09:11AM, Thursday 12 January 2017
Trailing 2-0 with 20 minutes to play St Albans City made one last throw of the dice and their gamble paid off in spectacular style.
United looked to have the game under lock and key after Sam Barratt netted in either half but Saints manager Ian Allinson made a triple substitution, bringing on former Norwich City man Jamie Cureton, Shaun Lucien – the scorer of St Albans equaliser when the sides met at York Road in September – and Sam Merson – who’s lashed finish into the bottom corner saw the home side rescue a point.
Tom Bender turned the tide with a header from a corner as the Saints threw their towering centre halves forward with 20 minutes to play before Merson found the ball at his feet from a Louie Theophanous shot to steer the ball beyond Pentney with a minute left on the clock.
Having led 2-0, with a measure of control over the game, the result would have felt like a defeat to assistant Sam Lock but he insisted the Magpies, who now lead in National League South by eight points from Ebbsfleet United, would take the result on the chin and move on.
“They’re a good side but at 2-0 up you expect us to win the game,” Lock on Saturday.
“But they took a gamble, brought extra bodies forward, nicked a goal and then from that moment their gamble is worthwhile.
“We could have probably put them to bed with two or three chances at 2-0 but we didn’t take them.
“They then nick a goal and the pressure is always on us to defend it. At 2-0 down they’ve taken a gamble where they’ve said we’ll either lose this three or four or we’ll nick a goal.
“They’ve nicked a goal and from that moment on, in our position, with not long left, we can’t go and take the game to them, we’ve got to defend what we’ve got and fair play to them they’ve got the ball in the box, although we feel we could have done better for both of the goals.
“We’ll take a point, go home and come back in the next game.”
From a Magpies perspective the game will be remembered for Sam Barratt’s sensational display after returning from his loan spell at Staines Town.
Lock said: “A few people said ‘why has Sam gone on loan but that’s been vindicated,” he said. “You saw that in the performance he put in for the 70 odd minutes he was on the pitch. He scored two good goals and he just needed that match sharpness. He’s gone to Staines and come back and we’ve bared the fruit of that. We’re the ones who have earned out of it because he’s got us the point today.”
Manager Alan Devonshire also revealed this week that the club have yet to have an offer for their forward Dave Tarpey.
Devonshire said: "To be fair I’m fed up of talking about Tarpey. "It’s all paper talk, all conjecture. I’d rather leave it as it is at the moment because we’ve had no calls or nothing. If we do I’ll let you know.
"Josh Kelly has gone out on loan to Chalfont St Peter because I want the boy to get some game time but I’m not looking to do anything more at the moment. I’m happy with the squad and what I’ve got."
He also expects Harry Pritchard and Remy Clerima to be fine for Tuesday's Berks & Bucks Cup semi-final clash against Slough Town at York Road. Midfielder James Comley, who broke his hand in training last week, is set to see a fracture specialist early next week but could be in contention for Eastbourne Borough on Saturday, January 21.
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