Southern League Premier Division
LEAMINGTON 2 ST NEOTS TOWN 0
Now unbeaten in seven matches, second in the table Leamington are staging a determined bid to reignite their season hoping to win the coveted one automatic promotion place back to the National League. On the day, their greater experience and determination condemned visiting St Neots to defeat but the visitors’ overall performance was not too bad. The first half was evenly shared with St Neots coming back from a slow start to test the home defence before the break. However once Leamington had gone ahead with a well created and finished goal early in the second half they settled to dominate the later stages. The other significant factor was that the home side had a carefully thought out plan to snuff out St Neots danger man Jevani Brown who was double marked for much of the game. When the two sides had met at St Neots in October the visitors had won by a single goal but interestingly the St Neots line-up that day featured only Alex Archer and Michael Hyem in the starting eleven for this return fixture. With Taylor Parr serving the final match of his suspension, Manager Matt Clements named an unchanged side.
Winning the toss St Neots elected to play with wind advantage but in the early stages that seemed to count against them with many of their attacks breaking down with the ball too far ahead of their strikers. Leamington did had early chances with Ahmed Obeng setting up Callum Gittings whose shot was blocked by Jonny Butler and then leading home scorer Courtney Baker-Richardson shot wildly off target. The home side then had to make an early substitution when Joe Magunda was injured and Obeng then squandered a golden opportunity shooting wide after being played clear of the defence. St Neots began to compete better with Jevani Brown running at the home defence but they lacked finishing until 41st minute when from a Brown free kick, Lee Clarke won the ball in the air only to see his effort deflected just wide by a defender on the goal line. From the corner the ball again fell to Clarke but he shot over the bar.
Although just after the restart Jonny Butler headed narrowly wide from a Brown corner, the St Neots bad habit of leaking an early second half goal once again materialized. After 51 minutes Leamington built a very slick attack that shredded the St Neots defence. Quick exchanged passes by Obeng and Gittings saw the latter pick out an overlap by Connor Gudger and his accurate pull back set up Jack Edwards for a free header at the far post and the opening goal. Five minutes later Alex Archer pulled off a point blank save from Gittings but St Neots then thought on the hour that they should have had a penalty kick when Brown was heavily brought down by a combination of two defenders but the Referee waved play on. Gittings then saw a shot clip the outside of a post but St Neots were competing well and James Tricks was clearly held back by Gudger earning St Neots a free kick on the edge of the area but the free kick was wasted. Then after 64 minutes Leamington opted for a second substitution sending on Richard Gregory for Obeng and within twenty seconds of his introduction he had scored his sides’ significant second goal with his first touch. St Neots almost clawed their way back into the game five minutes later when Brown’s snap shot clipped the cross bar but Leamington clearly felt that protecting their two goals cushion was the priority. St Neots sent on Luke Brown for Lee Clarke playing two up front but this only lasted a few minutes before Tricks had to limp off injured. St Neots had the last word when substitute Tom Knowles forced a full length save from home keeper Tony Breeden.
St Neots: Archer, Partridge, Herd, Clarke, Wood, Butler, Fortnam-Tomlinson, Bell-Toxtle, Tricks, Hyem, Brown (J)
Subs: Knowles (for Fortnam-Tomlinson 59 mins), Brown (L) (for Clarke 72 mins), Rogers (for Tricks 78 mins), Norman and Dean.
Cards: Fortnam-Tomlinson (Y – 28), Hyem (Y – 45), Butler (Y – 81)
Leamington: Breeden, Taundry, Gudger, Pond, Hood, Magunda, Baker-Richardson, Goddard, Obeng, Edwards, Gittings
Subs: Mace (for Magunda 24 mins), Gregory (for Obeng 64 minutes), Powell (for Goddard 78 mins), Thompson-Brown and George.
Cards: Pond (Y – 81)
Goals: Edwards (51 mins), Gregory (64 mins)
Referee: Robin Cox (Banbury)