Forty-one games played and the race for the play-offs goes down to the final day, we wouldn’t have it any other way. The Saints go in Saturday’s clash with Torquay United knowing that they have to pick up a result and hope that Billericay Town drop points against Bath City.
Monday’s defeat against Concord Rangers saw the home side race into a 2-0 lead before James Kaloczi reduced the deficit prior to the break. The Saints continued to apply pressure on the hosts but a combination of good defending from the Beach Boys and a poor final ball from City meant that the Essex club held on to secure a play-off place.
After the game Ian Allinson rued the defeat “We’ve been punished today for making two mistakes in the first twenty minutes and allowing them in behind us. Our final ball was poor and we struggled to break down their defence “.
Saturday’s opponents have enjoyed a terrific first season back at this level following relegation from the Vanarama National League last season, winning the league with three games to spare and securing an immediate return to the top division of non-league football. Manager Gary Johnson took over at Plainmoor in September following the sacking of Gary Owers and has overseen the Gulls’ rise up the table.
The former Yeovil Town boss and his side have dominated the division in recent months and in the process won their first division title since 1926/27, when they won the Southern League title.
However, since securing the title with a victory 2-0 against Eastbourne Borough the Gulls have suffered two defeats on the bounce against Chippenham Town (2-1) and Hungerford Town (1-0), their worst run of results since failing to pick up a win in four matches in a row during the first month of the season.
Forward Jamie Reid, who joined from Exeter City in 2017, has had a superb goalscoring season for today’s opposition, finding the back of the net on twenty-eight occasions so far. The 24-year-old is eleven goals ahead of Torquay United’s second next highest scoring Janneh Saikou and the Saints will have to keep a close eye on both if they are to keep the visitors out.
The aforementioned Reid has already terrorised City once this season, scoring two in the reverse fixture at Plainmoor back in October. That was the first ever league meeting between the two clubs and it was Gary Johnson’s side who came out on top with a comfortable 4-1 win, although the Saints were level for a time thanks to Clovis Kamdjo’s ninth minute effort.
City will be that hoping that Sam Merson is fit after the forward was forced off with an ankle injury during Wednesday night’s Herts Senior Cup final. Ian Allinson may also be sweating on the fitness of David Moyo and Khale Da Costa after the duo missed the final with knocks.
With five separate sides still in with a chance of the securing seventh place and the final play-off position this Saturday’s Vanarama National League South finale promises to be a tense and dramatic one.
Let’s get behind the boys and help push them over the line!
Come On You Saints!
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