FA TROPHY – FIRST ROUND QUALIFYING
Bedford Town 1 St Neots Town 0
St Neots bowed out of the FA Trophy at the first hurdle with a deja-vu moment having lost to the same opponents five weeks earlier in the FA Cup. However, their overall performance against neighbours Bedford Town was on this occasion very much better. In fact, given the balance of play over ninety minutes, they can consider themselves unlucky not to have taken the match at least to a penalty shoot-out for they dominated possession late in the game but could not find an equalising goal. Manager Pete Gill had the luxury of naming an unchanged starting line-up from that which had won 6-2 at home to Barton Rovers in midweek and he will have been pleased with the performance but disappointed with the result. Bedford scored early in a storming start to the match but after that the play was largely end-to-end with St Neots unable to find the critical finishing touch.
Sadly, this is the first time since joining the Southern League eleven seasons ago that the Saints have been knocked out of the two National competitions at the first hurdle.
Bedford’s brisk start seemed to catch the visiting side by surprise with ex Football League striker Craig Mackail-Smith bringing an important save from Louis Chadwick at the expense of a corner after fifty seconds, and then after four minutes in their second sortie forward, former Peterborough United striker Rene Howe took full advantage of a momentary lapse in defensive concentration as he converted a Will Summerfield cross, to score what proved to be the only goal of the match. St Neots replied with skipper Lee Watkins outpacing the home defence to feed Joe Rider, but his shot was deflected for a corner. Charlie Johnson then won a Charley Barker corner in the air, but Alex Street saved well. Bedford were also creating their own openings and from a Shaun Keane cross a Howe header skimmed the crossbar, and Mackail-Smith headed over when well placed. St Neots resorted to lengthy shooting and both Rider and Erin Amu had chances with the latter seeing Street make an important save. St Neots were fortunate when Josh Page was left unmarked but his shot from a Summerfield cross clipped the crossbar and bounced to safety. The half ended with Street saving at the feet of Rider and defender Johnson spotting the Bedford keeper off his line and almost chipping him with a lengthy free kick.
St Neots half time instruction must have been ‘more of the same’. However, twice early second half attacks were foiled by the offside flag and Bedford also continued in attacking mode with Chadwick having to save well to foil Howe. Neo Richard-Noel shot wide for the visitors having an earlier effort saved by Street, and Bedford tried to pep up their efforts by utilising all three permitted substitutes. One of those, Danny Setchell, shot over the bar after being released by a Zac Brown cross and then St Neots sent on substitute Joe Sutton and in the last ten minutes the visitors dominated possession. However, the experienced Bedford side pulled players back to crowd out St Neots’ best efforts and had two played booked for desperate tackles. Despite their dominant possession, St Neots seemed to be unable to create anything seriously threatening, even though they moved defender Johnson up to join the attack. Ironically, Bedford could have settled the issue just before full time when the dangerous Howe found space in a counter-attack, but saw his header to a Keane cross deflect off the base of a goalpost to safety.
St Neots’ next cup test comes on Tuesday week (5th October) when Southern League Premier Division outfit Hitchin Town visit the Premier Plus Stadium in the first round of the League Cup.
Today’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match
– Erin Amu
St Neots Town: Chadwick, Steel, Heal, Barker, Johnson, Marfo, Cowling, Watkins, Richard-Noel, Rider, Amu
Subs: Sutton (for Richard-Noel 69 mins), Smith (A) (for Heal 80 mins), Thomas, Gomes, and Anthony.
Bedford Town: Street, Keane, Brown, McAuley, Sanders, Alban-Jones, Richardson, Howe, Page, Summerfield, Mackail-Smith
Subs: Setchell (for Page 61 mins), Steele (for McAuley 70 mins), Tomlinson (for Mackail-Smith 78 mins), Duffy, Donnelly, and Miccio.
Cards: Alban-Jones (Y – 69 mins), Steele (Y – 83 mins)
Goals: Howe (4 mins)
Referee: C. Martland (Swiss Cottage, London)
Photographs Courtesy of Mark Rider @Coldw4rning