New loan signing Nathan Green looked to have put St Albans City through to the 1st Round of the FA Trophy with a spectacular 84th minute strike from 30 yards, only for Wealdstone striker Scott McGleish, with a header three minutes later, to drag the two sides back to Grosvenor Vale for a replay.
A draw was a fair outcome in a match that saw the Stones dominate prior to the interval while City took the honours after the break.
Green, just two days after joining the Saints on a one-month loan from Dagenham & Redbridge, struck the ball cleanly from well outside the penalty area and with sufficient power to beat Jonathan North’s desperate dive in the Hatfield Road goal.
McGleish’s equaliser bore the mark of a predatory goalscorer with a knack of finding space in a crowded penalty area, but once again there will be questions asked in the City defence as to how a renowned striker could be left unattended at a free kick.
City showed four changes from the side that defeated Wealdstone 3-0 in September, while the Stones appear much more formidable opposition with the five alterations to their starting XI.
Attacking down the slope during the opening half Wealdstone bossed much of the play but it was St Albans who could have gone in a couple of goals to the good at the interval.
After 16 minutes of ample possession, but no penetration, the Stones were caught out by long ball from Saints keeper Joe Welch that sent Steve Wales clear.
The former England non-league international’s well-place shot looped over North but bounced into the far upright before being put out for a throw-in by James Hammond.
Former Wealdstone favourite Lee Chappell sent the throw into the heart of the penalty area where North made a stunning save to his left from Ben Martin’s header.
Chappell, following good work by James Comley, slid a good ball through to John Frendo who tested North with a low right-footed shot.
City keeper Joe Welch was called upon to make his first save on 25 minutes when Shaun Lucien dispossessed Wales and sent a rising shot just under the crossbar that Welch calmly palmed over.
A spell of Wealdstone pressure saw a cross by former Saint Ryan Watts headed out as far as another City old boy, Elliott Godfrey, whose firm drive flew just wide of the target.
The match appeared to have turned sharply in Wealdstone’s favour in the final minute of the half when Lucien embarked on a long run down the Stones right only to see his cross strike the arm of Martin.
The City captain was fewer than two yards from Lucien but referee Sam Purkiss deemed the offence to be serious enough to hand the visitors a penalty.
After a prolonged delay, during which Frendo was booked after abusing linesman Rick Bloy, Sean Cronin’s spot kick struck the inside of Welch’s left hand upright before bouncing out towards the far touchline.
James Comley aside, City’s midfield struggled to get into the game before the break, but after changing ends St Albans became the more dominant force and created several good openings.
One good chance went begging when Wales tried to tee up Frendo, who slipped at an inopportune moment. Fortunately, the ball rolled into the path of Green who, wastefully, shot wide of an unprotected goal.
After Frendo fired wide with a snap shot Wealdstone caused problems with a Joe Turner cross being just too high for McGleish and was knocked wide by Martin.
Watts pounced on the loose ball and crossed to the back post where McGleish headed over.
The Stones remained in the ascendancy with Turner cutting inside John Kyriacou and sending a powerful curling effort from 18 yards towards the roof of the net only for Welch to leap and flick the ball over for another of Wealdstone’s nine corner kicks.
A swift counter-attack saw Saints substitute Joel Nouble crowded out, but Sam Corcoran was quickly onto the ball and tested North low down Another swift break ended with Green drilling the ball at some speed across the face of North’s goal and out for a goal kick.
Charlie Gorman and Kyriacou linked up to find Nouble out on the right and when his cross was partially cleared by Hammond, Kyriacou sent a half volley just over the target.
The deadlock was finally broken six minutes from time when Green, given space to look around, opted to go for goal from distance and struck a blistering drive bounced in front of North and clipped the diving keeper’s hands on its way into the net.
Victory looked to be City’s but on 87 minutes Wealdstone were awarded a free kick midway inside the Saints half when Gorman was booked for a trip on Lucien.
As with all of the set pieces that they defended, City pulled everyone back yet still McGleish was able to rise unchallenged at the back post and beat Welch with a crisp header into the roof of the net from Godfrey’s hanging dead ball kick.
The large and vocal Wealdstone support, who had started the day by mocking St Albans for charging the highest admission prices in Conference South, were now at full throttle.
But it was St Albans who almost found the winning note right at the death when Frendo headed over from a Gorman cross, and Green was inches away with a clever glancing header from a Chappell cross that zipped across the face of North’s goal.
The draw leaves City still unable to record two consecutive home wins since February.
St Albans went into Saturday’s match very much with a bare starting XI and a thoroughly inexperienced list of substitutes.
Ankle ligament problems ruled out Matt Taylor, a foot injury also accounted for David Keenleyside. Charlie Smith and Omar Beckles were both cup tied, Loick Pires and James Kaloczi are out on loan and Sean Shields returned to Dagenham earlier in the week at the end of his loan spell.
And City’s problems do not ease for Tuesday’s replay at Grosvenor Vale as Lee Chappell serves the first game of a three-match ban. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.