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Patience pays off as second half pressure leads to Shariff equaliser

Saturday, 06 January 2018 21:47

SOUTHERN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION

St Neots Town      2         Stratford Town     2

St Neots Town remain the draw specialists in the Premier Division – the tenth time they have finished all square this season, but they had to come from behind twice to salvage their point.   In six Southern League meetings they have still failed to beat bogey opponents Stratford.    In the end after a frustrating second half when they failed to find a way through a stubborn visiting defence, their perseverance paid off with an 85th minute second goal to reward their efforts.   Manager Matt Clements had to juggle his team just before the start when Lewis Irwin cried off ill, but he restored leading scorer Dylan Williams to the side after two substitute appearances and welcomed back Taylor Parr from suspension with Tom Wood switching to full back in place of Jack Bradshaw who was on the bench.   Perhaps a draw was predictable with Stratford now finishing level in each of their three visits to the Premier Plus Stadium.

It was the visitors who made the brighter start to the match.   Justin Marsden stung the hands of keeper Mike Emery with a snap volley as the sides sparred and it was Stratford who forged ahead after 15 minutes when the lively William Grocott linked cleverly with Ben Stephens to set up Edwin Ahenkorah for a close range finish.   That was the strikers’ fourth goal in as many games against St Neots.   The home side hit back quickly, Dylan Williams, having one shot saved and a second blocked but after 27 minutes Stefan Broccoli beat his marker on the bye line to feed Kyron Wiltshire and his deft backheel set up Williams for his eleventh league goal of the season to level the scores.  

However, St Neots were only on terms for six minutes and then another example of charity defending gifted the visitors with their second goal.   Liam McDevitt appeared to be shepherding the ball back toward Mike Emery, but Ben Stephens nipped in to steal the ball and roll it into the unguarded net.   The unlucky Nabil Shariff was then denied a goal when he climbed highest to win a Johnny Herd free kick but saw his header rebound from the cross bar.

The second half was always going to be difficult as the visitors opted to sit on their slender lead rather than chasing further goals.   Stefan Broccoli shot wide after a neat build up but in a breakaway attack Eli Bako should have done better for the visitors than volley over the bar when he was left unmarked.   However, much of the attacking play was going to be around the Stratford box as Dion Sembie-Ferris cut in to see his shot deflected and Tom Wood linked with his attack but saw Connor make a good save at the second attempt.   The pressure continued with substitute Scott Sinclair heading wide and then the hard-working Nabil Shariff had a rising shot parried by the overworked visiting keeper.   Of course, when a team becomes too committed to attacking they are liable to be caught on the break and ten minutes from time Grocott broke free to get the ball in the St Neots net, but he was thwarted by an offside flag.   Luke Knight then shot wide and Williams had an effort cleared off the line as St Neots redoubled their efforts and they were eventually rewarded five minutes from time when Wood headed down a cross and Shariff pounced to force the ball home from close range for his second St Neots goal.   There was still time for Sinclair to see a well-placed shot deflected wide and deep into added time substitute David Bridges saw his effort touched onto the cross bar by Connor.

St Neots Town:  Emery, Wood, Herd, Knight, McDevitt, Parr, Sembie-Ferris, Wiltshire, Shariff, Williams, Broccoli.

Subs:  Sinclair (for Broccoli 66 mins), Bridges (for Wiltshire 84 mins), O’Malley, Bradshaw and Marsh-Brown

Cards:  Broccoli (Y – 52 mins), Knight (Y – 88 mins)

Goals:  Williams (27mins), Shariff (85 mins)

 

Stratford Town:  Connor, Fry, Evans, Hancocks, Recci, Francis, Marsden, Bako, Ahenkorah, Grocott, Stephens

Subs:  Tudorache (for Evans 72 mins), Gallinagh (for Ahenkorah 77 mins), Dawson (for Bako 82 mins), Moran and Luckie.

Cards:  Fry (Y – 45+1 mins), Evans (Y – 47 mins), Hancocks (Y – 58 mins), Stephens (Y – 90 mins)

Goals:  Ahenkorah (15 mins), Stephens (33 mins)

Referee:  Andrew Humphries (Daventry)

Attendance:  233

 

John Walker

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