For the second time in three seasons St Neots U18’s suffered an away defeat at Stotfold in their first match in the National competition – and by the same final score line. This is always a difficult competition to plan for as it starts prior to the league and in the case of both sides it was their first competitive outing of the new season. After a tepid first half on a hard bumpy surface the second period was a lively end to end contest with the home side having to hang on to their narrow advantage in the final minutes of the game.
Less than half of the St Neots side played last season because of the age restriction so this was an initial competitive outing for the visiting side. A cautious start by both sides resulted in the first serious attack after 16 minutes producing an opening goal for the home side as the St Neots defence failed to clear the ball from a free kick and Will Cowe exploited the away team defence’s hesitancy to put Stotfold in front. St Neots then enjoyed the bulk of the attacking play but with several efforts either blocked or wide of target they did not level the scores until seven minutes before the break. Then from a searching right wing cross Jack Nichols levelled the scores.
It was the home side that started the second half more positively and they added two further goals in a spell of just four minutes. After 54 minutes the St Neots goalkeeper appeared to misjudge a free kick by Tate Cretton that went over his head and in off the woodwork and after 58 minutes worse was to follow. A St Neots attack broke down and with their defence out of position, Stotfold won a corner. It was sent to the far post and Ethan Scott made the score 3-1 with the best goal of the match. St Neots responded quickly and from the restart they won a corner from which Adam Baker pulled a goal back to make the score 3-2. Thereafter St Neots dominated much of the possession, but the home defence stood firm. James Stainsby brought two good saves from home keeper Harry Patrick who was in almost constant action with one save from substitute Joe Jackson outstanding. With early season cramp a factor for both sides Stotfold held out including seven minutes of added time to progress to the next round.
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