St Albans City boss praises character after nine-man Saints deny Bideford

St Albans & Harpenden Review: Paul Bastock celebrates his 300th appearance alongside chairman Nick Archer: David Tavener Paul Bastock celebrates his 300th appearance alongside chairman Nick Archer: David Tavener

St Albans City joint manager James Gray says his side’s character was brilliant after the nine-man Saints earned a 1-1 draw against promotion rivals Bideford.

James Comley and top scorer John Frendo were both sent off in the first half on Monday but the Saints more than held their own to move level on points with second-placed Chesham United.

Gray said: “The character of the side was brilliant and it was a great performance.

“Even with nine men we were still a bit disappointed not to take all three points so it was an absolutely outstanding performance.

“I think if we had kept 11 men on the pitch then we would have had enough to beat them.”

St Albans fell behind early on when the visitors scored after just two minutes through Sean Downing.

But Frendo netted his 34th goal of the season when he scored a penalty after a handball from Rob Farkins.

Comley had already been booked when he was shown a second yellow card after 34 minutes for clipping Richard Groves’ heel.

It got even worse for the hosts when Frendo was dismissed for an elbow on Ben Gerring.

Gray said: “The referee has made a massive mistake with Comley’s second booking. I don’t think the second one was ever a booking and should have just been a ticking off.

“Frendo looked like he caught him and although it looked harsh I can understand the decision.

“We’re going to be without him for three games now. We should have enough in reserve and the good thing is we’ve got lots of goals in our side.”

The draw against Bideford was also notable for goalkeeper Paul Bastock’s 300th appearance for the club.

Gray said: “It’s a brilliant achievement for Paul and he had a superb game as well.

“He has been a massive part of our success this season. Last year we felt we needed to bring in a big, strong character. Paul doesn’t look any different to how he did ten years ago.

“He keeps himself fit and sharp and is a rock at the back.”

The Saints moved up to their highest position in the Southern Premier Division on Saturday after easing to a 3-0 win at home to Weymouth.

St Albans opened the scoring through Frendo after he fired a low shot into the net.

This effort ensured Frendo is the first City player to score 20 league goals in a season since Lee Clarke in 2005-06.

The Saints extended their lead when Peter Dean netted his first goal for the club. He tapped the ball in after being set up by a header on from Ben Martin.

It was 3-0 four minutes before the break when a flowing passing move resulted in Frendo calmly finding the net.

Gray said: “It was an accomplished performance. We came out of the traps very quickly and we got the job done professionally.”

The Saints travel to Bideford this weekend for an immediate return match following Monday’s draw.

Gray said: “We wanted to get four points against Bideford so now we need to go down there and get the win.”

St Albans could be excused for being leggy after playing so long with nine men but the manager does not think this will be a factor.

He said: “We worked hard during pre-season to improve our fitness. The lads are really fit and strong so I don’t see fatigue as being an issue.”

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