AYLESTONE PARK           2                ST NEOTS TOWN           2

(Aylestone win 7-6 on penalties)

It was a day to remember but then forget less than ten minutes later for St Neots goalkeeper James Goff (below right). After making two memorable saves to keep his side precariously in this play-off tie, he became an instant hero going up to the wrong end of the field to score a 95th minute equalising goal from a corner to send this pulsating match into a penalty shoot-out. Then after saving one of the home side penalties to send the shoot-out into a sudden death finish, he took St Neots eighth penalty only to see home keeper Josh Wormleighton dive to his left to save his effort and send his side into a final play-off final and possible promotion to Step Four next season. It was breathless stuff from beginning to end as the two sides went toe to toe for the right to contest that play-off shoot out against Racing Club Warwick who comfortably saw off March Town in the other semi-final play-off. match. It was a heartbreaking finale to the season for St Neots and their army of supporters who had travelled to Leicester for this match after an outstanding first season back at Step Five following Manager Cameron Mawer’s rebuilding of the side from scratch. He was able to name almost his strongest line-up with only the injured Harvey Williams missing from his squad, and he opted for just one team change from the final league match with Nathan George preferred to Ollie Brookes at the heart of the defence.

St Neots’ striker Rhys Thorpe thought he should have had a sixth minute penalty when he was hauled down going for goal but the Referee waved play on and four minutes later St Neots were behind when Nathan George upended Billy Kee in the opposite area and Corey Bucalossi sent Goff the wrong way to open the scoring. Thorpe then had a shot deflected and in the next attack the same St Neots player forced home keeper Nykah Liburd-Hynes into a full length save to protect his sides’ lead. The match continued end to end and after 25 minutes the scores were levelled when the lively Rhys Thorpe (left) stepped inside his marker to send a low finish beyond the reach of the home keeper. James Goff then produced an outstanding save to deny Sam Hollis but after 33 minutes the home side regained the lead when Corey Bucalossi claimed his second goal with a smart finish. The home side then preserved their advantage playing keep ball to frustrate St Neots efforts although Connor Furlong should have done better with an effort over the bar after neat play from Christian Tavernier. The same St Neots player then headed wide from a Jordan Brown cross as St Neots ended the half on a high.

The hosts began the second half better with Nathan George booked for a foul terminating a promising move after just three minutes. Goff then had to dive bravely at the feet of Hollis who had gone clear and St Neots then opted for a change with Michael Amaeshike replacing Magloire Muyembe in midfield.    The home side were defending in numbers, and they picked up two cautions as they strived to break up St Neots, attacking rhythm. Jordan Brown then cut in from the left but sent his effort the wrong side of a goalpost, and in two significant moments both side were reduced to ten men in separate incidents – Nathan George picking up a second yellow and Dominic Watts picking up a straight red. The second dismissal gave St Neots a penalty kick, but Thorpe sent his effort onto the base of the goalpost and the chance went begging. St Neots’ last throw of the dice was to send on Nabil Shariff, but he got little change from a home defence now happy to concentrate on preserving their narrow lead.   In a manic last few minutes James Hatch had a shot deflected past a post before Goff struck that dramatic late equaliser.

In the penalty shoot out Shariff, Tavernier, Amaeshike and Hatch all scored with Culkin seeing his effort saved and as Goff had also saved one penalty the match went to sudden death.  After Furlong and Nickels had netted the unfortune Goff saw St Neot’s eight penalty saved and St Neots were sadly beaten and consigned to another season at Step 5

St Neots Town:   Goff, Nickels, Culkin, Tavernier, George, Bowen, Brown, Muyembe, Thorpe, Hatch,Furlong

Subs: Amaeshike (for Muyembe 54 mins), Shariff (for Thorpe 72 mins), Brookes, Dummett and Ajana.

Cards:  George (Y – 48 mins, RED – 66 mins), Thorpe (Y – 27 mins).


Aylestone Park:   Liburd-Hynes, Kilburn, Watts, Preston, Peace, Towers, Hollis, Barrett, Kee, Bucalossi, Samuels

Subs: Sneddon (for Bucalossi 89 mins), Wormleighton (Josh), (for Liburd-Hynes 90 mins), Seal, Langham, Wormleighton (Jake).

Cards:   Watts (RED – 68 mins), Bucalossi (Y – 44 mins), Kilburn (Y – 55 mins), Towers (Y – 59 mins), Barrett (Y – 64 mins)

Attendance: 579

Referee:  Paul Malhalache (Lincoln)

 (John Walker)