A Saturday afternoon of firsts breathed life into St Neots Town’s battle to avoid relegation.

Joe Sutton in action during St Neots Town's victory against Barwell in the Southern League Premier Division Central. Picture: MARK RIDERJoe Sutton in action during St Neots Town's victory against Barwell in the Southern League Premier Division Central. Picture: MARK RIDER

The opening home game of new manager Marc Abbott's reign came complete with the first victory of his tenure . . . and it was secured by the first goal scored since he took over from Matt Clements.

Strike ace Gary Wharton was the man to provide the crucial breakthrough just after the hour as Saints claimed a 1-0 victory against Barwell at the Premier Plus Stadium - a result which moved them to within a point of Southern League Premier Division Central safety.

"The players have showed great resilience during the last few weeks," said Abbott. "They have grown up as players and people very quickly while exceeding expectations at a tough level of football.

"It was terrific to be able to pick up three points last Saturday and great for the supporters to be able to see what a fantastic young team we have.

Goalscorer Gary Wharton in action for St Neots Town against Barwell. Picture: MARK RIDERGoalscorer Gary Wharton in action for St Neots Town against Barwell. Picture: MARK RIDER

"The support given to myself since I came to the club has been outstanding and it was good to be able to repay that with three points.

"It would have been a massive struggle to stay up if we had been beaten by Barwell, but we have kept ourselves in contention with the sides above us."

Saints also claimed a couple of sweet slices of revenge last Saturday by beating a Barwell side who dumped them out of the FA Trophy and thumped them 6-1 in the reverse league fixture earlier in the season.

It was a triumph which came complete with a debut clean sheet for new goalkeeping recruit James Philp after previous number one Finley Iron was recalled by his parent club Cambridge United.

New manager Marc Abbott (left) watches St Neots Town's preparations to face Barwell with director of football Matt Clements. Picture: MARK RIDERNew manager Marc Abbott (left) watches St Neots Town's preparations to face Barwell with director of football Matt Clements. Picture: MARK RIDER

He made two smart early saves before a goal-line clearance from Ryan Hughes kept Saints on level terms before they were rescued by the woodwork either side of half-time.

But it was Saints who made the only breakthrough when Wharton was released by substitute Jacob Joseph, who had only been on the pitch for a minute, to finish.

Saints head to Redditch this Saturday, 3pm, to take on another side involved in the relegation scrap. The Midlands outfit are currently five points above the drop-zone.

Abbott added: "It's another big game for us at an important time of the season.

"We have identified a few matches where we feel we could pick up points. The home fixture with Barwell was one of those and hopefully this is another one."