ST ALBANS MENS HOCKEY TEAM put last week's disappointing display behind them to salvage some pride; and their Premier Division Indoor status; with a much-improved performance in last weekend's final round of league matches.

With the Saints entering the halfway stage winless and pointless, Andy Halliday's side were under pressure to stay in a competition they have dominated for the last two years.

However, the Tangerines were boosted by the inclusion of Julian Halls and David Cooper at the expense of Craig Hawkins and Gareth Terrett.

Cooper in particular had an outstanding weekend and the talented youngster's performances will have caught the eye of the England under-18 selectors as well as boding well for the club's future.

Saints kicked off on the Saturday (January 19) against fellow relegation candidates Southgate and East Grinstead and went a long way to ensuring survival with maximum points.

Against Southgate, St Albans showed discipline and courage lacking from the opening weekend to wind up comfortable 8-2 winners against youthful, but inexperienced, opposition.

Victory against old rivals East Grinstead meant another important step towards safety and again the Hertfordshire side did not disappoint.

Gradually, St Albans wore down their opponents and earned a deserved 5-2 half time lead. The second half saw a tiring Saints and with Grinstead throwing everything at them, the final whistle was greeted with relief and a hard-earned 8-7 victory.

Sunday was always going to be more difficult with holders Guildford and Old Loughtonians providing the opposition.

A tight game against Guildford saw St Albans gradually forge ahead and look in control. At 4-1 with only eight minutes remaining, a victory for Saints was on the cards, but tiring legs allowed former player Ian Jennings to rally his side and Jennings fired two penalty corners past Malcolm Yull in the last minute to earn an undeserved point although the 4-4 draw preserved St Albans Premier league status.

In another thrilling game, St Albans narrowly failed to come away from the weekend unbeaten as Old Loughtonians scored two late goals, forcing a 7-6 victory.

With the chief aim of survival achieved, the weekend demonstrated that the Saints can still mix it with the best, but must rebuild.

With Andy Halliday, probably the game's most successful player, as well as Julian Halls and Paul Bolland all retiring from the indoor game, Saints must now focus on next year's competition by introducing the younger players to the tactical subtleties of the indoor game.

Glenn Webster and Malcolm Yull can carry on the club's famous indoor tradition, but it is players like David Cooper who are the future of the club although the fighting spirit shown by the players at least restored some pride to the Tangerines.