AN understrength St Neots were held to a goalless draw in their opening United Counties League fixture with Newport Pagnell. Saints goalkeeper Martyn Patching made a fine save in the dying minutes to keep a clean sheet on his debut, while player-manager S

St Neots debutant goalkeeper Martyn Patching

AN understrength St Neots were held to a goalless draw in their opening United Counties League fixture with Newport Pagnell.

Saints goalkeeper Martyn Patching made a fine save in the dying minutes to keep a clean sheet on his debut, while player-manager Steve Kuhne missed a decent chance to give his side the lead just before half-time.

Saints were missing a number of players due to holidays, injuries and even a wedding, so some major reorganising was needed.

With just one recognised defender available, Jon Hoggett, Nick Hurst and Russell Lawes made up the back line with Saints missing Hoggett's creativity in midfield.

Gary Walker spurned St Neots' first opportunity, doing well to weave his way to the byline but opting to shoot from a tight angle - much to the annoyance of his team-mates.

Matt Endersby nearly opened the scoring on the quarter hour but his curling free kick scraped

the outside of the upright with Pagnell's keeper beaten.

Endersby had another good chance soon after when he latched on a long ball to the far post, delivered by Hoggett, but his shot was wide of the upright. Walker also came agonisingly close when he just failed to connect with an Ashley Deverall cross stuck low and hard across the face of the goal.

Player-boss Kuhne, playing behind the front two, had possibly the best chance of the half just before the break when he found himself in a good position 15 yards from goal. However, his sidefoot effort was easily collected by the visiting goalkeeper.

The second half was fairly dour and only a hotly disputed handball penalty claim for Saints - as Matt Endersby's shot was parried down by a visiting defender - and a very good save from Patching were points of interest.

St Neots player-manager Kuhne said: "With so many players unavailable we're not too disappointed with a point. We only had one recognised centre-half so we had to move some players around and Jon Hoggett did well at the back.

"Mark Franklin had a good first 25 minutes but to be honest no-one really shone and no-one had a nightmare.

"We've got Wootton coming to us tonight (Wednesday) and they had a very good win on the opening day so they certainly won't be pushovers.

"Their local paper described us as 'big-spending' St Neots but I certainly don't think we pay any more than they do!"

Saints then face a trip south to Sawbridgeworth for the Preliminary Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.

Kuhne said: "We should be nearer full strength for Saturday and there's always a bit of added spice in the cup competitions plus there's a bit of prize money at stake as well."

The winners of Saturday's match will face a home tie against Brackley Town.