St Neots Town FC 1 : 0 Bideford
Match
41
St Neots Town FC 1 : 0
Bideford
Saturday 28 March, 2015 15:00

Southern League Premier Division

ST NEOTS TOWN  1 - 0   BIDEFORD TOWN          

For the second time in six weeks a single strike from Lewis Hilliard was sufficient to earn St Neots all three points and cement their place in the play offs with several of the leading contenders dropping points.  

However a ninth clean sheet in fourteen matches since the turn of the year will do no harm to confidence as the team approaches its final five critical matches this season and in these last few matches results are far more important than performances.  

St Neots now continue their chase of Weymouth who are three points ahead of them and Truro (five points) as they bid for the possible prize of a home play off fixture end of season.  

Visitors Bideford who had beaten divisional leaders Poole Town seven days earlier contributed to their own downfall having midfielder Nick Milton red carded leaving his side to play the last hour with ten men. The other winner on the day was the weather with the strong blustery wind making good football almost impossible and the overall quality of the game was poor.  

St Neots had an enforced change with Matt Spring nursing a heel injury so teenager Ebey Marango was handed only his second start and in an interesting team shuffle Brett Longden was moved to his favoured full back berth with skipper Adam Tann sharing central defensive duties with Tom Ward who begins a two match ban next weekend.

Ironically it was the confident visiting side with the wind at their backs that created the first two early chances. After eleven minutes a corner from the right found the head of defender Matt Villis and his perfectly guided header just under the bar brought a fine tip over the bar from Paul Bastock.  

The ball was not cleared from that resultant corner and full back Ian Sampson curled a shot over the defence and just inside the far post but again the goalkeeper got across to save. St Neots then settled and were disappointed not to be awarded a penalty when what looked like a clear handball offence occurred in the Bideford penalty area.   

Nathan Frater shot wide and then when Tom Ward collided with visiting keeper Steve Oliver there was a second shout for a penalty but the Referee awarded the free kick to the visitors.  

The critical moment came after 32 minutes when Nick Milton brought down Brett Longden with a very dangerous challenge and the Referee after calming down the players issued a straight red card for that challenge. It was the first and almost the last bad tackle in the match but it gave St Neots the numerical advantage.  

Lewis Hilliard sent the resultant free kick into the side netting with Oliver beaten and shortly afterwards Drew Roberts sent his effort high over the bar.

Despite their position Bideford maintained an attacking format after half time but St Neots were now beginning to dominate.  

A Nathan Frater flick freed Roberts but he shot across the face of goal but then brought the save of the match from Oliver after good work by Hilliard. Hilliard also set up Lee Clarke whose header was wide and in a rare breakaway attack Mickey Parcell shot wide at the other end.  

A minute after replacing Marango with Lorenzo Ferrari St Neots scored what proved to be the important winning goal. Brett Longden clearly enjoying his full back role won the ball just inside the visitors half and set up Lewis Hilliard who went around the outside of his marker with pace to beat Oliver with a crisp low shot. 

 Bideford needed to respond but found the lack of that extra midfield player restrictive to their efforts. They did have one half chance when substitute Dan Tapp chased down a through ball but Bastock anticipated the danger and left his line to clear well outside his area. 

Late in the game leading scorer Drew Roberts had two good chances to seal the result but he first brought a good save from Oliver before curling a shot narrowly over the crossbar to the relief of the goalkeeper.

 

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

Subs: Ferrari (for Marango 57), Vieira (for Frater (N) 85), Frater (R), Bickerstaff and Wilson.

Cards:  none

Goals:  Hilliard (62 mins)

Bideford: Oliver, Sampson, Reed, Milton, Villis, Harrison, Veal, Parcell, Squire, Tucker, Swain

Subs:  Tapp (for Squire 73), Wilson (for Tucker 87) and Barker

Cards:  Milton (RED - 32)

Goals:  none

Attendance: 409

Referee: Ellis Clark (Kettering)

John Walker