Southern League Premier Division
CHIPPENHAM TOWN 1 ST NEOTS TOWN 2
The Biggleswade victory over Leamington on Good Friday had handed Chippenham the Southern League Premier Division Championship and a place in the National League South next season and so St Neots were supposed to play the supporting role as the home side and their huge crowd celebrated their first ever place at Step Two in the football pyramid. However, the visitors had issues of their own with their place in the Premier Division next season still at stake and so they produced a gargantuan display to return home from Wiltshire labelled as party-poopers. So, with three of the four teams below then all winning over the weekend St Neots remain four points above the drop with just two matches remaining. It was an all-round team performance with goal ace Jevani Brown again producing the goals to take his personal tally to eighteen in just nineteen matches but each player put in a valuable shift on the day to earn the three priceless points against a side unbeaten in their last twenty-three matches. The one team change saw Jonny Butler come in at full back for the unavailable Jonny Herd.
The St Neots players formed a guard of honor to welcome their hosts onto the pitch at the start of the match but that is where the hospitality finished. Lining up in an attacking 4-3-3 formation St Neots took the game to the Bluebirds from the start and had much the better of the first half. After Alex Archer had to save at the feet of David Pratt in the first attack of the game St Neots settled quickly to their game plan and reward came early after just ten minutes when Taylor Parr headed a long clearance from goalkeeper Darren Chitty back over the heads of the defence and with a burst of speed Jevani Brown won the ball to lob over the advancing goalkeeper. St Neots then took over as Lee Clarke did his best to find his way onto the score sheet heading wide before bringing a good save from Chitty with a clever lob, and then rifling a low shot through the defence just the wrong side of a post. The only real threat from Chippenham came from set pieces with Jamie Andrews testing Archer from a free kick and Will Richards heading over from a corner by Matt Smith. Just past the half hour Chitty had to dive full length to push away a well-directed effort by Brown and Lewis Wilson shot wide. The half ended with Archer saving comfortably from Matt Smith and St Neots went to the break well deserving of their advantage.
Within 35 seconds of the restart there was high drama as Jevani Brown was brought down by Chitty in the penalty area and after receiving lengthy treatment the keeper looked very lucky only to receive a yellow card but Brown calmly slotted home the resultant spot kick to double St Neots’ lead. Chippenham were then clearly a side on a mission as they threw on two attacking substitutes and clearly went for goal. Now St Neots defence was tested but with Tom Wood and Taylor Parr in superb ariel control St Neots weathered the storm for around 25 vital minutes. On the break, St Neots almost scored again when Brown was played clear by Wilson but Chitty saved with his legs. Matt Smith headed over the bar after Archer had misjudged a cross and after 71 minutes the Bluebirds were back in the game when after a further spell of pressure and three successive corners Alex Ferguson was perfectly placed to crash home after a great run by Pratt. Less than a minute later Pratt again eluded defenders to go clear but Archer left his line to block at his feet. Declan Rogers had a shot blocked at the other end and Chitty made up for his earlier error by producing a full length save from Wilson. In the last five minutes plus no less than eight minutes added time St Neots began to look more comfortable and created two late chances with Clarke having his shot blocked and Brown setting up Hyem whose shot was pushed away by Chitty. And then the celebrations for both sides began - St Neots for their victory – Chippenham for their title.
St Neots: Archer, Norman, Butler, Clarke, Wood, Parr, Rogers, Bell-Toxtle, Wilson, Hyem, Brown
Subs: Partridge (for Rogers 83 mins), Knowles, Williams and Dean.
Cards: Hyem (Y – 81)
Goals: Brown 2 (10 & 46 mins – pen)
Chippenham: Chitty, Bowman, Felix, Baggridge, Tindle, Richards, Ferguson, Smith, Pratt, Andrews, Guthrie
Subs: Jones (for Felix 55 mins), Horgan (for Baggridge 55 mins), Pook (for Bowman 73 mins), Beeden and Allen
Cards: Chitty (Y – 46)
Goal: Ferguson (71 mins)
Referee: Stephen Oakey (Cheltenham)