Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division: St Albans City 2 Bedford Town 2
Bedford Town fared much better in their second away game in four days as they claimed a point at St Albans City on Tuesday evening with a 2-2 draw, writes Roger Worsley.
Eagles though should really have secured all three points, but for the fourth game in the last five in the league, they conceded a late goal.
Josh Beech (injury) and Mark Bell (ill) were passed fit and came back to populate the subs bench as boss Nick Platnauer kept the same side that started against Cambridge City on Saturday.
The night was near on perfect for football with the temperature hovering about the 10C mark and not a breeze to be seen pushing the branches of the trees.
For the fans, the contest was keen, but memorable football was clearly at a premium.
Pacy striker Chris Henry had the first chance on 11 minutes when he held off the attentions of Jamie Grimes to bobble a shot across Ian Brown’s goal and off.
The opening goal came as a surprise three minutes later when Eugene Libertucci’s long range shot deflected off the boot of Callum Lewis to loop over Nick Jupp in the home goal.
It was hard to see whether Lewis, 20 yards from goal at least, meant to direct the ball over the stranded keeper or it just hit his foot. Either way the goal stood and Bedford had the lead.
Ashley Fuller hoisted a free-kick over the bar on 20 minutes and just before the half-hour mark Henry wasted a good opportunity to equalise by blasting the ball over the bar after he sped into the area.
Just before half time a cross in from the left by Nick Beasant nearly found Michael Built in the area but, before the New Zealander could emulate his goal from Saturday, James Gray made a successful last-ditch tackle to deny the goal.
The second half followed a similar pattern until Tremayne Charles’ weak effort gave Brown a comfortable save on the hour.
Two minutes later, however, a second shot came in and this time it hit the target when Henry found a space on the edge of the Bedford area to direct the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net as St Albans kept pressing.
Three minutes later Henry resorted to blasting the ball over the bar again as he used his pace to race clear of the defence.
This was still anyone’s match and with 15 minutes to go Bedford again had the upper hand.
Fuller’s cross from the left was half cleared to Built on the right hand corner of the area. Built turned and shot but his effort was blocked and rebounded into the path of Lewis, who, from the edge of the area, definitely didn’t leave anyone in doubt as to his intentions with his second goal as he coolly curled the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net.
The game looked as though it would end 2-1 to Bedford, but there was a twist in the tail with late substitutions.
St Albans, with just four minutes left on the clock, made a triple substitution while for Bedford, Paul Cooper came on for Built.
Cooper’s first touch was to head the ball off the line from David Ijaha’s header, but the telling blow though came in the 88th minute when, with the home side looking for the equaliser, two of their substitutes combined to deny the Eagles their third away win of the season.
Juan Onieva crossed in from the left and Barry Hayles used all his former Football League experience to direct the ball goalwards and away from Brown.
It was cruel on Bedford, but on reflection and balance of play, a draw was probably a fair result.
Saints: Nick Jupp, Chris Seeby, Ryan Watts, David Ijaha, Danny Gordon, James Gray (C), Sean Shields, Micah Hyde (Matt Taylor 86), Simon Martin (Barry Hayles 86), Chris Henry, Tremayne Charles (Juan Onieva 86). Substitutes not used: Moussa Diarra, Richard Graham.
Eagles: Ian Brown (C), Ollie Wilkinson, Steve Kinniburgh, Michael Built (Paul Cooper 87), Tom Guiney, Jamie Grimes, Eugene Libertucci, Callum Lewis, Jamaine Ivy, Nick Beasant, Ashley Fuller. Substitutes not used: Mark Bell, George Pinney, Josh Beech.
Referee: Mr Scott.
Assistants Referees: Mr Kennett and Mr Lawson.
Star Eagle: Eugene Libertucci.