Southern League Premier Division
ST NEOTS TOWN 1 STRATFORD TOWN 1
With three of the sides below St Neots losing on the day this point could prove valuable but St Neots left the pitch feeling that this draw was more like a defeat. For more than an hour after taking the lead they dominated much of the match but visitors Stratford coming into the match on the back of two good victories refused to give up and they snatched a point with a good goal thanks to an inspired substitution to maintain their unbeaten record against St Neots in four meetings. St Neots have only themselves to blame for not taking all three points for they looked likely winners the first 45 minutes but chances went begging and this encouraged Stratford to plug away despite their somewhat feeble efforts in attack. The point probably assures Stratford of Step Three status next season and their best-ever finish at this level. St Neots had to make an enforced team change with centre forward James Tricks beginning his three matches suspension but his replacement Lewis Wilson returning to the club after an absence of three years distinguished himself with St Neots all important goal and led the line with enthusiasm and flair. Now with just four matches remaining St Neots need at least one victory which should be enough to see them retain their status.
On a beautiful spring afternoon, the match began dramatically as from St Neots’ kick off they were almost ahead inside less than ten seconds when Shane Hill shot from the half way line, a perfectly directed effort under the bar and the surprised visiting keeper Niall Cooper had to stretch to tip the ball over for a corner. That seemed to set the tone as St Neots settled and they were deservedly ahead after 17 minutes when skipper Micky Hyem and Jevani Brown combined to free Lewis Wilson on the right and he wriggled past the last defender to score with a low shot from a narrow angle. After half an hour, the score should have been doubled when once again Brown was the provider setting up Declan Rogers who looked off balance and his header sailed over the bar from just six yards. Brown twice tested Cooper and had an acrobatic overhead shot blocked whilst Stratford’s only serious effort on goal by Edwin Ahenkora was comfortably saved by Alex Archer. The St Neots defence looked secure and the first half looked very comfortable with Stratford rarely getting a sight of goal.
The pattern continued for a while after the break with Rogers robbing his marker to shoot narrowly wide and Wilson just failing to reach a Brown cross. Stratford had resorted to shooting from distance and both Ahenkora and William Grocott saw off target efforts fly over the crossbar. Up for a Brown corner Taylor Parr sent a header just wide but with 66 minutes on the clock the visiting Manager decided there had to be a change of tactics and he sent on substitute Jamie Spencer a former Birmingham City Academy member to boost his attack - this proving to be a pivotal decision. St Neots had to spend more time defending and they lost some of their impetus as Spencer saw his first effort on goal blocked by Tom Wood. As the second half progressed Stratford grew in confidence with St Neots looking bent on preserving their slender advantage. Then with ten minutes left Wood appeared to misjudge a headed clearance and the ball bounced kindly for Spencer whose finish was clinical to level the scores. St Neots realized their lost opportunity and responded in the final minutes sending on two attacking substitutes but the home defence stood firm until the second minute of added time when substitute Tom Knowles latched on to a Brown through pass and brought a fine point blank save from Cooper who had left his line to narrow the angle. St Neots now face two of the top five sides in their next two matches as they look to make up for this missed opportunity.
St Neots: Archer, Partridge, Herd, Clarke, Wood, Parr, Rogers, Hill, Wilson, Hyem, Brown
Subs: Knowles (for Rogers 75 mins), Bell-Toxtle (for Hill 83 mins), L’Ghoul (for Wilson 86 mins), Partridge and Butler
Goals: Wilson (17 mins)
Stratford: Cooper, Fry, Hancocks, Fitzharris,Thomas, Clark, Forsyth, Grocott, Taylor, Ahenkorah, Marsden
Subs: Tulloch (for Fitzharris 60 mins), Spencer (for Ahenkorah 66 mins), Delfounosos (for Marsden 83 mins), Francis and Stephens.
Cards: Taylor (Y – 88)
Goals: Spencer (80 mins)
Referee: Stephen Bates (St Albans)