SOUTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE CENTRAL
St Neots Town 0 Welwyn Garden City 2
Welwyn Garden City extended their unbeaten run to eight matches against a host side that had not won at home in three months and had little to offer except honest endeavour. A goal in each half saw Welwyn ease to victory without ever dominating a rather pallid match. However, it cemented their position two points outside the playoffs with matches in hand of all the clubs ahead of them whilst St Neots languish in fourteenth place without a win in their last eight league matches. Overall the home side’s performance was better than of late but both goals conceded were preventable and the visiting keeper was never seriously extended. Whether Manager Pete Gill needs to strengthen his defence or give his front players some confidence (or both) is the question facing him but with another testing away trip at in-form Ware up next the future looks challenging. St Neots did welcome back striker Joe Rider and Ben Heal both after lengthy injury absences and this meant places on the substitutes bench for Neo Richard-Noel and Wynford Marfo and there was a welcome 25 mins return as a substitute for Kyjuon Marsh-Brown who looked to be an inspirational improvement to a side lacking in ideas and confidence in front of goal.
With striker Joe Rider back after missing nine of the last ten home side’s league matches, optimism on the goalscoring front was high and in St Neots first attack he produced the first shot of the match comfortably saved by visiting keeper Charlie Crowley. The lively Kwai Marsh-Brown then got in on the act as he rounded a defender to set up Rider again, but this time his effort was deflected. After this early burst of action the visitors slowed the pace and in their first real attack after 17 minutes they were awarded a penalty when Rider, back assisting the defence, tripped Campbell and George Ironton stepped up to open the scoring. That was a clear setback for the home side, but they persevered and both Charley Barker and Dylan Switters produced efforts from outside the penalty area that failed to trouble Crowley. Ironically the closest St Neots got to levelling the scores came two minutes before the break when a Barker free kick eluded the defence to find Perry White unmarked at the far post, but he was flagged marginally offside.
As with the first half, St Neots looked very much on the front foot after the restart. The visitors had to resort to illegal practice to smother the home sides’ attacks resulting in two bookings and free kicks conceded but St Neots could not take advantage. Marsh-Brown’s pace was always a problem for the visiting defence and after 55 minutes he raced on to a Rider pass but could only shoot high over the bar and two minutes later a stinging shot from Barker was spilled by the visiting keeper, but a defender came to his recue. Meantime Welwyn failed to create anything meaningful, and it was very much against the run of play and possession when the visitors produced what was to prove the defining moment of the match. After 59 minutes Jon Clements – at the time a sole attacking player – sold a clever dummy to get past St Neots final defender Gradi Milenge, and he went on to beat goalkeeper Louis Chadwick with an angled low shot across the keeper’s body. That signalled action on both benches with St Neots boss Pete Gill sending on all three permitted substitutes and with four forward players now on view his intention was clear. Welwyn just pulled players back to smother the home side attacks and in the final twenty minutes with most of the play in the Welwyn half, St Neots created chances that they could not convert. From a Neo Richard-Noel cross, Kyjuon Marsh-Brown headed wide, and Crowley saved at the feet of Richard-Noel – the keeper’s only significant test.
The home side tried to vary their attacking tactics, but they came up a defence determined to give nothing away and St Neots final effort saw a close-range effort by Dylan Switters produce nothing better than a corner.
Today’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match was awarded to BEN HEAL
Photo Gallery Courtesy of Mark Rider / David Richardson