Monday, January 14, 2013
ST Neots Town manager Iain Parr thinks midfielder Lewis Hilliard is good enough to play at a higher level after the 22-year-old scored twice for the Saints in their 3-2 win over Bedworth United at the weekend.
Hilliard has been excellent throughout his team’s recent sticky spell, which ended with their first three points since November 10 at The Cozy Stadium on Saturday, and Parr told The Hunts Post: “Lewis Hilliard has been one of our stand-out players.
“At the start of the season people spoke to me about Lewis, including people who have been at the club, and they told me I would only get 10 games from him.
“I asked them why because he’s a young player with a fantastic ability. He’s one at the moment who could quite easily go and play higher than what we do.
“He’s having a great season and he stood up today and scored two magnificent goals and was unlucky not to get a third.
“He has added to his game, he’s relentless in his work, and he’s on his knees every time he comes off.”
Hilliard belies his age, his manager thought he was 24, but the winger is two years younger than that. He is now one of the more experienced players in the St Neots squad, and is a constant thorn in the sides of visitors when attacking down either flank.
His two goals on Saturday helped the team win their first game in nine in the Southern League Premier Division. His first goal was a deflected cross which spun into the far corner of the Bedworth net; his second was a sublime free-kick which left the Bedworth goalkeeper athletically but pointlessly trailing in its wake.
Starting his career at Rushden & Diamonds, Hilliard had short loan spells with Ware, Hemel Hempstead Town and Banbury United, before linking up with former Hemel manager Dennis Greene at St Neots in 2010.
He was in and out of the side last season, but still managed to score some important goals and help the team to the Division One Central title. This season, under new manager Parr, the player has grown in stature and he must be one of the first names on the team sheet each week.
St Neots chairman Mike Kearns said: “Lewis is probably the player of the season. You can single out Lewis – he’s a great player – but it was a team effort today.”
However, things started badly for the Saints when Bedworth striker David Blenkinsopp chipped goalkeeper Jack Giddens in just the fourth minute.
Back from his three-match suspension, Ben Mackey was on target in the 26th minute when he turned and shot in the area for the equaliser. It was a typical Mackey goal.
Having already gone close with a free kick from a similar position, Hilliard then had a little help with a shot from wide left when it took a deflection off a Bedworth defender’s shoulder and sailed over the top of Kemp into the far corner of the Bedworth net.
It was almost 3-1 just before half time but Kemp got his fingertips to a Craig Calver chip to deny the impressive No 9.
Mackey and Dan Jacob struck the Bedworth woodwork twice before visiting substitute Aaron Donaldson, who had been on the pitch for just two minutes, found Mitchell Piggon with a cross on 60 minutes and the striker tapped the ball home at the far post.
No matter: Hilliard made it 3-2 with his wonderful free-kick just three minutes later.
“We played some good football and there was a good balance,” said the chairman. “That’s another step forward.
“Next week, against leaders Hemel, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us beating them.”
St Neots: Jack Giddens, Ryan Auger (Jon-Paul Duncliffe), Ed Adjei, Ollie Thorne, Jordy Nkinga, Gavin Hoyte, Lewis Hilliard, Jay Davies (Adrian Sear), Craig Calver (Ade Yusuff), Ben Mackey, Dan Jacob.