With shooting that possessed all the accuracy of a butterfly tossed in all directions by a breeze, St Albans City did their bit on Saturday to help extend Staines Town’s stay in Conference South but, ultimately, a goalless draw did condemn the Swans to relegation.
Although this was a far from inspiring 90 minutes, it was a case of dire finishing catching the eye rather than it being a particularly dismal City performance.
The windswept crowd were certainly not impressed but had City’s finishing been more accurate then a goal or two would surely have been notched against the leagues bottom side, and the locals would have gone home reasonably happy.
But with just two of 23 shots forcing visiting keeper Jack Turner into making a save, City were their own worst enemy.
Staines have been destined for relegation for many months – a position not helped by losing five games after leading by two goals – and were workmanlike but posed just the occasional threat.
City included new loan signing Joseph N’Guessan in the starting line-up, while Steve Wales received a recall as Jamal Lowe was relegated to the bench and James Comley was away on international duty with Montserrat.
N’Guessan, on loan from Stevenage, started out on the right flank but later switched to the left, won the first corner of the game.
Lee Chappell swung the set-piece to the far post where Simon Thomas headed the ball into the York Road goalmouth for John Frendo to scoop an overhead effort over the crossbar.
The dye was set and by the 26th minute City had sent a remarkable eight attempts either wide or over Turner’s goal.
Central defender Darren Locke sent a long range effort bouncing across the goal and wide, and Wales drilled a shot over the top before Sam Corcoran joined in with a couple of shots into the terrace.
Turner watched carefully as a Chappell free kick dipped just over the bar and moments later Thomas added his name to the list as his attempted lob crashed into the metal fencing at the top of the terrace.
Still the chances came with Frendo battling well to win possession before sliding a soft shot wide.
St Albans continued to build with relative patience mostly with the ball on the deck, and the prospect of the Swans resistance finally being breached rose when James Kaloczi bulldozed his way forward.
The midfielder eventually lost the ball but it ran kindly to Wales whose snap-shot from 20 years beat Turner with ease only to thud into the foot of keeper’s right hand upright.
Thomas looked to pounce on the rebound but was, incorrectly, given offside.
Having spent most of the half on the back foot Staines enjoyed a purple patch that saw Chace O’Neill – who had a particular fine game – fire wide with a half volley and five minutes from the break the unmarked Elliott Buchanan, who started the season with the Saints, headed against an upright following Max Worsfold’s excellent cross from the Swans left.
Just prior to the break Staines survived a goalmouth scramble that ended with Corcoran stabbing the ball over from close in as he diverted a low shot by Frendo.
City made promising start after the interval when Corcoran won the ball midway inside the Staines half and slipped a good ball into the path of the free Frendo.
Taking a first time shot with his weaker foot, the right, City’s leading goalscorer forced Turner to leap high to claw the ball away for a corner.
From Chappell’s in-swinging corner Locke headed just over the goal.
Following the introduction of substitute Ashley Lodge Staines used a tactic very familiar to the Saints, that of the long throw.
And it was from one such throw that fellow substitute Josh Cooke called upon Welch to make his only save of the second half.
St Albans went straight back to the opposite end of the pitch and Turner had to stretch to beat away a dangerous cross from Lowe, who had replaced Wales.
Shortly after Wales’s exit Frendo made way for Michael Malcolm and after a run of quiet games the striker added a fresh impetus to the City attack.
Picked out down the right by Corcoran, Malcolm chested the ball down and with an angled drive pulled an excellent diving save out of Turner high to his right.
But that moment aside City’s finishing remained wasteful as the ball continued to fly close to, but not in, Turner’s goal.
That point was illustrated once more two minutes into added time when another clear chance was squandered. Thomas helped on a long clearance by the faultless Omar Beckles to Malcolm and when he slipped Lowe seized possession.
Spotting that Malcolm had got back to his feet swiftly, Lowe flicked the ball inside to his colleague only for Malcolm to miss the target from eight yards; it made not a jot of difference to Staines fate but it certainly summed up a bad day for the home side.