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Dull game, but vital point to a play off position

Sunday, 22 March 2015 10:04

 

Southern League Premier Division

CAMBRIDGE CITY   0 - 0   ST NEOTS TOWN                  

Football can sometimes be a very strange game.  

After what had almost certainly been their worst team performance under Manager David Batch, St Neots came off the field to discover that their clean sheet and point gained had pushed them into the play off places for the first time since 20th December when they were docked the six points they had gained from their two victories over Hereford.   

Hungerford were the odd team out on the day, Redditch and Cirencester had both been beaten and so St Neots go into their final six league matches knowing that six victories guarantees a place in the play-offs for promotion into the Football Conference.  

Mind you with three draws in their last four matches that looks to be a tall order even though their unbeaten run has been stretched to eleven games.This was the match that looked on paper to be the difficult one – and so it proved – for Cambridge had won each of the last four meetings of the two sides and they were on a five match unbeaten run of their own.  

St Neots were able to name a completely unchanged line up from their previous match – and even had the same five substitutes on their bench. The match was a scrappy affair and most of the drama came in time added on for an injury to home defender Adam Murray who had received almost five minutes on the pitch attention to a head injury.  

In the eight or so minutes added Cambridge had three gilt edged chances to steal all three points whilst Referee James Whittaker seemed to lose control as he handed out a red card and three yellows.

Long throws by both sides were to be a feature of the match and the first attempt on goal after five minutes was a Tom Ward back header from a Matt Mitchel-King throw gathered comfortably by Zac Barrett.   Barrett then did well to gather a low shot from Drew Roberts following a free kick and then at the other end after 12 minutes Chris Bacon beat Adam Tann to a loose ball but stabbed it wide of the goal.   Four minutes later the Cambridge goal had a massive let off when a misdirected back pass went over Barrett’s head but Lee Chaffey somehow got back to clear off the line.  Despite their being half chances at either end the contest was untidy with the ball in the air for too long as the sides forgot their patience.   Lewis Hilliard had a shot blocked and a Matt Spring free kick was well saved by Barrett whose general confidence in dominating his penalty area was a factor behind St Neots inability to create clear chances.   So the two sides went to the break standing all square seemingly needing some fresh ideas.

St Neots reaction was to introduce two substitutes for the start of the second half with Lorenzo Ferrari coming on up front to partner Roberts with Nathan Frater withdrawn to play wide in place of Brett Longden. Also on came Ryan Frater with Matt Mitchel King moved into midfield to replace the substituted Matt Spring.  

For a spell St Neots began to dominate roared on by an excellent backing from their travelling support with Roberts and Hilliard testing Barrett who was by far the busier keeper. A Josh Dawkin header from a rare Cambridge corner brought a punched save from Paul Bastock and as the game moved into its last ten minutes St Neots seemed to lose their rhythm and confidence allowing Cambridge to make a late push for victory.  Right on time Ryan Frater produced a brilliant intercepting tackle to rob Danny Kelly as he bore down on goal and then substitute Andrew Phillips was played clear through the St Neots defence but shot wide.  

Tom Ward earlier harshly booked was then sent off for allegedly bringing down Kelly just outside the box although the ball was running through to the keeper and then that flurry of yellow cards saw Mitchel-King and Roberts booked for disputing the sending off and from the final action a well placed Kelly free kick was tipped over the bar to allow Bastock to keep his sixth clean sheet in his last eight games for St Neots.

St Neots: Bastock, Tann, Wilkinson, Clarke, Mitchel-King, Ward, Hilliard, Spring, Frater (N), Roberts, Longden

Subs: Ferrari (for Longden 46), Frater (R) (for Spring 46), Harty (for Frater (N) 83), Bickerstaff and Wilson

Cards:  Ward (RED – 45 + 3 and Y – 75), Wilkinson (Y – 59), Roberts (Y – 45 + 3), Mitchel-King (Y – 45 + 4)

Goals:  none

Cambridge: Barrett, Murray, Day, Gardiner, Chaffey, Harradine, Lewis, Reynolds, Kelly, Bacon, Dawkin

 

Subs:  Lowe (for Harradine 59), Phillips (for Bacon 76), Okenhabirhie, Collins and Kaye

Cards:  Reynolds (Y – 56), Dawkin (Y – 45 + 5)

Goals:  none

Attendance: 431

Referee: James Whittaker (Harlow)

John Walker

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