St Neots’ FA Cup adventure this season was short-lived as they were well beaten by Bedford Town after their short trip down the A421 in the First Qualifying Round. It was a pallid display by St Neots who discovered that genuine effort and commitment was insufficient against their expensively assembled neighbours and despite competing well, the visitors finishing lacked confidence and penetration with the home keeper seldom tested. Both sides finished a man short with Bedford losing central defender Charlie Sanders after a horror two-footed tackle on Ben Heal early in the second half, and St Neots substitute Joe Sutton followed him for an early bath nine minutes from time following an incident with the home crowd. All three of the home sides’ goals came from headed efforts to set pieces and this will have given St Neots’ Manager Pete Gill food for thought as he constructs his defence for future matches. In theory St Neots’ defence should have been boosted by the return of central defender Charlie Johnson with Aaron Smith moved to his more familiar full back slot but further tightening at the back looks the main priority. True, the home attack was taller and more positive, but some remedial action is urgently required. Also included in the starting line-up for the first time were striker Lawrence Hammond who received little service and Erin Amu in midfield in place of Callum Anderson.
The first ten minutes was fairly even, and the visitors registered the first real noteworthy mention as Johnson won the ball in the air from a corner but never really tested the home custodian. After twelve minutes an unfortunate clearance struck a defender to play Connor Tomlinson clear on goal, but Louis Chadwick stretched, to fingertip the ball for a corner. However, Bedford took full advantage as Lewis Miccio’s corner was met by a towering header by Charlie Sanders to put Bedford in front. Seven minutes later the lead was doubled as from a teasing Danny Setchell free kick, former Peterborough United Striker Rene Howe got in front of his marker to glance the ball past the helpless Chadwick. St Neots were being outplayed and had some defending to do for a spell but towards the end of the first half they rallied to create chances of their own. Skipper Lee Watkins making his 50th appearance in a St Neots shirt scythed through the Bedford defence but saw his shot blocked by a defender and then Nehemiah Richard-Noel cut in from the right to test home keeper Alex Street.
There was a dramatic start after the break when six minutes in, Bedford were reduced to ten men following a horror tackle by Sanders on Ben Heal. The home side regrouped with a couple of substitutions, adopting a more defensive approach with former Peterborough United striker Craig Mackail-Smith left to forage up front. He cut in after 61 minutes to open up the visiting defence but shot well over the bar. St Neots, meantime tried to utilise their numerical advantage but made little significant progress. Pushing forward they were caught on the break after 65 minutes, conceding a corner from which Zac Brown rose high above the defence to convert a Danny Setchell’s cross. St Neots’ play became ragged, and they never really took advantage of their extra player, although from a Myles Cowling cross, Charley Johnson dived full length to put his effort just wide. After the games’ second sending off there was little goalmouth action although St Neots substitute Arel Amu replaced his brother to shoot over the bar from St Neots’ best second half move. Finally, Richard-Noel created an opening for himself following good work by the hardworking Cowling, but his finish was also off-target.
The two sides meet again at the same venue in just five weeks’ time in the Preliminary Round of the FA Trophy.
Today’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match was awarded to Ben Heal (Kindly sponsored by Epiphany Communications)
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