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Shariff double sends Saints home from Lowestoft with well earned victory

Wednesday, 24 October 2018 09:31

SOUTHERN LEAGUE CENTRAL PREMIER DIVISION

Lowestoft Town       1         St Neots Town      2        

A priceless double from Nabil Shariff gave St Neots their first away league victory since 15th September to lift them three points and three places in the league table – above neighbours St Ives Town for the first time this season.   It was game in which Norwich Referee Ryan Head lost late control booking five players in the last eight minutes as he seemed determined to punish every tackle.   For St Neots it was a deserved but hard-earned victory and sets them up for their next National competition match on Saturday in the FA Trophy when Matlock Town will be the visitors to the Premier Plus Stadium.   It also earned the visitors swift revenge for a League Cup defeat at the hands of the same opponents just three weeks earlier, after another very long midweek trip.   Without a goal in their last three matches in league and cup, Manager Matt Clements decided it was time to make changes – both in personnel and tactics – and he rested Matt Miles and Claudio Ofosu as well as being without injured midfielder Harry O’Malley.   Into their places he brought Devante Stanley for only his second league start, Gary Wharton and Lee Watkins a Cambridge United loanee for his debut.  He also varied his formation with Russell Short moving to the heart of the defence and moving Tom Wood as the covering midfield player.   That proved to be a master stroke as his side dominated the important opening half hour.

There was a slow start with the visitors dictating the pattern of play without really opening- up the home defence well marshalled by former Saints player Adam Tann.   An early lengthy throw after six minutes by skipper Johnny Herd was not cleared and a snap shot by Dylan Williams hit a goalpost deflecting for a goal kick.   However, St Neots did utilise their early possession and five minutes later a long cross to the far post from Gary Wharton was forced in at the far post by Nabil Shariff to give his side a deserved lead.   As the half progressed lengthy efforts by Tom Wood and Wharton were too high after promising build-ups and then another lengthy Herd throw was headed on by Taylor Parr to Wood whose effort was just the wrong side of a post.   A midfield off the ball flare up saw Parr and James Blanchfield booked after 36 minutes and the game became scrappy although a Dion Sembie-Ferris effort was blocked after good work on the right by Devante Stanley just before the half time.   It was in added time before the break when Lowestoft tested the visiting goal for the first time but after a flowing move involving Ben Fowkes and Robert Eagle, Conor McKendry fired over the bar when he should have done better.

The home side had an early chance after half time when Blanchfield went past three defenders to shoot wide, but St Neots were quickly back in the groove as Wharton set himself up on the right, but his shot was deflected across the face of goal with Nabil Shariff only inches away from a second goal after 49 minutes.   However, he only had to wait a further seven minutes when he did double his personal tally, perfectly placed to head home a cross by Sembie-Ferris who had beaten his marker.   Visiting goalkeeper Harry Reynolds was booked for timewasting after 64 minutes but responded with a great save to deny Blanchfield.   An injury to Parr forced St Neots into an early second half substitution as Matt Miles was introduced and Claudio Ofosu was also sent on in place of Wharton.   Shariff was denied a hat trick by a smart near post save by home keeper Elvis Putnins and he then shot well over the bar.   There were just ten minutes left when Stanley was harshly judged to have brought down Kieran Higgs on the edge of the penalty area and from McKendry’s free kick substitute Cion Wren pulled a goal back for the home side.   That signalled a Lowestoft late assault on the St Neots goal with that cluster of late bookings but apart from the defence deflecting two shots from Eagle and Tann, St Neots held out for a deserved victory.

St Neots Town:  Reynolds, Stanley, Herd, Wood, Short, Parr, Sembie-Ferris, Watkins, Shariff, Williams, Wharton

Subs:  Miles (for Parr 70 mins), Ofosu (for Wharton 72 mins) and Fulianty.

Cards:  Parr (Y – 36 mins), Reynolds (Y – 64 mins), Williams (Y – 82 mins), Short (Y – 90+1 mins), Ofosu (Y – 45+5 mins)

Goals:  Shariff 2 (11 & 56 mins)

 

Lowestoft:  Putnins, Castellan, Pinheiro, Pollock, Jarvis, Tann, Fowkes, Blanchfield, Higgs, Eagle, McKendry

Subs:  Wren (for Pinheiro 58 mins), Schaar (for Fowkes 78 mins)

Cards:  Pollock (Y – 22 mins), Blanchfield (Y – 36 mins), Higgs (Y – 90+1 mins), Eagle (90+4 mins)

Goals:  Wren (80 mins)

 

Referee:  Ryan Head (Norwich)

Attendance:  238

 

John Walker

 

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