Goalkeeper Michael Johnson was the St Albans City hero for the second time in five days on Saturday when his two crucial second half, one-on-one, saves consigned the Saints National League South top-of-the-table clash with Hungerford Town to a goalless conclusion at Clarence Park.

Johnson’s heroics were needed by Ian Allinson’s side once the Crusaders had weathered City’s early dominance and then forced the pace themselves.

City made one change from the side that won away to league leaders Dartford in midweek, with Romeo Akinola coming in for Zane Baton. The loss of the influential Banton was quite a blow and Akinola, in the starting XI for the first time, was withdrawn early in the second half after struggling to make an impact.

Akinola sliced the first attempt on goal of the afternoon well wide but a minute later Luke Cairney, the Hungerford keeper, was called into action for the first time to smother a shot by Shaun Jeffers after the Saints top scorer had linked well with Mitchell Weiss.

On nine minutes Hungerford broke in style with a wonderful, slick, counter-attack. Ryan Seager swept a ball out to Mike Jones and from his low cross the ever-threatening Craig Fasanmade turned swiftly and forced Johnson to save low down.

Cairney had to be watchful to collect a Jeffers free-kick that dipped once over a defensive wall as City returned to the attack, but the Town keeper could watch in comfort as a Munashe Sundire effort drifted wide following good work by Dave Diedhiou.

Jones looked to be in trouble when he appeared to catch Kyran Wiltshire midway through the half but the Hungerford man had receiving a shove from Diedhiou that sent him, inadvertently, into the City midfielder.

After that, other than for Seager sending a free-kick from 25 yards gently wide, the rest of the half was a great disappointment, as feigning injury, crowding the referee and blocking free kicks took precedence over the flowing football of earlier on.

Two minutes into the second half and Hungerford again showed their quality on the break.

Keith Emmerson headed away a long free-kick by Johnson, Seager nodded it onto Callum Willmoth and from his exquisite through ball, Fasanmade raced clear of James Kaloczi but his attempt to fire inside Johnson’s near post was deflected wide off the ‘keeper’s legs.

Unfortunately, the scrappy end to the first half continued for much of the second period and was only interrupted spasmodically by enterprising football.

Seager tried to catch out Johnson with an audacious effort from five yards in the City half but the ball was always meandering wide of the target on its way towards the York Road terrace.

On the hour more, swift, passing between Harrison Bayley, Seager and Willmoth led to Fasanmade breaking clear again only to be denied by Johnson’s legs for a second time.

City had a genuine scare on 65 minutes when Johnson failed to deal effectively with a cross from Willmoth and palmed the ball to Town substitute Matt Partridge. His cushioned pass just evaded Matt Berry-Hargreaves barely a couple of yards out and Kaloczi was able to clear.

For a while Hungerford had City penned inside their own half and from a teasing cross by McGrory, Willmoth, at the back post, poked a tame shot weakly wide.

The rest of the game was uninspiring but three minutes from time St Albans looked to be on the verge of snatching a late winner following a David Noble corner.

Jeffers cut away to collect Noble’s low cross on the edge of the penalty area but had his shot blocked. The striker returned the ball into the goalmouth where it was knocked away to Sundire whose deflected shot was headed off the goalline to Bender only for his shot to suffer the same fate. Both clearances were made by the alert Willmoth.

Having taken three points from Dartford on Tuesday, a point gained from the side sitting second in the table was no bad thing for St Albans, who remain in fourth place. Also, Danny Robinson’s side are a far cry from the Hungerford squad that was rooted to the foot of the National League South table for much of last season.

St Albans City: M.Johnson, T.Bender, K.Wiltshire, J.Kaloczi, M.Clark, R.Akinola (L.Warner-Eley 56), S.Jeffers, D.Diedhiou (D.Noble 74), M.Weiss (J.Chidyausiku 88), M.Sundire, J.Mukena. Subs not used: D.Stanley, C.Onokwai.

Hungerford Town: L.Cairney, LMcGrory, C.Angell (M.Partridge 61), K.Emmerson, J.Rusby, M.Jones, C.Willmoth, R.Seager (L.Hopper 88), C.Fasanmade (K.Tooze 90), H.Bayley, M.Berry-Hargreaves. Subs not used: J.Harding, J.Edwards.