St Neots Town manager Matt Clements was proud of his side’s performance against the best team in the Southern League Premier Division.
Saints were beaten 1-0 at table-toppers Hereford FC on Tuesday night, but the local side gave a pleasing account of themselves in front of a near 2,500 crowd at Edgar Street.
They were ultimately undone by a goal early in the second half, but also caused moments of concern for their promotion-chasing hosts.
“We knew we were facing one of the best – if not the best – teams in the league,” said boss Clements.
“It would have been naïve to try to play in the attacking way that we usually do. We had a gameplan to try to break things up and keep ourselves in the game for as long as possible.
“The fact the lads are disappointed to have been beaten 1-0 away to the leaders shows we played well.
“We just lacked a little bit of quality and cutting edge in the final third at times, but that’s understandable when doing so much work off the ball.”
Saints, who had skipper Luke Knight back from suspension, were under pressure early on as Jack Bradshaw made a goal-line clearance and goalkeeper Finlay Iron pulled off a smart save.
But Clements’ men soon grew into the game as Bradshaw saw a free-kick blocked and a Lewis Irwin effort was deflected wide.
Both teams went close in the closing minutes of the first half as an Irwin shot was hacked off the line by Dara O’Shea before Iron made a super double-stop to deny Jamie Bird and Pablo Heysham.
But Saints couldn’t keep Hereford at bay and fell behind in the 55th minute when a Rob Purdie corner was headed home by O’Shea. Iron managed to get fingertips onto the powerful header, but couldn’t prevent it from flying into the roof of the net.
Saints responded well as Nabil Shariff saw one effort saved and then put another opportunity over the bar as they drew a blank. Only a terrific Iron save – to deny Mike Symonds – prevented their deficit being doubled late on.
Saints have another testing trip this Saturday when they travel to play-off hopefuls Slough.