Miss-placed passes were aplenty and the finishing, at times, woeful, yet St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead Town still served up an entertaining 90 minutes at Clarence Park on Shrove Tuesday that ended with honours even in a 1-1 National League South draw.

Having taken the lead early in the second half against their close rivals, this was very much a case of two points dropped for Ian Allinson’s side as the chance to reclaim second place slipped through their fingers.

The match got off to cracking start with both sides looking likely to score inside the opening 36 seconds.

City kicked-off attacking the Hatfield Road end and went straight on the attack with a long ball down the left by skipper Tom Bender. Hemel defender Nathan Cooper failed to clear the danger and was dispossessed by Mitchell Weiss. The former Hemel player cut the ball back to Shaun Jeffers but his chance of an early goal was lost courtesy of Rene Steer’s quite superbly timed block.

However, the Tudors immediately launched a penetrating counter attack that should have resulted in the opening goal.

Hemel captain Sam Mantom swept a good ball out to Reggie Young on the Town left. Young went past Ricky Shakes with ease and crossed low to Chris Paul who, somehow, shot wastefully wide from 12 yards out.

Hemel lived dangerously on 14 minutes when 21-year-old goalkeeper Nick Hayes, once of Norwich City, fumbled a Zane Banton corner. Paul’s attempted clearance put the ball straight onto Bender’s head but the visitors managed to scramble his header off the line and away for another corner.

Town striker Bernard Christie evaded City’s offside trap on 19 minutes but his low curling shot was gathered in comfort by Michael Johnson.

A spell of City pressure midway through the half culminated in Jeffers bringing down a cross by Munashe Sundire only to scoop his shot a yard or so over Hayes’ goal.

The one-time Hemel duo of Banton and James Kaloczi combined on the half-hour with the latter’s looping header being headed off the goalline by Christie. The ball went out to Bender whose follow up header was collected by Hayes with all the assuredness of someone juggling a hot, greasy pancake.

As Hemel hit back, Johnson moved swiftly to block Young after a free-kick had been headed into the home penalty area by Cooper. A minute later Christie did well to hold off Kaloczi and from a tight angle sent the ball agonisingly across the face of the City goal.

It was a fate that also befell City on two occasions when Bender sent crisply struck low crosses into the heart of the Tudors penalty area but no one could lurch forward to apply the telling touch.

The entertainment was maintained right up until the interval with Jeffers flashing a free-kick narrowly wide and, in a matter of seconds, Hemel had three shots charged down in front of the City goal.

St Albans began the second period as the more dominant force and Hemel attacks on the City goal were thin on the ground.

Ten minutes after the restart Sundire, although outnumbered, powered his way into the Hemel penalty area and laid a pass into the path of Banton. The former Luton youngster looked to be on the verge of opening the scoring only for his shot to thud into the head of the offside Jeffers and balloon onto the York Road terrace. Two minutes later though, the 57th, City did take the lead.

Banton won a corner off Scott-Morriss and, from in front of a surprisingly large number of matchday critical staff, curled the set piece towards the near post for the leaping Solomon Nwabuokei to elegantly glance a header into the net for his fourth goal of the season.

Having waited a long time to take the lead City appeared reluctant to push home their advantage and the Tudors were soon coming back at them.

On the hour Samir Carruthers slid a good pass through to Lacey whose low shot was cleanly collected by Johnson. City escaped that time but on 69 minutes Hemel were awarded a penalty that not too many years ago would not have been considered as an offence.

Manton lifted a free-kick to just inside the home penalty area. Cooper headed the ball on but it struck the right arm of Joy Mukena who had jumped with him. There had clearly been no attempt to deliberately block the ball but, such are the Laws of the Game these days, referee Oliver Mackey pointed to the spot.

After a delay of not far short of 100 seconds Lacey fired the equaliser to the left of the sprawling Johnson. With that goal the game again opened up.

Neither side appeared to be content with just a point and with a quickly taken free-kick Jeffers chipped a pass through to Weiss. Pushing the ball to his left Weiss made room to fire low; Hayes looked to have dived over the ball but it clipped his boot and as it trickled towards his goal the keeper darted back to spare his own blushes.

In complete contrast to his weak effort in the opening minute, Paul went close to winning the game for Hemel on 82 minutes when his stinging free-kick from a good 30 yards out was superbly pushed over the top by the fully extended Johnson.

The danger, though, was far from over and from the ensuing corner Johnson had to move smartly to his right to block Kyle Ajayi’s header.

But it was Hemel who nearly fell to a late sucker punch when Kaloczi headed on a Banton free kick and Jeffers stretched to stab the loose ball beyond Hayes, but Town substitute Matt Bateman was on hand to whack the ball to safety.

Credit should be given to referee Mackey who did his best to keep the game flowing and, in spite of waving his yellow card six times, was far more reluctant to blow for perceived minor infringements than a number of his colleagues this season.

St Albans City: M.Johnson, T.Bender, K.Wiltshire, J.Kaloczi, S.Nwabuokei, S.Jeffers, R.Shakes, Z.Banton, M.Weiss (R.Akinola 87), M.Sundire, J.Mukena, subs; M.Clark, D.Diedhiou, A.Lankshear, L.Warner-Eley.

Hemel Hempstead Town: N.Hayes, G.Scott-Morriss, N.Cooper, K.Ajayi, R.Steer, S.Mantom, C.Paul, S.Carruthers (R.Blackman 87), J.Lacey (D.Webb 79), R.Young, B.Christie (M.Bateman 83), subs; D.Saunders, R.Kinnane.