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No Festive Cheer As Saints Are Beaten At Home By Stratford Town

Saturday, 22 December 2018 23:55

SOUTHERN LEAGUE CENTRAL PREMIER DIVISION

St Neots Town     1       Stratford Town       2         

After their sixth home defeat in ten starts this season, St Neots go into 2019 now desperate for a change in their fortunes.   Manager Matt Clements claims that his squad is now not far from his hopes, and the addition of two more loan players – one in attack and the other in defence – seemed to achieve his initial objective.   However, for new players to gel within the team on their first outing is a tall order regardless of their individual ability and now St Neots must improve swiftly if they are not doomed to spending the next four months locked in a relegation dog fight.   The main problem is statistically obvious – a return of just seven goals in ten home outings speaks for itself – and although the side creates openings the finishing is not good enough.   The two latest squad additions were loan signings from Northampton Town and both were thrown in at the deep end, one of them striker Jack Daldy who looked promising but lacked service.   The other, Ryan Hughes a tall defender, slotted comfortably into a defensive back three as Clements shuffled his team tactics and he also recalled Tom Wood and Matt Miles in midfield with Devante Stanley, Jordan Norville-Williams, Andrea Borg and Lee Watkins making way.   The end result was an improvement on the team performance at Barwell in midweek, but the truth is that results are now more important than performances.   The match only went ahead after a very late pitch inspection with the heavy overnight rain making the centre of the pitch rather boggy.

St Neots began confidently enough and in their first attack an effort by skipper Luke Knight was deflected for a corner.   Russell Short then headed narrowly over from a second corner and Nabil Shariff set up Tom Wood for a 20 yards effort that was only inches over the bar with the visiting keeper beaten.   Stratford did get the ball in the St Neots net but only after an offside whistle, and little was seen of the visiting attack until the half hour when Finley Iron was first called into serious action to save a Shane Benjamin header from a William Grocott free kick.  Shariff attempted an acrobatic volley that flew over the bar and then Stratford set up the best chance of the first half when Grocott and Wilson Carvalho combined to set up Benjamin, but he shot wide when he should have at least tested the home keeper.   St Neots won several corner from one of which Russell Short was cautioned for a late challenge on the keeper and the half ended with Benjamin again shooting wide after good work by former St Neots player, Lewis Wilson.

After Dylan Williams had sprinted down the left immediately after the resumption to set up Jack Daldy for a shot comfortable saved by Natja Sarkic the game boiled over in an off-the-ball incident that produced three bookings and that seemed to ruin what rhythm there was in the contest.   For around fifteen minutes there was little progress for either side, but two free kicks conceded in as many minutes on the edge of the St Neots area proved significant.   The first was cleared by Ryan Hughes and the second by Russell Short but on this occasion the ball fell to Wilson Carvalho who was unmarked on the edge of the area and he produced a sublime curling shot into the roof of the net giving Finley Iron no chance.   St Neots tried to respond with Johnny Herd bringing two excellent saves from Sarkic – one from a dipping cross and the second from a well hit shot from 18 yards.   Williams also saw the keeper save comfortably and it became a keen contest with the visiting defence seeming happy to hang on to their narrow advantage.   Then out of nothing, a hopeful through pass found Stratford substitute Shawn Richards in space and he skilfully rounded the advancing Iron to double the visitors’ lead.   That wrapped up the result despite St Neots’ late surge that included a goal from Taylor Parr that was too little too late to have any effect on the outcome.   St Neots are deep in trouble in the relegation zone, but Stratford now up to eighth are only goal difference away from a play-off place.

 

 

St Neots:  Iron, Hughes, Herd, Knight, Short, Parr, Miles, Wood, Shariff, Williams (D), Daldy

Subs:  Stanley (for Herd 84 mins), Norville-Williams (for Miles 84 mins), Wharton (for Daldy 90 mins), Borg and Gomes

Cards:  Short (Y – 36 mins), Williams (Y – 56 mins), Knight (Y – 56 mins), Parr (Y – 67 mins), Wood (Y – 78 mins)

Goals:  Parr (90 mins)

 

Stratford:  Sarkic, Cox, Fisher, Fry, McAteer, Williams (J), Wilson, Oulton, Benjamin, Grocott, Carvalho

Subs:  Richards (for Benjamin 80 mins)

Cards:  Fry (Y – 56 mins), Oulton (Y – 88 mins), Richards (Y – 90+1 mins)

Goals:  Carvalho (68 mins), Richards (83 mins)

 

Referee:  Jeffrey Aldous (Bedford)

Attendance:  258

 

John Walker

 

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