SHORTLY after 4pm on Saturday afternoon, St Neots were being given a rude awakening on their Step 4 debut – and staring down the barrel of an opening-day home defeat.

Southern League Division One Central

St Neots Town 4-2 Beaconsfield SYCOB

SHORTLY after 4pm on ­Saturday afternoon, St Neots were being given a rude ­awakening on their Step 4 debut - and staring down the barrel of an opening-day home defeat.

By quarter to five, normal ­service had been resumed, thanks to a clinical finish from Shane ­Tolley, a towering header from Chris Hope and two lazy swipes of Junior Konadu's left boot.

Taking their bow in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central against a team last year given a reprieve after finishing bottom, St Neots looked uncharacteristically nervous and were at times guilty of over-elaboration.

Despite dominating possession, they looked shaky at the back and vulnerable to long balls over the top to the visitors' pacy forwards.

Both teams had early chances, and Neots keeper Michael Duggan was called into action by Lee Barney in the opening minutes, with home strikers Stefan Moore and Tolley going close at the other end.

A Jordan Gent header from a corner was well saved and Tolley's effort landed on top of the net but St Neots conceded their first goal of the season after 25 minutes.

Barney, whose running caused constant problems, got the wrong side of Gent and beat the offside trap before shooting past Duggan.

Saints were struggling to make their possession pay as they looked for a way back, and visiting keeper Sam Styles again denied Tolley, and Neil MacKenzie fired over.

Beaconsfield set out to pen Neots back in the second half and got their reward on 52 minutes when Craig Grieve felled Barnard in the box near the byline.

Barney stepped up to confidently dispatch the spot-kick to put Beaconsfield 2-0 up - and seemingly shake Saints into life.

Tolley, the scorer of so many crucial goals last season, netted Saints' first in their new league just three minutes later, tucking away MacKenzie's cross.

Ten minutes later, Saints were level when Lewis Hilliard's free-kick saw summer signing Chris Hope rise to head past the keeper.

Duggan denied Barnard and Victor Osobu before, on 79 minutes, Konadu struck his first with a 30-yard screamer to put Saints ahead.

Substitutions followed as the home side looked to close the game down, but there was time for Konadu to add a second with a minute left, receiving the ball after Hilliard and Dan Jacob had deceived the Beaconsfield defence, and slotting calmly under Styles.