Kaloczi Boxing Day special keeps Saints in the hunt

St Albans City’s surge towards the Southern League play-off places was slowed by Chesham United on Boxing Day as the two promotion seeking sides ground out a gruelling 2-2 draw in front of the highest attendance for a Southern League match played at Clarence Park.

Going into the game on the back of six consecutive Premier Division wins, City slipped into top gear from the off and were ahead inside three minutes through Jamal Lowe’s first home goal for the Saints.

But as City quickly went off the boil Chesham, benefitting from some dreadful passing by their hosts, gained the upper hand to lead at the interval.

St Albans certainly seemed to be suffering a Christmas hangover until James Kaloczi fired in the equaliser from 30 yards early in the second half, then Chesham had to dig deep and hang on with some tremendous defending to ensure that they collected a share of the spoils.

Chesham, through a wild and wide effort from Steve Wales, made the first threat on goal but St Albans made the first real incision on three minutes.

Kaloczi won the ball in the air wide of the home penalty area and quickly played it up to John Frendo.

With a superb ball inside the right-back position, Frendo sent Lowe scurrying away. After cutting inside onto his right foot, the on-loan Barnet striker clipped an exquisite shot across the diving Shane Gore and into the far corner of the net.

After former Saint Inih Effiong fired over for the visitors, City went close with a shot across the face of the goal by Frendo bouncing just beyond the far post.

Effiong, teed up by James Potton, forced Paul Bastock into his first save before City hit back to win their first two corners of the day.

From the first, the ball was knocked back out to James Comley who laid it into the path of Lowe and from his low drive Gore pushed out for another corner.

City, heading for a tenth league game without defeat, were playing with confidence at this point and a second goal looked to be in the offing.

It so nearly came on 20 minutes when Richard Graham nonchalantly flicked a pass wide to Comley and from his cross Kaloczi headed against the crossbar from six yards.

But Chesham, unbeaten in the five previous Southern League games between the two clubs, struck back with venom on 25 minutes.

A fine diagonal pass by Scott Thomas sent Wales away down the United left and from his cross Effiong glanced the ball on.

As the ball dropped, Potton lined up a cracking volley that flew low past Bastock and thudded into his right hand upright before banging into Toby Little’s knee and bobbling its way into the York Road net.

St Albans did not respond well to that setback, and with their passing becoming increasingly inaccurate, Chesham willingly grabbed the initiative and with a dominance of the midfield had City chasing shadows for a while.

The home defence may not have looked as solid as it has done in many games this season but it was strong enough to deny Chesham too many clear chances and, at the opposite end of the pitch, it took an excellent tackle by Danny Gordon on Frendo to stop him from turning in a David Keenleyside cross.

City’s sloppiness in midfield proved costly a minute before the break when Potton intercepted a square pass by Kaloczi.

After taking the ball forward Potton played in Wales who, in turn, laid a good pass along the edge of the penalty area to John Kyriacou and with a well-controlled first time shot the right-back fired low across Bastock to hand Chesham an interval lead.

The second half began pretty much as the first finished with Chesham looking comfortable against a lethargic City side.

But all that changed on 56 minutes when Kaloczi, with a completely unexpected effort from around 30 yards, hauled City level with his fourth goal in five games.

There appeared to be little danger as Gordon slightly miscued his attempted clearance from inside the Chesham penalty area.

Kaloczi chested the ball down then, probably more in hope than certainty, struck a right-footed half volley that dipped significantly.

Gore stretched high into the air to push the ball away but as it fell the struck the inside of the post and crossed the goalline before he could scramble it away.

Gore was less than happy with the decision to award a goal and was booked for suggesting that an error may have been made.

Suddenly the game was slipping from Chesham’s grasp and Gore had to dive to his left to keep out a shot from Comley following Lee Chappell’s short free kick.

Other than for a knock down by Effiong, that Chris Dillon just failed to reach before Bastock pounced, all of the serious action focused on the away goal.

Even so, City could not create good chances as Chesham defended superbly in the face of a barrage of crosses and long throws from Chappell.

Frendo, well contained by the visitors all afternoon, sent a tame free kick through to Gore, while both Lowe and substitute Mark Nwokeji had goal bound efforts headed away.

Kaloczi launched part of the crowd into orbit when his snap shot sent the net rippling, only for it to be the side-netting.

And as time ran down Gore pushed away a Ben Martin header and then saved a more difficult Frendo effort low to his left.

The draw sees City slip to seventh in the Southern League, but just three points outside the play-off places.

St Albans are back in action on Saturday, 28th December, with a return Premier Division fixture against Hungerford Town. City will be without the suspended duo of Ben Martin and Chris Henry.

Kick off at Bulpit Lane is at 3pm.

St Albans City: P.Bastock, H.Hall, L.Chappell, J.Kaloczi, B.Martin, T.Ward, D.Keenleyside (M.Nwokeji 74), J.Comley, J.Frendo, J.Lowe, R.Graham, subs; N.Ferguson, C.Watters, D.Green, D.Locke.

Booked: Martin.

Chesham United: S.Gore, J.Kyriacou, T.Little (D.Braithwaite 83), M.Lambert, D.Gordon, S.Thomas, D.Fotheringham, S.Wales, C.Dillon, I.Effiong (D.Roberts 73), J.Potton, subs; A.Brown, S.Hamilton, H.Dodge.

Booked: Gore, Lambert, Wales.

Goals: 3 1-0 Lowe, 25 1-1 Little, 44 1-2 Kyriacou, 56 2-2 Kaloczi.

Referee: Rob Smith (Letchworth).

Att: 730.

Prior to the kick off a one minute's applause was held in memory of the former St Albans City and Chesham United defender Ryan Moran, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 31.

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