FA CUP – EXTRA PRELIMINARY ROUND
Walsham Le Willows 1 St Neots Town 6
St Neots recorded their biggest FA Cup victory for fourteen years as their new-look side cruised to victory in their Friday evening fixture at Walsham-Le-Willows. It was the first time their freshly assembled squad had performed together competitively and the result will give optimism for the upcoming league season in their new surroundings in the Northern Premier League. Their FA Cup hosts from the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League already had two league fixtures under their belts and the first half suggested that it was going to take time for the recently assembled St Neots side to gel as a unit. Falling behind after 37 minutes to a goal from lively home striker Jamie Smith, St Neots responded with two goals in three minutes to lead at half time and from then they never looked back. There were impressive contributions all over the field with goalkeeper Jamie Greygoose, the lively Dan Barton and skipper Callum Anderson all performing well and the cash reward for victory also brings a Preliminary Round home tie in two weeks’ time with either Godmanchester Rovers or Rothwell Corinthians.
There was a cautious start to proceedings in terms of goalmouth action and neither side managed a threatening strike on goal in the first twenty minutes although Walsham should have done better with a free kick in a dangerous position that was sent harmlessly wide. St Neots main threat seemed to come from Aaron Smith’s trademark lengthy throws that tested the home defence and after 23 minutes a Brandon Njoku shot on the turn was only just too high. As St Neots began to settle two shots from Callum Anderson and Njoku were blocked by defenders and then there was a long delay as Saints recent signing full back Theo Sankey-Mensah received lengthy treatment for a hamstring pull but was unable to continue and this saw Toib Adeyemi substituting with the visitors back line reorganised. Henry Harvey saw a lengthy Walsham effort sail harmlessly wide before the last ten minutes of the half saw the bulk of the action. After 37 minutes the home side took the lead with their first real opening as striker Jamie Smith took full advantage of defensive hesitancy to open the scoring. This seemed to spur St Neots into action and three minutes later the scores were levelled when Declan Nche took advantage of a mazy run by Dan Barton to level the scores. After 43 minutes St Neots set up an important half time lead when Brandon Njoku passed two defenders to set up Declan Nche for his second goal.
After the late first half action the restart was relatively calm, and it was not until after both sides had made a substitution around the hour mark that the game came back to life. Walsham created two good openings bringing to important saves from Jamie Greygoose to deny Smith and Oliver McKensie and the important breakthrough came after 66 minutes when a fine three man move split the home defence as Njoku and Barton combined to set up Trey Charles for the important third St Neots goal. Charles then blocked a goalkeeper’s clearance to go clear on goal, but he shot wide and at the other end another important save by Greygoose to keep out a Karl Saffrey header preserving St Neots two goals advantage. Following a St Neots corner eleven minutes from time Trey Charles produced the goal of the match with a fierce shot into the far corner of the net and a 4-1 St Neots were cruising as the home side tired. Substitute Saleem Akanbi added a fifth goal a minute into added time after missing a much easier chance seconds earlier, and Trey Charles rounded things off with a penalty deep into injury time to complete his hat trick.