tough game away against Hungerford and we know we will have to go there, be big and strong and try and play our football. Hopefully we can keep progressing.”