St Neots Town made an immediate return to winning ways yesterday – but not without a couple of hitches.
Matt Clements’ side twice had to come from behind before recording a comfortable 5-2 victory against Southern League Premier Division crisis club Merthyr at the Premier Plus Stadium.
The dismissal of visiting player-boss Gavin Williams just before the half-hour – and just after his side had hit the front for the second time – certainly made Saints’ task easier.
Williams received a second caution for simulation and Saints made the most of their numerical advantage to get back on track after a midweek drubbing at the hands of table-topping King’s Lynn.
Captain Luke Knight struck twice - a feat matched by loan striker Lewis Irwin who opened his account for the club following his recent arrival from Northampton Town.
“It was important to bounce back from the Tuesday defeat with a positive result,” said boss Clements. “We didn’t start the game at all well and could have no complaints about finding ourselves behind twice.
“But the way the lads responded to those setbacks highlighted how much progress we have made this season.
“It was great for Lewis to get his first goals for the club and Luke was nothing short of exceptional – scoring twice and creating another two goals.”
Saints striker Nabil Shariff saw an effort ruled out for offside before Merthyr opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Kerry Morgan flicked in an Ian Traylor corner.
But St Neots were soon back on level terms when Irwin opened his account for the club after latching onto a David Bridges pass.
But Clements’ side were behind again midway through the half when conceding from another set piece as Matt Harris looped a header over goalkeeper Mikey Emery from a Williams free kick.
Williams’ early exit soon followed and Saints immediately took advantage with two goals in as many minutes to turn a losing predicament into a winning position.
Dion Sembie-Ferris tucked away a Johnny Herd cross to level on the half-hour before Knight lashed in a half-cleared Sembie-Ferris cross in the next attack.
Saints added two further goals in the opening quarter-of-an-hour of the second half. Knight claimed his second of the afternoon before turning provider for Irwin to do the same.
A combination of smart goalkeeping from Cameron Clarke, some errant finishing and a goal-line clearance from Adam Davies – to deny Shariff – prevented any more damage, but Saints did more than enough to earn the points and climb back up to ninth position in the standings.
And Clements was quick to praise the attitude and application of the visitors. He added: “Merthyr didn’t have a single player getting paid and a lot of youth lads in their squad, but they boasted a travelling support which was second to none.”
St Ives Town’s trip to Chesham in the Southern League Premier Division was postponed due to a frozen pitch.