St Albans City wound up their seven summer friendlies by giving 18 players a run out during a lively 1-1 draw with a youthful Stevenage side at Clarence Park on Monday.
Virtually all who are expected to take part in next Saturday’s opening Conference South match against Hayes and Yeading United played at some stage of the Stevenage game although big guns Ben Martin and John Frendo were, once again, absent.
Speaking after the game, Jimmy Gray, the joint City manager, hinted at some concern as to the fitness of Martin and Frendo and suggested that they would be eased back into the team.
That either player might not make the starting XI is, surely, unthinkable.
Other players, most notably Danny Green, took the opportunity to further their chances of making the opening day of the season, while Tom Ward and James Kaloczi made the defence look a more secure unit than it had done at the weekend against Ware.
But the game will be Kaloczi’s last one for the Saints for a while, as this weekend sees the central defender being a one-month loan spell at Wingate & Finchley.
St Albans had billed the Stevenage friendly as being against Graham Westley’s first team but, as it turned out, only three first teamers were on show and the visitors, somewhat unhelpfully, listed four members of their starting XI as ‘trialist A, B, C and D’.
One of the mystery players was actually Connor Calcutt, the former Berkhamsted striker who made one appearance for St Albans last season.
And for the opening 45 minutes Stevenage did appear to be a team of strangers with virtually no threat being made on the home goal.
The Saints were almost as equally ineffective in attack before the break but the dominance of the two defences did not lead to a dull opening half.
The first chance of the evening came the way of the Saints when Green was fouled on the edge of the Stevenage penalty area. From the ensuing free kick Lee Chappell forced Chris Day to dive full length to his left to save.
City produced one of their most enterprising moves of the night when goalkeeper Joe Welch rolled the ball to Sam Corcoran who was involved a further four times in a move that ended with Elliot Buchanan shooting meekly through to Day.
Buchanan had two further, better struck, attempts prior to the interval. The first was smartly collected by Day while the second sailed out of the ground.
Despite City holding the upper hand, goalless at half time was a fair reflection on the game but after the break St Albans did create enough openings to record a morale boosting victory.
Two minutes after the restart Corcoran clipped the ball over Day from 22 yards out but could not get it to dip under the crossbar.
Attacking down the slope towards the Hatfield Road the home side took the lead on the hour with a very well constructed goal.
Elliot Bailey, on for Buchanan just three minutes earlier, worked the ball wide to John Kyriacou via his fellow former Chesham team-mate Steve Wales.
Kyriacou, who has looked an excellent acquisition all summer, slid a low cross straight to the unmarked James Comley and the City captain steadied himself before firing low to the left of the diving Day.
That goal was the cue for wholesale changes to the City side as half a dozen changes were made.
As the half wore on the play became more open with Welch, whose first half exertions were limited to a superbly timed punched clearance in a crowded penalty area, being called upon to finally make a save of note from ‘trialist C’.
Day was also soon back in action as he beat out a fierce drive from City trialist Taylor Miles.
A minute later, the 68th, and Stevenage were back on level terms when Dale Gorman, from the edge of the City penalty area, sent a thunderous right-footed half volley screaming beyond Welch’s dive.
During the latter stages it was the hosts who offered the greater hope of adding a second goal but other than for Lee Clarke and Matt Taylor going close the Stevenage goal was not unduly threatened.
The Saints are back at Clarence Park on Saturday, 9th August, with the return of Conference South football after a three-year absence when Hayes and Yeading United are the visitors.
Former Saints Adam Everitt and David Ijaha are expected to be included in the United side.
Kick off at Clarence Park is at 3pm.
St Albans City: J.Welch, J.Kyriacou (H.Hall 60), L.Chappell, S.Corcoran (T.Miles 60), T.Ward, J.Kaloczi (K.Bola 60), D.Green (M.Taylor 60), J.Comley (L.Clarke 60), W.McBean, E.Buchanan (E.Bailey 57), S.Wales (D.Keenleyside 60).
Stevenage: C.Day, G.Casey (N.Kerr 90), S.Walton, R.Johnson, R.Millard, D.Gorman (J.Jones 83), B.Kennedy (J.Storer 65), Trialist A, Trialist B, Trialist C, C.Calcutt.
Referee: David Rock.