After a poor first half showing St Albans City demonstrated welcome fortitude in rescuing a National League South point in a 1-1 draw with Bishop’s Stortford at a sodden Clarence Park on Saturday.

City, at half time, looked destined to receive their 12th defeat of the season as the Bishop’s closed in on completing their third league double over the Saints in seven years.

But after the break St Albans showed that they have the quality needed to avoid relegation, although a run of just three points from four games in recent weeks has done little to ease fears of a return to the Southern League.

City’s caretaker-manager Harry Wheeler made three changes from the previous Monday’s draw with Chelmsford.

With Eddie Oshodi away his place at right-back was taken by John Kyriacou, who was recalled after making eight appearances whilst on a dual registration with Cambridge City.

Ben Martin returned to the middle of the defence in place of Darren Locke and gave an excellent performance.

Louie Theophanous was recalled to the attack in place of Harry Crawford and blasted home his 13th goal of the season.

Jonathan Edwards retained his place in attack as he and Theophanous started a match alongside each other for the first time.

Stortford made two changes from the side that defeated City on Boxing Day including Corby Moore, signed the previous day from National League title challengers Forest Green Rovers.

Only four games in National League South beat the weather and in-spite of incessant rain throughout the match the Park held up well with no puddles forming during the entertaining 90 minutes.

Stortford began well but squandered an early chance when Moore made an air shot after Morgan Ferrier cut the ball across the face of the home goal.

Anthony Church also failed to make a completely clean contact after former Saint Elliott Buchanan – who was in good form on his return to the Park – played a good pass inside to the Bishop’s captain.

But there was no escape for St Albans on nine minutes when Buchanan, faced by Tom Bender, laid the ball back to De’Reece Vanderhyde and from his right-footed cross Ferrier put the visitors ahead with an attempted header that also struck his left shoulder before going into the York Road off the inside of Joe Welch’s inside right hand post.

City, attacking down the slope for the first half for the 11th consecutive home game, struggled to get back into the game and the somewhat voluble Rod Stringer will have been disappointed to see his side go in only one goal to the good at the interval.

Somewhat bizarrely, despite Stortford clearly having the better of the opening half, it was St Albans who had the greater number of shots at goal, although the accuracy often left a little to be desired.

Theophanous fired over from outside the penalty area, and then got on the end of a cross from Bender but saw his well-placed downward glancing header superbly clawed away by the diving Stortford ‘keeper Ross Fitzsimons.

City’s defending was, overall, good but they also had good fortune when holding out during two frantic goalmouth scrambles following first half Stortford corners.

Church also brought a good save out of Welch with a potentially dangerous shot from distance on the wet, slippery surface.

Kyriacou, back in the City line-up for the first time in ten weeks, whipped over a good cross from the right that just eluded Edwards at the near post and was cleared by the far upright before Theophanous could pounce.

Stortford sought to strengthen their position during the latter stages of the half and moved the ball across the pitch well to tee up Johnny Herd for a low drive that Welch smothered well.

The clearest opportunity for a second goal came on 44 minutes when Church dispossessed Bender and fed Buchanan.

After nut-megging Martin and darting into the penalty area, Buchanan looked on as his shot beat not only Welch but also, by the merest of margins, the target.

Wheeler altered City’s tactics late in the first half but it was only after the interval that the Saints really got into their stride.

Stortford had an early let-off when a cross-shot from the left by the elusive Jernade Meade thudded against the outside of Fitzsimons right-hand post with the keeper helplessly beaten had the ball been a few inches to the right.

City pulled level just ten minutes after the restart with an excellent goal.

Kyriacou played the ball down the right to Meade who came inside before lofting the ball towards the penalty area where Martin displayed remarkable control is guiding a hooked pass into the box for Theophanous, with his second touch, to hammer a shot of tremendous power high to the left of Fitzsimons’ groping fingers.

St Albans now played with confidence and Fitzsimons did well to tip away a teasing hanging cross by Comley as Lee Chappell leapt high in search of his first league goal in two days short of a year.

Another flowing move ended with Theophanous spinning and drilling a shot just over.

The renowned striker had been set up by Sam Corcoran, who probed away in midfield to good effect throughout the afternoon.

The match could have changed direction on the back of two decisions by Highbury-based referee Sam Purkiss who, probably incorrectly, waved away appeals by both sides for what appeared to be quite clear penalties.

Stortford, who had two earlier fanciful appeals rejected after Ferrier and Frankie Merrifield went down inside the penalty area, had much stronger claims in the 71st minutes.

George Allen launched a long ball from the middle of the Stortford half that sent Ferrier clear only to be cut down by Welch as he rushed from his goal.

Mr Purkiss said that the offence took place outside of the penalty area but video footage suggests that Welch did indeed catch the Stortford player inside the box.

Welch was not booked and just for good measure Josh Ekim sent the free kick into the almost deserted away terrace behind the home goal.

Given the speed of the incident and close proximity to the edge of the penalty area, it was understandable how an error was made in that instance, but how the officials missed a blatant handball by Church when stopping Bender from getting a head to a Comley corner took some believing.

St Albans continued to press for a much-needed winner but Stortford had not given up on winning themselves and went close with a curling effort from Herd.

Fitzsimons remained busy in the latter stages when dealing with crosses and shots.

Corcoran, seizing on a punched clearance, attempted to lift his shot over the retreating keeper but put the ball out of play, while the Stortford custodian did well to hold onto a firm low effort from Comley.

Possibly the clearest chance came the way of substitute Kevin Krans, who spooned a soft effort well wide.

Chappell looked to make one final burst through the stubborn Bishop’s backline with his left-footed shot from 30 yards bouncing a yard or so wide.

The City captain then had a heated row with Crawford, as the striker had wanted the ball put into his path rather than Chappell go for goal himself.

Wheeler had called on his side to win their two home holiday fixtures but draws in both games have only added to City's relegation fears.

The draw keeps City in 20th position but they have now played more games than all of the three sides immediately above them.

St Albans’ bid to climb out of the relegation places faces a tough proposition next Saturday when the Saints face third-placed Sutton United on the Surrey club's 3G all-weather surface.

Kick off at Gander Green Lane is at 3pm.

St Albans have announced that striker Jonathan Edwards has had his loan from Peterborough United extended through to the end of the current season.

St Albans City: J.Welch, J.Kyriacou, L.Chappell, S.Corcoran, J.Johnson, B.Martin, T.Bender, J.Comley, L.Theophanous, J.Edwards (H.Crawford 67), J.Meade (K.Krans 78), unused; Sc Thomas, B.Gibson, J.Green.

Booked: Comley, Kyriacou.

Bishop’s Stortford: R.Fitzsimons, D.Vanderhyde, J.Herd, J.Ekim, G.Allen, C.M’Boungou, F.Merrifield (A.Abdullahi 78), A.Church, E.Buchanan, M.Ferrier, C.Moore, unused subs; K.Lee, J.Muleba, I.Gayle, T.Lovelock.

Booked: M’Boungou.

Goals: 9 0-1 Ferrier, 55 1-1 Theophanous.

Referee: Sam Purkiss (Highbury).

Att: 524.