03:15PM, Thursday 16 September 2021
It was a bad day all round for Slough Town as the side lost a game they could easily have won and saw Ryan Bird stretchered off with a serious knee injury that may see him miss the remainder of the season.
In many ways an entertaining 3-2 win for St Albans City was overshadowed by Bird's unfortunate injury which occurred in the early stages when no one was around him.
The central defender is expected to be out of action for around six months after rupturing the patella tendon in his left knee, but the good news is he's already had an operation to correct the problem and Underwood hopes to see him back in action before the end of the season.
The injury had an immediate impact on the game with Slough's players losing focus for a five-minute period, just enough time for St Albans to race into a two-goal lead. Underwood has some sympathy with the players who were clearly shaken by their teammate’s horrific injury, but he couldn't quite excuse the poor defending which allowed Liam Sole and Shaun Jeffers to score.
More pleasing was the character and spirit Slough showed to get back on terms before the interval, as Ben Harris marked his return to the starting line up with a brace. They might have scored more, with Tom Derry and Joe Lawal spurning good opportunities either side of the break, but instead, they conceded late on in controversial circumstances. A running theme for the Rebels this season unfortunately.
“Yeah, the injury made it a bad day all round,” said Underwood. “It's really unfortunate for Birdy. It was one of those freak ones you sometimes see on a football pitch because no one was close to him. He just collapsed and was clearly in a lot of pain. He's a brave lad and if he screams out like that you know it's a serious one.
“The hope is we will see him again before the end of the season, but we'll have to wait and see how the next few months go.
“Within five or six minutes we were 2-0 down and it wasn't good defending. You can perhaps let the players off the hook a bit because they were shaken by the injury, but they didn't get to grips with the game for the next 10 minutes. The pleasing thing is we showed real fighting spirit to get back on level terms and for Ben Harris to score twice as he's such an important player for us.
“In the second half I felt we looked more likely to win it and created the better openings, but obviously we had a really disappointing decision, and, for the second home game running, we've come away with nothing when I felt we would have been disappointed with a point.”
That disappointing decision saw the referee inexplicably point to the penalty spot in the final minute after St Alban's Romeo Akinola ran into the back of Guy Hollis as the defender turned to shepherd the ball out of play.
“It's hard to take but hopefully it's a short-term thing. We don't think there's a lot wrong with us, and you have these spells in football sometimes, but if we're saying the same things in a month's time there's obviously more to it. The referee's reason for giving it, having watched it back, is just not there, so I don't know what he's seen. It's one of those things you can't affect, but we could have defended better for their first two goals, and we've also missed some good chances. Those are the things we must work on, but a big plus for us is that we're creating lots of chances now.
“We've got to try and stay mentally strong and believe things will turn around, hopefully this weekend.”
Underwood will be hoping Saturday's home tie against step 4 Whitehawk in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup gives the Rebels the spark they've been missing in recent weeks.
A student from Maidenhead who suspects she was spiked with a needle on a night out after waking up in hospital the next day has urged people to report similar incidents to the police.