An entertaining evening at a damp Clarence Park ended in dramatic fashion with St Albans City goalkeeper Michael Johnson denying the experienced Stuart Beavon to take the Saints through the Fourth, and final, Qualifying Round of the FA Cup via a penalty shoot-out victory last night as the hosts triumphed 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw with Mickleover.

Going out in such cruel fashion was a bitter pill for Northern Premier League side Mickleover to swallow after they had played their part in brightening up these troubled times. John McGrath’s side gained much credit in coming from behind to take their loftier perched hosts to the fiasco of a penalty shoot-out.

This first ever meeting between the clubs started in promising style with both sides committed to attack and, if anything, the Derbyshire side had the better of the opening ten minutes. But where the Sports were found wanting was in attack where, just as in the Saints’ three previous matches this season, they came up against a defence that does not crack easily.

City first threatened with Shaun Jeffers firing a free-kick high over the target before visiting keeper Joe Slinn stretched well to tip over an effort from 22 yards by Munashe Sundire.

Jeffers, who had a generally quiet evening, headed over and had a clever volley blocked following David Noble’s pinpoint corner.

City took the lead on 24 minutes following a foul by the otherwise excellent Kemy Agustien on Solomon Nwabuokei. Luke Warner-Eley lifted the free-kick from the City right onto the head of James Kaloczi, the ball went straight into the hands of the Sports custodian Slinn who then flapped around desperately after it slipped from his grasp and bobbled gently into the York Road goal.

Mickleover played a slick passing game at speed and often threatened on the counter-attack but lacked the cutting edge to match their approach work. Their clearest chance of the half came on 34 minutes when Beavon – making his first appearance at the Park since turning out for Weymouth in April 2007 – sent Declan Bacon away only for the striker to shoot wastefully into the side-netting.

City ended the half seemingly in control with Tom Bender volleying wide from outside the box following a Noble corner and Banton, sent clear by Nwabuokei, shooting powerfully but straight at Slinn, who had spread himself well.

Attacking the top goal during the second half, Mickleover made a good start with a speedy move that saw the Sports captain Mason Warren feed Beavon and burst into the penalty area to receive the return cross only to head comfortably wide.

Mickleover pulled level on 52 minutes and it is unlikely that a better goal will be seen at the Park all season. Slinn started an 11-pass move with a short goal kick that saw the move gain momentum when Warren played the ball down the left to Beavon.

The 36-year-old midfielder spread the play across the pitch to Andrew Wright and from his low cross towards the near post George Milner clipped it in on for Bacon to ram the equaliser home from virtually on the goalline.

Little was seen of the Sports as an attacking entity for quite a while after that goal as City, stung by conceding in open play for the first time this season, applied pressure to the Hatfield Road goal.

Mickleover, though, defended stoutly and clear goal chances were at a premium. A shot from 25 yards by Zane Baton, following a Nobler corner, had Slinn diving to his left to save and the keeper needed two goes to smother a long-range effort from Devante Stanley.

Three minutes from time City almost found a way through when Jeffers headed goalwards from a Noble corner only for Warren to scoop the ball off the goalline.

The game had become really stretched during the latter stages with both sides counter-attacking but not seriously testing either goalkeeper.

With three minutes of added tome played referee Tom Danaher brought hostilities to an end and, with the F. not permitting extra-time in the qualifying rounds, City were taken to their 23rd penalty shoot-out but only second in the FA Cup.

Jeffers drove the opening penalty home with great aplomb and it was advantage City as Agustien, who had hardly put a foot wrong all night, drilled his right-footed shot over the bar with the Sports’ first effort.

Noble, Joe Chidyausiku and Banton kept City ahead in spite of Warren, Milner and Paddy Webb netting for the visitors. Kyran Wiltshire was thwarted by Slinn as he looked to put City through with their fifth kick but it mattered not a jot when Johnson dived to his right to push Beavon’s kick over the bar.

City’s wins over Hitchin Town and Mickleover have seen the club bank £9,000 from the prize fund so far this season.

St Albans City: M.Johnson, D.Stanley, T.Bender, K.Wiltshire, J.Kaloczi, S.Nwabuokei (M.Weiss 73), S.Jeffers, Z.Banton, D.Noble, M.Sundire (J.Chidyausiku 80), L.Warner-Eley, subs; M.Clark, D.Diedhiou, M.Dara, J.Mukena.

Mickleover: J.Slinn, J.Bennett, A.Morris, K.Agustien, J.Butler, P.Watt, M.Warren, A.Wright (P.Webb 56), D.Bacon (J.Walshaw 80), S.Beavon, G.Milner, subs; J.Satchwell, P.Mills, W.Monteiro, R.Ravenhill.