St. Albans City began their 2015/16 Vanarama National League South Campaign with a 0-0 draw at Gosport Borough.
Joint managers James Gray and Graham Golds decided against moving James Comley back into defence, allowing the Montserrat international to return to his midfield berth, while Darren Locke was partnered with Ben Martin in the heart of the back four.
Despite starting without the width of Jack Green or Lewis Hillard, the Saints looked to start the game brightly, and it quickly became clear that they were not on the South Coast to sit back and let the home side cruise to a comfortable victory on a very hot afternoon.
Luke Allen, making his National League South debut for City, called Gosport goalkeeper Nathan Ashmore into action early on, as he let fly from 20 yards out, but saw his effort palmed out for a corner.
The following set-piece saw Ben Martin get on the end of Corcoran’s ball in, but the ex-City captain put his header just over the home net.
Joe Welch, having won several awards at the end of last season, was called into action on the quarter of an hour mark, when he acrobatically tipped Tom Dunford’s deflected strike wide.
The Saints almost found themselves in the lead just after the 20 minute mark. Lee Chappell’s corner found James Comley 6 yards out, who angled his header downwards, but Ashmore made an excellent reaction save to deny the midfielder low down to his right on the goal line.
The biggest talking point of the half came just as the game ticked over into additional time. A City corner was cleared only to Ben Martin, who flicked his header into the patch of Louie Theophanous, and the forward found the back of the net with a strike on the turn. However, the linesman on the near side quickly had his flag up. It looked to be a harsh decision.
The home side, looking to imrpove upon their sixth placed finish last season, came out after the interval looking more lively, but still vulnerable at the back.
A through ball was played into the hard working Luke Allen, who took a touch, before hitting a low strike which Ashmore blocked with his feet, before Sam Corcoran blazed his follow up well over, and onto the cricket pitch behind the goal.
The best chance of the game, however, fell to Gosport’s Justin Bennett with less than twenty minutes left. St. Albans failed to clear their lines, with the ball eventually falling into the path of the striker, but he somehow struck the crossbar with his effort from less than four yards out.
With just a few minutes left on the clock, Welch was again called into action, making another spectacular save. Lee Wort looked to have secured the three points for his side, as his effort looked destined for the top corner, but Welch somehow got a finger tip to the ball, denying the substitute the winning goal.
The Saints will be the happier of the two sides, although will bemoan their lack of cutting edge in the final third.
St. Albans are next in action on Monday evening, as we host Oxford City at Clarence Park, kick-off is 7:45pm.
St. Albans City: J. Welch; J. Kyriacou; L. Chappell (c); B. Martin; J. Comley; D. Locke; Scott Thomas; Corcoran (L. Hilliard 72) L. Theophanous (J. Green 72); Simon Thomas; L. Allen (B. Medlock 79).
Unused Sub: D. Longe-King.
Gosport Borough: N. Ashmore; TJ Cuthbertson; R. Williams; R. Scott (G. Barker 58); B. Poate (C); A. Robinson; J. White (L. Wort 74); J. Bennett; T. Dunford.
Unused Subs: M. Carter; N. Walker; P. Ryan.