Thursday, February 27, 2014
Lewis Hilliard once again proved that on his day he can be a match winner for St Neots Town when he scored a hat-trick in their 3-1 victory at Redditch United in the semi-finals of the Red Insure Southern League on Monday night.
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder has been with the club since joining from the old Rushden & Diamonds in 2009 – and although he can blow hot and cold on occasions, his new managers, Gary King and Zema Abbey, seem to be getting the best out of him.
“Every player blows hot and cold and it is our responsibility to make sure he blows hot more than he does cold,” said King.
“When Lewis is on form he is as good as anyone. He is such a talent and he can play on the left or on the right.
“Defenders don’t know how to mark him and he can strike the ball with either foot with awesome power.”
Indeed, Hilliard’s free kicks are as good as any in the Southern League – if not beyond. And, in 192 appearances in all competitions for St Neots, he has scored 53 goals. He has scored 13 goals in the Premier Division this season, one more than the player in second place at St Neots, Jay Davies. It’s a wonder why a team from a higher level hasn’t yet snapped him up.
In the summer, the management duo will be desperate to keep a player who has already scored two hat-tricks for them – with the idea being floated that the Saints will be a team to be reckoned with next time out.
“Every week we seem to look stronger and be getting better,” said King, who had to take his side all the way to Hampshire on Saturday for a 2-2 draw at AFC Totton with Shane Tolley adding another goal to his CV and Jake Woolley chipping in – before Monday night’s skilful demolition of Redditch in the West Midlands.
“The more time passes, the better we are becoming,” said King. “There has been a change, a turnaround in the last three months. It has been considerable.”
St Neots have only been beaten once in their last nine games in the league now and they are more than comfortable after spending the first half of the season flirting with relegation.
The Saints are at home on Saturday, which King is pleased about after so much travelling in three days, against Hungerford Town – and then, oddly, they are back on the road to Redditch on Monday for a league clash.