SOUTHERN LEAGUE CHALLENGE CUP – ROUND TWO
Biggleswade FC 1 St Neots Town 1
(St Neots won 4-2 on penalties)
St Neots fourth trip to The Eyrie this season (two v Bedford and two v Biggleswade) produced a very pleasing outcome as they progressed to Round Three of the Southern League KO Cup for only the second time – the last being seven seasons ago when they went on to lift the Trophy. It was also their second victory this season over Biggleswade, and their second KO Cup shoot out in four attempts. Like the league match it was a closely fought encounter with the host side coming back from behind to earn the sudden death finale. Goalkeeper George Whitehall again contributed at the death with an important save in the shoot-out, and Marc Abbott making his Southern League debut conjured up the all- important St Neots goal. He was one of five changes to the side that had played the previous Saturday with Manager Pete Gill utilising the depth of his squad for this Cup match. Into the starting line-up also came goalkeeper George Whitehall for Louis Chadwick, and there were returns to action for Wynford Marfo, Elliott Sartorious and Kwai Marsh-Brown with Harvey Steel, Brendon Shabani Joe Rider and Lee Watkins all rested.
There was a fairly even start to the match and after Jake Battersby had sent the visitors’ first effort over the bar, Ben Heal had to head off the line to deny Alex Marsh following a corner. Marc Abbott announced his arrival by picking up an early booking and then Tom Coles for the hosts, saw his effort rebound from the crossbar. St Neots finished the first half with a flourish as Mamadou Jobe and Myles Cowling combined to set up Neo Richard-Noel to go clear, but home keeper Tyler Josephs saved bravely at his feet, and then an attack down the left saw Battersby send in a testing shot that was not cleared and Marc Abbott arrived on the scene to open the scoring with a neat finish.
Although twenty minutes later including the half time break, Biggleswade had levelled within ninety seconds of the restart as a goalmouth scramble saw St Neots’ acting skipper Charlie Johnson concede a penalty with a mistimed challenge and Alex Marsh climbed to his feet to stroke home the spot kick to level the scores. The host side were then forced back on the defensive as St Neots sought to regain the initiative, but they seemed to lack the important finishing touch and some dominant midfield play rendered very little reward. Both sides decided after 65 minutes to change tack – each sending on a substitute to vary their approach. However the main result of this change was a return to end to end attacking moves with both sides seemingly committed to finding a match winning goal. Richard-Noel though he should have been awarded a penalty when a lunging Nathan George tackle left him on the deck, but the Referee was not persuaded whilst at the other end substitute Daniel Bond was played clear, but George Whitehall produced the save of the match to keep the scores level. Wynford Marfo joined the attack to head wide from a Lee Watkins cross, and in St Neots final attack, Josephs had to save at Richard-Noel’s feet.
And so to penalties. Marsh shot over for the home side and Ryan Inskip brought that important save from Whitehall, so perfect finishes from Joe Rider, Neo Richard-Noel, Myles Cowling and Ben Heal that meant after eight penalties, St Neots were deservedly into Round Three of the competition.
Tonight’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match was awarded to JAKE BATTERSBY
St Neots: Whitehall, Marfo, Battersby, Heal, Johnson (C), Jobe, Cowling, Abbott, Richard-Noel, Sartorius, Marsh-Brown
Subs: Watkins (for Abbott 65 mins), Rider (for Sartorius 65 mins), Gomes (for Marsh-Brown 79 mins), Steel and Thomas.
Cards: Abbott (Y – 35 mins), Johnson (Y – 88 mins)
Goals: Marc Abbott (45 mins)
Biggleswade: Josephs, Hunt, Unsworth, Richardson, George, Oswick, Marsh, Dreyer, Johnson (S), Coles, Inskip
Subs: McCafferty (for Unsworth 46 mins), Bond (for Johnson 46 mins), Roberts (for Richardson 79 mins),Joseph, and Fisher-Diaz
Cards: Richardson (Y – 35 mins), George (Y – 90+1 mins)
Goals: Marsh (47 mins – pen)
Referee: Thomas Whey (Bedford)