The performance was considerably better, but the outcome remained the same for St Neots Town today.

St Neots Town players past and present as Lewis Wilson tracks Johnny Herd. Picture: CLAIRE HOWESSt Neots Town players past and present as Lewis Wilson tracks Johnny Herd. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES

Matt Clements’ men still find themselves in the Southern League Premier Division Central relegation zone after suffering a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of play-off chasing Stratford Town at the Premier Plus Stadium.

The display from Saints – featuring two more new loan recruits in Northampton Town pair Ryan Hughes and Jack Daldy, and employing a change of formation - was much improved from a midweek horror show at Barwell, but they were again left empty-handed.

The fixture had to pass a late pitch inspection after heavy overnight rain and Saints looked happy to be in action as they began brightly.

A Russell Short header and a Tom Wood drive were only inches too high as they searched for an early breakthrough with Saints at ease in a new three-man defensive system which featured new arrival Hughes along with Short and Taylor Parr.

Taylor Parr in the thick of the action during St Neots Town's defeat to Stratford Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWESTaylor Parr in the thick of the action during St Neots Town's defeat to Stratford Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES

That trio were rarely troubled in the opening half with Stratford limited to a couple of Shane Benjamin chances – the first of which was well-saved by goalkeeper Finlay Iron before the second was put wide.

There was still no breakthrough in sight in the early part of a second half in which an off-the-ball flashpoint led to three cautions being dished out – Luke Knight and Dylan Williams were the Saints recipients.

The deadlock was eventually broken in the final qurter of the contest by Stratford man Wilson Carvalho. He curled in a fine finish in the 68th minute and the visitors doubled their lead with seven minutes to go when Shawn Richards danced round Iron to finish.

Saints did manage a late consolation when Parr found the net as the clock ticked into stoppage time, but it proved to be a case of too little and too late to salvage the contest.

New loan recruit Jack Daldy on the ball for St Neots Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWESNew loan recruit Jack Daldy on the ball for St Neots Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES

They are two points from safety ahead of a Boxing Day trip to AFC Rushden & Diamonds.

Nabil Shariff in an aerial duel as St Neots Town lost to Stratford Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWESNabil Shariff in an aerial duel as St Neots Town lost to Stratford Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES