United Counties League Premier Division South
ST NEOTS TOWN 3 BUGBROOKE ST MICHAELS 0
St Neots marked their return to the UCL with an opening day home league victory for the first time since 2014 Notoriously slow starters of late, St Neots delighted their shirt-sleeved crowd with a solid, if unspectacular, start with three goals and a confident defensive performance. When Bugbrooke first visited St Neots, they completed a league double in the 1994/95 season but that was never going to be repeated on this occasion. The home side featured a completely new line-up with none of the players on view having played last season and new Manager Cameron Mawer has had little time to bind them into a unit, so he was delighted with the start. However, Bugbrooke are not one of the fancied sides so there will be stiffer tests to follow.
Both sides began cautiously testing out the other, but St Neots always look in control in the first half. As early as the sixth minute visiting keeper Luke Reeve had to leave his line swiftly to clear as his defence was breached and five minutes later Lorrell Smith lost his marker but saw his low effort well saved. St Neots went ahead after 15 minutes when the pacey Harvey Williams saw his cross not cleared and Magloire Muyembe pounced to net from close range. That settled any early St Neots nerves and they set about building on their foundation as the lively Williams sent an angled shot the wrong side of the far post after neat work by Dean Dummett. Maurice Alhassan had the first two efforts for the visitors around the half hour mark – the first wide and the second easily gathered by teenage loan goalkeeper Seb Stacey. The keeper also saved bravely at the feet of Ed Panter but then St Neots lost injured defender Nathan George with Tommy Reynolds substituting in a reshaped defence. Five minutes before the break St Neots doubled their lead as Williams was again the architect with a cross that picked out James Hatch for a crisp finish. Substitute Reynolds did well to get back to clear off the line after Stacey had fumbled a shot from Panter to ensure that St Neots went to the break with their two goals advantage.
After the break Bugbrooke enjoyed a brief spell when they looked capable of getting back into the match, but they never really bothered the home defence despite enjoying a better share of possession. Both sides introduced substitutes and St Neots began to look dangerous again with the speedy Williams a constant thorn in the side of the visiting defence, and twice he tested the visiting custodian. As the second half wore on St Neots looked more and more confident against the tiring visiting side and four minutes before the end of normal time Williams was upended in the penalty area and the reliable Josh Brown tucked away the penalty to confirm the first day victory. There was still time is six added minutes for more action at both ends with Williams going close for St Neots and the home keeper made two excellent saves to deny visiting substitutes Shad Raza and Tom Binder.
Today’s Saints Supporters’ Man of the Match – Kindly Sponsored By The Greystones Public House, Sawtry was awarded to JAMES HATCH