St Neots mini run of three consecutive league victories ground to a halt at the hands of unbeaten League leaders North Leigh. After an even but largely unproductive first half for either side, the home side took control playing up their favoured slope, and St Neots lost confidence and rhythm conceding the two goals that afforded the home side all three points. The match hinged at both ends on the two towering home central defenders who gave the visiting forwards no room and supplemented their performance by scoring the first and laying on the second goal. St Neots were still below full strength, especially in defence, with recent signing Mamadou Jobe joining Dequane Wilson-Braithwaite on the injury list. However, on the substitutes bench Joe Sutton returned to action after suspension and there was a first taste of senior action for U18 starlet Julinho Gomes. Harvey Steel returned to the side at full back with Wynford Marfo resuming in central defence. St Neots now embark on a busy spell of two matches each week for the next month, so the return of the injured players will be a welcome boost.
Although the action was stop/start with the over fussy official booking four players in the first 26 minutes – two from each side – with only one of those cautions looking warranted, when Ben Heal was brough down by Roger James. The action that was worthy of mention was Neo Richard-Noel weaving his way past two defenders, but Adam North saved well, and a second effort by the same visiting player also saved. As early as the 19th minute Erin Amu suffered an injury which saw Joe Sutton back in action and the home side only twice seriously threatened the St Neots goal late in the half when following a free kick, a close range shot from Lance Williams was bravely blocked by Chadwick and a second effort – the best chance of the first half – coming from a Roger James cross that found the head of Williams, but to St Neots’ relief he headed wide when scoring looked easier.
Despite the lack of goalmouth action, the home side shaded the first half with the visitors too often outmuscled by the well-balanced host side, and St Neots doing themselves no favours by conceding free kicks that had to be defended with difficulty.
The Referee was in action two minutes in to the second half booking a third home player for an innocuous looking challenge but just sixty seconds later North Leigh took the lead. Another free kick just outside the penalty area delivered by Aaron Heap, saw the tall Luke Carnell outjump the defence and net with a perfectly placed header that gave Louis Chadwick no chance. St Neots tried to boost their defence sending on taller full-back Aaron Smith for Harvey Steel, but by now the home side were relishing their superior possession and midway through the half Jordan Thomas was played clear of the defence but as Louis Chadwick narrowed the angle, he shot tamely wide. After 73 minutes a second goal effectively put the outcome of the match beyond St Neots because they were seldom troubling the home defence. A free kick by Heap was headed back across goal by Carnell and Jensen Wright crashed home an unstoppable shot for that 2-0 lead. Now North Leigh rang the changes with all three permitted substitutes introduced and apart from one shot by Richard-Noel blocked by a defender, St Neots had little to offer, until the final eight minutes when they gave U18 winger Julinho Gomes his first taste of senior football and he responded with two searching contributions – the first a cross just beyond the two St Neots attackers and the second a lob over the advancing goalkeeper that only just cleared the crossbar.
Today’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match was awarded to skipper Lee Watkins
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