SOUTHERN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE CENTRAL
St Neots Town 1 FC Romania 2
After their impressive pre-season showing of just a single defeat in eight outings a pallid looking St Neots side was narrowly beaten in their opening league match of the new season by newcomers FC Romania. It was a disappointing underperformance and even their late added time goal was no consolation. There was no threat in attack from a side that had found the back of the net twenty- three times in eight friendly matches and their midfield quartet created very little despite enjoying a much greater share of possession. There are still injured players to return to the squad, but this performance can only be described as disappointing in front of an excellent shirt-sleeved crowd that expected a continuation of the pre-season form. Only skipper Lee Watkins had survived from the previous starting line-up in their last league match almost ten months earlier, and the late substitutions came too near the end of the match to be significant. It is four years since St Neots lost their opening day league match at the Premier Plus Stadium and on that occasion, they did not record a league victory until their seventh match – a run they will not want to repeat this time around.
The visitors were fortunate not to be reduced to ten men after just four minutes when Eusebio Da Silva was only yellow carded for a dangerous scything tackle on Miles Cowling as he skipped through the visiting defence. That established a pattern of no-nonsense tackling by the visiting side that seemed to knock St Neots out of their early stride. St Neots first attempt on goal after twelve minutes saw Neo Richard-Noel unselfishly set up the unmarked Joe Rider, but he appeared off balance as he placed his effort high over the bar. The visitors’ more direct approach was paying dividends as striker Da Silva twice took on the St Neots defence to give himself scoring opportunities but both times his finish was off target. After 22 minutes the hardworking Charley Barker found Joe Rider in space and his first-time volley was well saved by visiting keeper Adrian Darabant and the same St Neots player headed over the bar from a Barker free kick. In a very lively midfield battle Myles Cowling was booked for an overenthusiastic challenge and towards the end of the first half the visitors’ seemed to grow in confidence, and home keeper Louis Chadwick had to produce a couple of smart saves. Then with just a minute to go before the break, Romania made an important breakthrough as an attack down the right ended with Anthony Edgar producing a skilful lob beyond the reach of Chadwick to claim a half time lead for the visiting side.
Early second half substitutions by both sides did nothing to alter the pattern of play with St Neots still enjoying better possession but creating little and the visitors always looking lively on the break. Full back Harvey Steel powered forward taking a return pass before testing the visiting keeper from the edge of the area on the hour, and four minutes later another effort from the same home player sailed narrowly over the bar. St Neots were clearly lacking in ideas and penetration and the visiting side had the confidence to refresh their side by utilising their full complement of substitutes in the first 65 minutes whereas St Neots persevered with no increasing success.
Substitute Florian Tsaguim was looking the most likely player to affect a breakthrough for the home side as he switched from flank to flank but he lacked support and sent his best shooting chance well wide. Becoming increasingly concerned at the deficit as the second half ticked away St Neots became defensively careless and were caught short at the back to a visiting attack four minutes from time, as full back Taishan Griffith marauded down the right flank to cross for the unmarked Jonathan Edwards to slide the ball into the net from close range.
Ironically with only four minutes plus added time left, St Neots produced their most determined spell being rewarded with a late goal from substitute Arel Amu, firing home from the edge of the box.
Today’s Saints Supporters; Man of the Match was awarded to CALLUM ANDERSON (kindly sponsored by Mark Cowling Zack FM)
St Neots: Chadwick, Heal, Steel, Anderson, Smith, Marfo, Cowling, Barker, Richard-Noel, Rider, Watkins
Subs: Tsaguim (for Rider 50 mins), Amu (A) (for Cowling 80 mins), Hammond (for Richard-Noel 89 mins), Thomas and Amu (E).
Cards: Cowling (Y – 31 mins),
Goals: Amu (A) (90 mins)
FC Romania: Darabant, Griffith, Petrov, Lupu, Armoo, Da Cruz, Bonnett-Johnson, Taban, Da Silva, Edgar, Edwards
Subs: Adeniji (for Edgar 50 mins), Stylianides (for Armoo 54 mins), Danquah (for Da Silva 65 mins), Russell and Fejzo.
Cards: Petrov (Y – 69 mins), Taban (Y – 80 mins)
Goals: Edgar (44 mins), Edwards (86 mins)
Referee: Shaun Barry (Northampton)