NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE – MIDLAND DIVISION
Sporting Khalsa 2 St Neots Town 0
The West Midlands have become a no-go area for St Neots. Four trips to the Birmingham area have so far yielded no points, no goals scored and sixteen conceded. Their hosts last weekend was Sporting Khalsa, themselves struggling for form despite being fourth in the league table, because four of their last five league matches prior to St Neots’ visit had ended in draws. However, a goal in each half was sufficient to see them return to winning ways leaving St Neots still searching for a second away league victory this season. Without the injured Panny Boxer, St Neots were forced into leaving their strike duo of Trey Charles and Brandon Njoku on the bench, both recovering from midweek knocks, although they made second half substitute appearances. With Steve Sylvester unavailable, there was a return to the starting line-up for Robbie Mason and Manny Osei and a welcome return to the side for Charlie Stallard whose injury had kept him out of the side since 1st October – coincidentally the home match with Sporting Khalsa. The defeat might have been much greater but for a man-of-the-match performance by Saints keeper Jamie Greygoose who produced a string of outstanding saves.
He was first in action after just five minutes diving full length to turn a lengthy effort from Harry Cunningham around a goalpost. St Neots responded with a Callum Anderson close range effort that was blocked on the line by a defender and the home goalkeeper then had to smother at the feet of Manny Osei who had gone clear. St Neots’ best first half move came after 20 minutes when Joe Rider and Robbie Mason linked to set up Aaron Smith whose volley was comfortably gathered but from that point on in the first half the home team dominated. A James McGrady free kick was won in the air by Miracle Okafor forcing Greygoose into a second significant save and the same home player went past Greygoose, but the angle was too tight, and the opportunity wasted. It was Okafor again who was proving to be a major thorn in St Neots side, as he headed over the goal after a fine run by Toumani Sidibe and the pressure paid off for Khalsa three minutes before the break when a deflected shot by Sidibe gave the home side a half time lead.
It was Okafor who continued the tormenting of the visiting defence upon the second half restart. He first beat two players on the left but saw his shot blocked and then the overworked Greygoose had to dive bravely at his feet after good work by McGrady. Charlie Stallard joined the St Neots attack to see a shot blocked by a defender and with almost an hour gone, St Neots Manager Pete Gill played his trump card sending on his two semi-fit strikers for Stallard and Mason. St Neots did seem to enjoy a greater share of the play after this change and Joe Rider had a looping header easily saved but the defining moment of the match came after 63 minutes when Miracle Okafor stamped his authority on the match as he picked his spot to claim Khalsa’s second goal after the visiting defence had failed to clear. Brandon Njoku tried hard to get his side going but when he was brought down on the edge of the area the free kick from Liam Hook was sent harmlessly over the bar. Two more saves by Greygoose from Sidibe and Okafor kept the score at a reasonable level but St Neots must know that a lack of credible openings in their attacking play is not going to enhance their chances of picking up much needed points.
Today’s Travelling Saints Supporters’ Man Of The Match was awarded to JAMIE GREYGOOSE
St Neots Town: Greygoose, Duncliffe, Stallard, Anderson, Dickens, Lewis, Osei, Hook, Mason, Rider, Smith
Subs: Charles (for Mason 55 mins), Njoku (for Stallard 55 mins), and Goumou.
Sporting Khalsa: Arnold, Francis, Cunningham, Fulloway, Robinson, Whittaker, Armstrong, McGrady, Okafor, Sidibe, Williams
Subs: McKenzie (for Sidibe 78 mins), Parsons (for Robinson 83 mins), Campbell for Cunningham (90 mins), Birch and Singh.
Goals: Sidibe (42 mins), Okafor (63 mins)
Referee: Duncan Critchlow (North Staffordshire)