SOUTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE CENTRAL
Berkhamsted 0 St Neots Town 1
St Neots finished off their league programme with a confident flourish as they beat runners-up Berkhamsted to confirm their finish in the top half of the table. Although the winning l goal came late in the game it was thoroughly deserved as the visitors had almost totally dominated the last half hour of the proceedings. The home side now needed to regroup quickly in preparation for their home play-off match just 72 hours after this defeat. A shrewd move by Manager Pete Gill in the second half was the precursor to the victory as he sent on all three substitutes and reverted to an all-out attacking formation to stun the host side. It was a fitting end to the season that had seen St Neots lose just once in their final eleven matches – their most consistent spell of results since their UCL championship season in the 2010/11 season. There were three team changes with Callum Anderson, Perry White, and Joe Rider replacing Harvey Beckett, Glen McConnell, and Saleem Akanbi, all of whom were on the bench and destined to play a significant part in the victory.
The home side began well with Lewis Toomey wriggling past the final defender in the first minute of the game, but his shot from a narrow angle flew across the goal to safety. Louis Chadwick then got down bravely at the feet of Liam Brooks to smother his close-range effort and St Neots replied a minute later with a Joe Rider shot well saved by the home keeper. As the first half wore on play became very even with Ryan Kinnane heading wide when well placed at one end, and Joe Rider having a net bound shot deflected for a corner. St Neots took too long to organise a free kick allowing Lucas Kirkpatrick a free run at goal, but his wild finish failed to test Chadwick. The home side finished the first half well with James Verney robbing a hesitant Perry White but unable to find a finish, Verney then cut in from the left but saw his shot rebound from the outside of a post, and Chadwick kept his goal intact with a fine save from Brooks.
The match resumed after the break following a similar pattern with the home side creating the better openings. Chadwick saved well again at the feet of Verney whilst St Neots’ best effort came from a Charley Barker corner that resulted in an Aaron Smith effort being blocked on the line. The transformation came on the hour as St Neots bravely threw on all three permitted substitutes. With Sal Akanbi marauding up front alongside Rob Mason, the home side were pushed back on the defensive and from that point onwards, St Neots dominated. From a Glen McConnell free kick a Barker shot was saved at full stretch by home keeper Xavier Leon, and Lee Watkins was only just wide with a shot from distance. The best move of the match after 72 minutes saw Smith, McConnell and Akanbi all involved in a silky build up that split the home defence but ended with a Mason header from close range being well saved by Leon. Mason was then brought down in the area, but play was waved on, but St Neots were now dictating play as Rider had another shot blocked after a good run by Beckett. It was therefore no surprise when four minutes from time a flighted Barker corner found Harvey Beckett at the far post, and he gleefully claimed his second goal in a St Neots shirt with a well placed header, to earn all three points.
A tenth placed finish in the league after their mid-season slump, marked a creditable recovery by Pete Gill’s side.
Today’s Travelling Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match was awarded to CHARLIE JOHNSON
St Neots Town: Chadwick, Marfo, Smith, Anderson, Johnson, White, Barker, Watkins (L), Mason, Rider, Marsh Brown
Subs: Akanbi (for Marsh-Brown 62 mins), Beckett (for White 62 mins), McConnell (for Anderson 62 mins) and Abbott.
Goals: Beckett (86 mins)
Berkhamsted: Leon, Kirkpatrick, Cooper, Frederick, Kinnane, Farrelly, Verney, Watkins (A), Toomey (L), Brooks, Grant
Subs: Bailey (for Brooks 60 mins), Chamberlain (for Brooks 60 mins), Toomey (C) (for Farrelly 65 mins), Robins and Akubuine.
Cards: Frederick (Y – 68 mins)
Referee: Daniel Frizzell (Carterton, Oxfordshire)