The FA Cup generally throws up something unusual or controversial and in this Extra-Preliminary Round opener that was no exception. After a predictably even first half a much-disputed goal for St Neots was followed by a very late equaliser six minutes into added time that sent this tie into a Tuesday evening Norfolk decider. The visitors went home convinced that they deserved their second chance because of the nature of St Neots second goal that saw the Assistant Referee reverse the Referee’s initial decision which resulted in a converted St Neots penalty kick that had looked to be the deciding goal. St Neots had the better chances but visiting keeper Luke Pearson took the plaudits for several excellent saves to keep his side in the tie. St Neots welcomed back James Goff in goal after suspension carried over from last season and included Sam Johnson and Tommy Reynolds for Reece Crowter and Nathan George.
St Neots had the chance of a very early lead after just two minutes when Harvey Williams outpaced his marker to send a cross through the six yards box that just needed a touch. Fakenham responded with a shot from Jay Mulhill well gathered by James Goff. Then after twelve minutes St Neots were ahead as the unfortunate Pearson fumbled a cross, and Dean Dummett was on the spot to score from close range. Seven minutes later the visitors levelled from a Jack Guyton corner when Alex Walpole was left unmarked at the far post to head past the keeper. Pearson made amends for his error with a good save to deny Williams and then after 32 minutes James Hatch won a corner in the air, but his effort was just too high. Just one minute later Hatch brough an even more impressive save from the under pressure visiting custodian and then on the turn Lorrell Smith fired narrowly over the bar.
St Neots opted for an early second half change sending on Dom Lawless for Smith in a straight swap. From a Sam Johnson free kick Hatch had a shot cleared off the line and as the visitors responded Goff saved one-handed following a corner. After 67 minutes confusion reigned as Johnson burst into the penalty area to be upended by a defender. The Referee waved away St Neots appeals awarding a free kick to Fakenham. However, as the sides lined up for the free kick an Assistant Referee was flagging and after a lengthy conversation the Referee overturned his initial decision to award St Neots a penalty kick calmly slotted home by Josh Brown. A series of substitutions late in the game saw limited goalmouth action although Pearson kept his sides’ flagging hopes alive with an outstanding full length save to deny Johnson. As the game moved into added time Goff did well to keep out a stinging shot from Finn Whiteley and then in the sixth minute of added time the St Neots keeper well out of his goal failed to catch a free kick and the ball dropped to substitute Finn Field who chipped the ball into the unguarded net for the equaliser that sent the match into a replay.
Today’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match – Kindly sponsored by The Greystones Public House, Sawtry, was awarded to HARVEY WILLIAMS
St Neots Town: Goff, Reynolds, Nickels, Dummett, Brown, Lincoln, Johnson, Muyembe, Smith, Hatch, Williams
Subs: Lawless (for Smith 57 mins), Rowley (for Williams 80 mins), Romeo (for Dummett 85 mins). Barnett, George and Bent.
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