Football / Non-League Notebook: Rivals find St Albans difficult to cut down

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AFTER the disappointment of being rejected by the GM Vauxhall Conference last summer, it would have been understandable if St Albans City had found it difficult to raise their game this season. However, the Hertfordshire club head the Diadora League 'current form' table and seem determined to have another go at securing promotion.

In what looks like becoming a very competitive race for the Diadora Premier Division title, St Albans currently occupy fifth place in the league, 10 points behind the leaders, Stevenage, with a game in hand. City have won five and drawn one of their last six league games, a record matched only by Marlow, who have an inferior goal difference. They are unbeaten for eight league games and have set a club record of six successive away wins.

The St Albans manager is Steve Ketteridge, the former Wimbledon midfielder, who stepped up from the No 2 position when John Mitchell relinquished control of team affairs in the summer. Mitchell, the former Fulham forward, became vice-chairman - a role he will give up if he is successful in his takeover bid at Luton Town. The likely departure of Mitchell is not, however, expected to harm St Albans' financial position.

Up front, Steve Clark has scored 15 goals so far, enough to attract an

unsuccessful bid of pounds 30,000 from Barnet. Ansil Bushay, the former Marlow striker, has arrived from Woking, while other new recruits include the experienced former Luton and Plymouth centre-half, Clive Goodyear, and Alan Pluckrose, a talented midfielder, from Slough Town.

Ever since their Clarence Park ground was deemed inadequate by the Conference, St Albans have been raising funds to effect the required improvements. Safety barriers have been imported from Plough Lane, Wimbledon, while the club hope to come to an agreement with the Conference about the ancient tree on their terraces, which was a major factor in the ruling against their ground. 'One thing's for sure, it isn't coming down,' David Tavener, City's press officer, said yesterday.

City's fine form earned Ketteridge the league's manager-of-the-month award for October. With no official photographer on hand to record the presentation ceremony before their home game against Bromley earlier this month, the honours were done by a police photographer, who was at Clarence Park investigating the theft of a car belonging to Bernard Tominey, the club chairman.