NORTHERN PREMIER LEAGUE – MIDLAND DIVISION
St Neots Town 1 Loughborough Dynamo 3
With the result of little importance to either side with their respective final league positions confirmed in advance of the match – Loughborough a comfortable mid-table finish two places higher than last season, and St Neots involved in a sudden death play-off, the main concern was the performance of the home side under new management for this – their final league match in the regular season. They will have had one eye on next Saturday’s play-off match which will determine their fate for next season. A victory in that match will secure a place at Step Four next season whereas defeat will mean relegation to Step Five of the National League system. Robbie Mason and his new Management team opted for sweeping changes in the starting line up of the team with five changes relegating Charlie Lewis, Panny Boxer, Jon-Paul Duncliffe, Albert Adu and the Manager to the substitutes bench. Into their places came Aaron Smith, Callum Anderson, Tommy Boxer, Manny Osei and Jack Barnett – the latter for his first start after four substitute appearances this season.
The early indications were a significant improvement in St Neots’ performances of late. They dominated much of the first half with a lions share of the possession, but it was the old story of a lack of finishing. The side has managed just two wins and nine goals in their last thirteen league matches shared by just three players and that tally speaks for itself. The actual performance was encouraging full of positive play and the signs were good as Trey Charles shot wide after good work by Joe Rider. Aaron Smith shot across the face of goal after neat work by Liam Hook, and the impressive Joe Tarpey set up Charles, but his finish was disappointingly off target. A blocked shot from George Ball, was the best the visitors could muster, and then skipper Callum Anderson swapped passes with Manny Osei before a last-ditch clearance saved the day for the visitors. Jonah Gill did have to dive bravely at the feet of Jack Gibson to smother his shot, but St Neots were largely in control. Then three minutes before the break in a breakaway Loughborough attack, the St Neots goalkeeper and a defender suffered a misunderstanding presenting Jack Gibson with a ridiculously simple walk-in goal to give the visitors an unlikely lead. To their credit St Neots responded within two minutes as an angled low shot by Joe Rider beat the visiting keeper at the near post to level the scores at half time.
Despite utilising two substitutes to freshen their side, St Neots found the restart difficult as the visitors exerted some attacking pressure. Gibson had a header cleared off the St Neots goal line and when Evan Garnett broke clear of the St Neots defence Gill saved well. Another effort by Garnett was deflected wide and then after 70 minutes the visitors’ pressure paid off as an excellent shot from distance by George Ball left the St Neots custodian no chance and put the visitors in front. Within another ninety seconds the visitors produced a second killer goal to effectively clinch all three points as Evan Garnett produced an angled shot to make the score 3-1. St Neots introduced their final substitute but eight minutes from time St Neots were reduced to ten men when Tarpey limped off injured.
The management team must now lift spirits for the one-off home game next Saturday that will decide their sides’ future for next season.
Today’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match – JOE TARPEY
St Neots Town: Gill, Tarpey, Smith, Anderson, Boxer (T), Dickens, Osei, Hook, Charles, Rider, Barnett
Subs: Lewis (for Boxer (T) 46 mins), Boxer (P) (for Hook 46 mins), Adu (for Osei 71 mins), Duncliffe, and Mason.
Goals: Rider (44 mins)
Loughborough Dynamo: King, Ridgley, Finnerty, Cocks, Whitehead, Cook, Norris, Ogunmekan, Garnett, Ball, Gibson
Subs: McGinnell (for Ridgley 21 mins), Sackey-Mensah (for Finnerty 73 mins), Young (for Ball 79 mins), and Musgrove.
Cards: Cook (Y – 58 mins), Gibson (Y – 90 mins)
Goals: Gibson (42 mins), Ball (70 mins), Garnett (71 mins)
Referee: Gary Connell (Stevenage)