Frenchman Cedric Ngakam was the toast of St Albans City for the second time in a week on Saturday when his powerfully headed goal salvaged a Southern League point for the Saints from a dreadful encounter with relegation threatened Evesham United.
Ngakam clinched victory with his added time winner the previous Saturday and whilst his goal at Evesham’s temporary home of St George’s Lane, Worcester, may have rescued a draw St Albans will see it as two points lost and games running out before the end of the season.
The league table shows that City have closed the gap between themselves and the last play-off position to a mere three points but with David Howell’s side having played up to three more games than many of their promotion seeking rivals this match will be viewed as two vital points dropped.
Evesham will also be disappointed in not picking up all three points after seeing all of the five sides immediately around them collect maximum points and keep the Robins in the thick of a relegation battle.
City’s five match unbeaten run appeared to be under little threat as the Saints controlled the opening 20 minutes but with United’s five-man defence snuffing out what little threat Sakho Bakare and Aaron Lansiquot had to offer the omens for a sporting feast were not good.
Bakare’s two goals against Oxford City the previous weekend had secured his return to the starting line up although this may also have been aided by Simon Martin inadvertently going to Evesham’s unfinished new ground before making his way to Worcester .
Narada Bernard returned at left back with Matt Cutchey starting at right back in place of Chris Seeby following the facial injury he suffered against Oxford.
The most attention grabbing incidents of the early exchanges consisted of applauding the clean handling of Robins keeper Dan Platt and the irksome constant berating of the match officials from the Evesham bench.
On 26 minutes the home side won the first of only two corners they notched up all afternoon when Marcus Palmer, sent down the right by Pedram Ardallany’s excellent pass, saw his cross headed out by City captain James Gray.
Robins skipper Wayne Daniel got the better of Gray when challenging for Lewis Tasker’s corner and headed goalwards from five yards out.
City defender Nerada Bernard dived to head the ball clear but not before linesman Matthew Homer deemed the ball to have crossed the goal line. It looked a close call with City possibly on the wrong end of a dubious decision.
St Albans anger at the decision continued through to half time with Jupp talking to the officials about the goal as the players walked off.
The goal clearly rocked St Albans and for a while its normally strongest department, the defence, rocked and Evesham were presented with a golden opportunity to double their advantage.
A loose clearance down the right by Cutchey was easily intercepted by Tasker whose ball towards Ben Pugh was misdirected as it bounced up awkwardly off a bobbly surface.
But as Micah Hyde failed to control the ball Evesham, through Josh Quaynor, regained possession only for his attempted curling effort from 15 yards to fail to trouble Nick Jupp in the City goal.
Bernard was withdrawn at the start of the second half with Sean Shields thrown into action but the 20-year-old winger was unable to replicate the impact he made against Oxford as Evesham defended with admirable determination.
Evesham let City off the hook on 50 minutes when Henry Eze helped on a Tasker free kick to Daniel but the experienced defender wanted too long on the ball and was ushered away from goal.
After a wait of 64 minutes St Albans finally troubled Platt when Bakare received a pass from David Ijaha and twisted away from Daniel only to shoot weakly through to the keeper.
Midway through the half the impressive Eze collected a pass from Daniel and ran at the City defence before exchanging passes with James McPike and testing Jupp with a rising shot that was collected safely.
With greater urgency in their play City enjoyed a better spell before winning a corner on their left on 76 minutes that Hart swung to the edge of the six-yard box and Ngakam headed firmly downwards to Platt’s left for the ball to rise sharply into the roof of the net.
Hart flashed a speculative effort just over from 30 yards while Evesham responded with Craig Wilding and McPike getting in each others way on the edge of the penalty area but Jupp still had to dive full length to save from the latter.
And the home side squandered one final clear opportunity in added time when a low bouncing cross from the right eluded Luke Male and Wilding before being slashed high over the top from nine yards by Eze.
Evesham United: D.Platt, J.Winter, L.Tasker, W.Daniel, H.Eze, Ca.Henry, P.Ardallany, C.Wilding, B.Pugh (L.Male 69), M.Palmer (J.McPike 59), J.Quaynor (N.MacKenzie 62), subs; J.Wilson, J.Bartlam.
St Albans City: N.Jupp, M.Cutchey, N.Bernard (Se Shields 46), D.Ijaha (D.McGonigle 86) C.Ngakam, J.Gray, D.Hart, M.Hyde, S.Bakare, A.Lansiquot (S.Martin 68), R.Watts, sub; Ch.Henry, P.Furlong.
Goals: 1-0 26 Daniel, 1-1 76 Ngakam.
Referee: Kevin Morris (Hereford).
City defender Chris Seeby is due to undergo further examinations at Northwick Park hospital on Monday on his damaged right cheekbone. A decision on whether to operate or not has been delayed as surgeons wait for the swelling to subside and the extent of the injury can be fully assessed.