St Albans City boss believes current squad could have won promotion

St Albans & Harpenden Review: David Howell is pleased with the current Saints squad: Pippa Douglas David Howell is pleased with the current Saints squad: Pippa Douglas

St Albans City boss David Howell believes his team would be promoted if he had his current squad at the start of the season.

The Saints had a lacklustre start to the campaign but Howell, who moved to Clarence Park from Harrow Borough in the summer, has moulded his own squad together in recent months and their form has noticeably improved.

St Albans are currently ninth in the Southern Premier Division and host a Stourbridge side only one place above them this weekend. Howell knows the importance of their next match and feels a win is vital to their chances of mounting a play-off push during the run-in.

Howell said: “The club expect to get back to the Conference South after relegation last year. I feel that if I had this squad at the start of the season then we would be promoted. But it’s not the start so we have got very little room for error.

“We slipped up against Bedford after the last break [due to the weather] and we can’t afford to make the same mistake again. We have to be focused on making sure we get the three points on Saturday.

“Their [Stourbridge’s] form hasn’t been the best recently but nothing surprises me in this league. We have to make sure that we stay as close to the top sides as we can. At this stage of the season a draw is a bit of a body blow.”

The Saints boss, who is looking to bring in a goalkeeper as cover to Nick Jupp, has strengthened his squad by signing defenders Moussa Diarra and Anton Blackwood.

Frenchman Diarra has looked sharp during training while former Arsenal centre-back Blackwood will be hoping to stay fit after a series of injuries.

Howell said: “Moussa has been training with us for about four weeks and has looked good. He is strong, attacks the ball well and has looked impressive. Anton has been plagued with injuries but at the moment he is fit and strong. He was highly thought of at Arsenal and Spurs but was released because of injury.”

But utility player Barrie Matthews has moved to Hemel Hempstead Town and defender Tobi Jinadu has joined Tooting & Mitcham United in a bid to gain first-team football.

The manager added: “Barrie has played in a number of positions for us but he wasn’t first choice in them. He just wants to play football and I understand that so it was an amicable decision.

“At one stage it looked like Tobi was first-choice centre-back but things have changed now with James Gray and Cedric Ngakam coming in. Tobi was looking for regular football and Tooting came in and contacted us about a move.”

St Albans City’s trip to AFC Totton was postponed on Saturday morning due to a frozen pitch.

It was frustrating for the Saints because they were looking to build on the momentum gained from their last-gasp 4-3 win at Redditch United during midweek.

Howell admitted: “The break didn’t help us last time because it broke our rhythm against Bedford. It was important to get back on track against Redditch last week.

“It was a very difficult three points in the conditions. We will try to get some indoor practice this week but it will be difficult for everybody.”

The Harpenden Construction Limited January player of the month is Sakho Bakare and his award will be presented by Saints supporters Mark and Oliver Jones prior to the this Saturday’s game against Stourbridge.

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