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Stalemate in the September Sunshine as the woodwork twice denies the Saints

Sunday, 30 September 2018 10:26

SOUTHERN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION

St Neots Town       0        Hitchin Town       0

Perhaps the players on both sides had their minds on next week’s home FA Cup engagements after their respective heroics in the previous round but for the substantial crowd watching from the sidelines in the sunshine it was a disappointing afternoon.   Perhaps to some extent it was predictable – the third consecutive draw between the two sides, and although Hitchin will be the happier with the result they remain rooted in the relegation zone.   It was only St Neots second home goalless draw since March 2016 and will be regarded as two points lost rather than one gained.   The woodwork twice denied St Neots in the second half and Hitchin were hanging on for the final twenty minutes during which time St Neots failed to make their superior possession count.   With almost a full squad to choose from St NeotsManager Matt Clements opted for just the single change in his starting line-up bringing back Ben Worman, who was cup tied for the Romulus match, for Devante Stanley who was on the bench.   There was also a second half club debut for former Ipswich Town player Russell Short who managed to get his name in the Referee’s notebook for a mistimed challenge.

Hitchin began in confident style and for the first twenty minutes they were the better side.    St Neots failed to show any kind of constructive approach giving the ball away and allowing their visitors to dominate play and openings.   From an Isaac Galliford corner Lewis Ferrell was unmarked and he tested Harry Reynolds with a low shot and then Alex Anderson worked his way into a clear shooting position but finished weakly.   In a five-minutes spell midway through the first half Jack Green squandered two glorious chances to put Hitchin ahead, first volleying over the bar after good work by Macsen Fraser and then firing wide from a Matt Spring corner.   Gradually St Neots grappled their way back into the game and Claudio Ofosu switched wings to see his teasing cross palmed away by Michael Johnson and then from a Johnny Herd corner, Nabil Shariff glanced his header wide of the far post.    Six minutes before the break the underworked Johnson did well to save a stinging shot from Shariff and then visiting skipper Josh Bickerstaff (one of three former St Neots players in the visiting side) cleared a Ben Worman chip off the undefended goal line after his keeper had gone ‘walk about’.   The half ended with Ofosu moving inside two defenders to unleash a rising shot that was too high to bother the goalkeeper.

If the first half had seen Hitchin just shade possession that was as good as it got for the visitors.   After the break (possibly with their ears stinging) St Neots set about improving their fate.   It took just fifteen seconds from the restart for Shariff to almost break the deadlock as he chased a ball to the bye line to chip the goalkeeper only to see the ball rebound from the inside of a post to rebound into the grateful keepers’ arms.   That set a marker for the home side who bombarded the visiting goal but could not find a clinical finish.   Taylor Parr headed over from a Matt Miles corner, Dion Sembie-Ferris shot wide when well placed and a second chance for the same player set up by Ben Worman was again sent wastefully wide.   Both sides sent on substitutes with Hitchin stiffening their defense and St Neots trying to add imagination to their attack with leading scorer Dylan Williams and Gary Wharton both introduced.   Sembie-Ferris was prominent hitting the cross bar with a dipping shot before setting up Wharton who brought a save from Johnson.   Sembie-Ferris then had a shot blocked and Tom Wood headed narrowly over from a Johnny Herd corner.   With substitute Trey Charles having a rare late chance for Hitchin blocked by a defender it was left to Wharton to put St Neots’ final chance over the bar in added time.

Claire Howes' Photo Gallery can be found here: www.flickr.com/photos/claire_howes/

 

St Neots:  Reynolds, Miles, Herd, O’Malley, Wood, Parr, Sembie-Ferris, Peters, Shariff, Worman, Ofosu

Subs:  Williams (for Ofosu 60 mins), Short (for O’Malley 63 mins) Wharton (for Peters 72 mins), Stanley and Olaniran

Cards:  Short (Y – 75 mins)

Goals:  none

 

Hitchin:  Johnson, Fraser, Chesmain, Spring, Ferrell, Bickerstaff, Anderson, Galliford, Thake, Belgrove, Green

Subs:  Forde (for Thake 52 mins), Charles (for Green 52 mins), Dowie (for Spring 63 mins) and Mollison

Cards:  none

Goals:  none

Referee:  Robert Evans (Northampton)

Attendance:  376

 

John Walker

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