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One goal enough for the league leaders to defeat a Saints side who did everything but score

Tuesday, 10 March 2020 11:31

SOUTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE CENTRAL

St Neots Town        0          Berkhamsted        1

In midweek Berkhamsted had taken over as league leaders as they beat FA Trophy heroes Halesowen Town and despite their record of ten matches undefeated prior to this match, the visitors looked far from potential champions.   Great credit then  to Barry Corr’s side who did everything in the second half but score a goal which would have afforded them at least a share of the points.   Long before the final whistle the visitors were employing every tactic in the book to waste time, and despite a strong finish to the first half, they seldom got close enough to goal after the break to extend their narrow advantage.   However, St Neots are finding to their cost that their inability to find the back of the net is undermining some attractive approach play as their recent tally of just four goals in nine hours play clearly indicates.    It is true they are playing without a recognised striker with Joe Neal injured, but top scorer Prince Mutswunguma leading the attack was almost totally ineffective and his colleagues’ efforts were far too often off target.    With just two wins in their last ten league outings St Neots are grateful that the two teams below them are displaying similar form and with just seven weeks of the season remaining, St Neots are now odds on to retain their place at Step Four next season.   Manager Corr made just one team change for this match blooding midfielder John Freeman for his debut and leaving Rajan Badiani on the bench.   With team skipper Tom Boxer completing his two match ban he looks likely to feature in the next match – a trip to bottom side Wantage Town when a victory would give St Neots a twenty points cushion above the almost doomed Oxfordshire side.  

Although St Neots began brightly and created the first two openings it was not long before the visitors began to show their recent form.   The impressive Lewis Simper robbed a hesitant defender to set up new boy John Freeman, who brought a full length save as the visiting keeper pushed the ball for a corner and then Aaron Smith joined the attack to bring a good save from the keeper.   Then in their first notable attack the visitors took the lead as Joshua Chamberlain broke clear of a square lying defence after 18 minutes to beat Finley Iron with an angled low shot to open the scoring.   In the next ten minutes St Neots found themselves under pressure as Iron had to produce a smart save to deny Lee Stobbs, and when the defence was again caught out Jonathan Lacy sent his effort wide of the far post.   To their credit the St Neots defenders were shackling the Division’s leading scorer Lewis Toomey who was unable to manage a serious effort on goal throughout the ninety minutes, and as half time approached St Neots seemed to grow in confidence and with the aid of some patient passing build-ups they began to threaten the visiting goal.   Berkhamsted lost their full back Matt Cooper to an injury and with seven minutes to go before the break, Simper unleashed a fierce drive from 25 yards that the unsighted Xavier Leon did well to parry and then in time added on at the end of the first half a Simper free kick was gratefully pushed for a corner by the visiting keeper.

Neither side made half time changes either to personnel or tactics and after Lacey had sent the visitors’ first second half chance wide, Chamberlain curled a freekick also wide of target.   As the second period progressed St Neots really pushed their opponents back on the defensive and now Berkhamsted appeared to be content just to preserve their narrow lead.   Lee Watkins shot narrowly wide after a patient build up and Freeman just failed to get on the end of a Joe Sutton cross.   The visitors utilised both of their remaining substitutes in a bid to wrest back their dwindling possession, but St Neots persevered with Smith firing over the bar and Prince Mutswunguma was also off target from a narrow angle.   In a bid to waste further time Max Farrelly was booked for kicking the ball out of the ground after conceding a free kick, and as time ticked down Prince had the final St Neots chance as he won a header from a Simper chip forward but Leon saved comfortably.

 

Saints Supporters' Man of the Match - LEWIS SIMPER (pictured right)

St Neots: Iron, Goode, Smith, Boxer (P), Shaw, Dickens, Sutton, Freeman, Mutswunguma, Simper, Watkins

Subs:  Badiani (for Boxer 85 mins), Martin, O’Hara and Hudson.

Cards:  Freeman (Y – 80 mins)

Goals:  none

 

Berkhamsted:  Leon, Akubuine, Cooper, Amu, Kinnane, Farrelly, Stobbs, Toomey (C), Toomey (L), Lacy, Chamberlain

Subs:  Olajubu (for Cooper 37 mins), Dowridge (for Stobbs 64 mins), Witham (for Amu 73 mins), Folarin and Summerfield.

Cards:  Farrelly (Y – 70 mins)

Goals:  Chamberlain (18 mins)

 

Referee:  Jeffrey Aldous (Bedford)

Attendance:       211

 

John Walker

 

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