Ian Allinson’s men returned from Essex on Saturday evening with a well-deserved point following a controversial clash against Concord Rangers that was dominated by refereeing decisions.
The City manager made two changes from the side that defeated Hampton & Richmond Borough during mid-week, bringing in Dave Diedhiou and Joy Mukena for Devante Stanley and Luke Warner-Eley.
It was the hosts who started the game the better of the two sides and were denied an opener in the 19th minute by Michael Johnson, who did well to get low to his left to parry Alex Wall’s drive wide of the target.
Both sides struggled to get a footing in the game, although the Saints did get their first attempt on target away just before the half hour mark when the ball dropped to Jeffers on the edge of the box, however his effort was straight at Haigh.
The first controversial moment of the game came in the 40th minute. Alex Wall went down in the box as he looked to jump to meet a cross, with referee Philip Staynings immediately pointing to the spot. Wall stepped up and converted the penalty, sending it to Johnson’s left.
The start of the second half brought about an improvement from City in the final third, and Munashe Sundire was only inches away from levelling things up when he cut into from the right and saw his driven strike deflected inches wide by the boot of a defender.
As the game entered the 67th minute, the referee made another decision that infuriated the City players and staff. James Kaloczi, who had been booked earlier in the game, looked to have made an inch perfect tackle on Wall only for the referee to judge that it was a foul. The man in the middle proceeded to show Kaloczi his second yellow card and subsequently gave the defender his marching orders.
Ian Allinson reacted immediately and brought on Luke Warner-Eley and David Noble in place of Zane Banton and David Noble, and it was Warner-Eley who played a significant part in City’s equaliser.
The full-back whipped a free-kick mid-way into the Concord half towards the edge of the box, where a towering Dave Diedhiou met it and directed a perfect header into the top corner of the net.
Concord substitute Odei Marti could have given Concord the lead again with five minutes left, but was denied by Johnson who did well to charge down the forward and push his strike wide.
With the game stretched, the Saints themselves were also presented with an opportunity to take all three points. A ball into the home box wasn’t cleared and it eventually fell to substitute Joseph Chidyauskiu, who could only manage to direct his strike on the turn straight at Haigh.
City are back in Emirates FA Cup action on Tuesday evening when they host Northern Premier League side Mickleover.