St Albans City joint manager James Gray admitted he was relieved to overcome difficult opponents after their 4-3 home win against Bideford.
The Saints were never behind during the match but made hard work of the game before securing their third consecutive win. Gray believes the visitors are a very awkward team to play against with their physical strength and direct style of play and was just pleased to come away from Clarence Park with maximum points.
Gray said: “We’re a bit disappointed to concede three goals but the way they [Bideford] play is very difficult. I can say from experience that you can’t get a clearance or win a clean header. They had a gameplan and their manager was probably quite happy at 2-1 down at half-time knowing what he’s got in his armoury to pen us back with. But all I can say about it is I’m happy we've got the three points.
“We made heavy work of it but they’ve got a guy who can throw bombs from his own half and he’s thrown it onto the penalty spot. They’ve got five or six players who are about 6ft 3 in. You can’t win a header and they penned us in so it was hard work.
“We didn’t play to our strengths because we didn’t clear it far enough to get up the pitch. When we’re going up the hill at Clarence Park it’s a difficult obstacle especially when you're against teams that play that way.”
Gray added: “That is not an easy pitch to play on. There are bobbles everywhere and we tried moving the ball across the back four and we were so sluggish because you had to be assured with your first touch that we couldn’t get any tempo going.
“All in all, it was a tough game. They’ve [Bideford] come a long way beating Chippenham 7-1 and drew with Arlesey last week. They play a certain way but all credit to them for having a real good go at us.”
The Saints grabbed an early lead through defender Chris Seeby before Sean Downing headed in the equaliser. St Albans regained their advantage on the stroke of half-time when Chris Henry was brought down in the area. James Comley netted the penalty for his first goal for the club.
Henry added the home side’s third goal after 78 minutes but Richard Groves converted a penalty to give Bideford hope. The Saints scored their fourth goal in the 87th minute when Henry side-footed home his eighth of the campaign before Bideford grabbed a third through Nick Barker.
Gray played in midfield at the weekend, in a bid to counteract the threat of the visitors, but admitted that he wasn't fully fit and should not have started the match.
He said: “I’m not pleased with some of the boys' performances myself included. We knew how they would play and I wasn't 100 per cent fit so with hindsight I probably shouldn’t have bothered playing. Nothing went right for me. The first header I went up for I led with my left arm and as soon as I went up the shoulder injury I had opened up again and I didn't feel right. It wasn't my best game.”
The Saints’ form has seen them stay in contention for a Southern Premier play-off spot where they are only four points off the top-five. The club have a very young squad and the joint manager believes their current group are building a collective spirit which bodes well for the future.
Gray, whose side travel to play-off contenders Weymouth this weekend, said: “We’ve tried to impress people. We're looking to get as many fans coming here as possible to give us a bit more ammunition to work with. We’ve taken over, lost a lot of players and brought in a lot in to change it around. But we’ve brought in players we think can do a job at Clarence Park for this season, next year and maybe the one after.
“You have to try and get the right blend and we’ve got a lot of young lads. We're trying to get away from the older experienced players who will play for £400 or £500. That’s not within us anymore so we’ve brought lads in. The lads went out on a night out last week and it's all gelling together. That makes a massive difference.
“When I was at Wealdstone I was around a squad that wasn't full of experienced players but young lads that wanted to win for each other. You could see that when we scored the goals everyone was over celebrating. Chris Henry was doing a little jig and a dance and the togetherness is going to go a long way for us, especially with the tough run in we’ve got.
“Everything is going well for us but you never know, there could be three defeats around the corner, so we’ll just take it for now and enjoy it while it lasts. We’ve got ten points from four games and if we can replicate that then we're definitely in with a shout [play-offs] but it's not going to be easy.”