St Neots Town manager Matt Clements was upbeat in defeat last Saturday.

Recent signing Russell Short does battle with a Kettering Town opponent during St Neots Town's defeat on Saturday. Picture: CLAIRE HOWESRecent signing Russell Short does battle with a Kettering Town opponent during St Neots Town's defeat on Saturday. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES

Clements saw his side beaten 3-0 by table-toppers Kettering Town in a Southern League Premier Division Central clash which attracted a near-700 crowd to the Premier Plus Stadium.

But the Saints boss was quick to insist the emphatic final scoreline was in no way an accurate reflection of a contest in which his matched the unbeaten leaders for long periods.

In fact only a stunning save from visiting goalkeeper Paul White denied Dylan Williams a spectacular opening goal in the first half.

Saints eventually fell behind to a controversial penalty just before the hour with Saints goalkeeper Harry Reynolds adjudged to have brought down visiting striker Rhys Hoeness.

St Neots Town striker Nabil Shariff against Kettering Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWESSt Neots Town striker Nabil Shariff against Kettering Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES

Brett Solkhon did the honours from the spot before another penalty - this time a stonewall decision after a foul by Matt Miles – was tucked away by Hoeness to double the Kettering lead with nine minutes to go.

A clincher from an unmarked Marcus Kelly followed moments later.

Clements said: “It might sound silly for a manager to be pleased after a 3-0 defeat at home, but that’s how I felt on Saturday.

“The first goal was never a penalty and that’s all I am going to say on the matter as I don’t want to land myself in trouble.

St Neots Town defender Matt Miles conceded the penalty that led to Kettering Town's second goal. Picture: CLAIRE HOWESSt Neots Town defender Matt Miles conceded the penalty that led to Kettering Town's second goal. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES

“It was obviously a big moment in the game as we had largely matched Kettering until then and continued to do so until making a couple of sloppy mistakes late on.

“I’ve got no complaints about the second penalty and that knocked the stuffing out of us after working so hard against the league leaders, and the third goal was a result of that.

“Fair play to Kettering for taking their chances, but I don’t think a draw would have been an injustice.

“But Kettering are clearly a good side who are top for a reason. They have everything you need to be successful at this level.

“They have the experience, the quality and the organisation - and their record so far shows they are going to be right up there.”

The defeat leaves Saints one position above the Premier Division Central relegation zone ahead of a trip to Royston Town tomorrow night (Tuesday), but they are also only three points off the top half of the standings in what is shaping up to be an ultra-tight section.

“We started the season very poorly and that’s the reason we’re in this position,” added Clements.

“We addressed the issue we had in our opening few games and we’ve made huge progress since then.

“That’s why I’m not worried by where we are in the table and I saw more than enough against Kettering, and in the FA Cup games against Coalville, to know we can compete with any team at this level.”

Saints hope to have young Cambridge United midfielder Ben Worman available again at Royston. He was recalled by the League Two club late last week.

Saints will also hit the road next Tuesday (October 23) to go to Lowestoft assuming they are not involved in an FA Cup replay.