St Neots Town beat St Ives Town 2-0 at The Cozy Stadium on Friday night to win the Hunts FA Senior Cup and end their season on a high.
But the ‘home’ side didn’t have it all their own way with St Ives going close several times in the first half before Shane Tolley struck with a header early in the second and Lewis Hilliard doubled the lead late on.
It was the second successive Senior Cup win for St Neots but the first for the new management team of Gary King, Zema Abbey and their assistant, the goalkeeper Nathan Abbey.
“We said to the lads we have to manage the first 60 minutes – we knew they were going to give it a good puff but we knew eventually they were going to run out of steam,” said the assistant manager after his team had collected the trophy and celebrated with their fans.
“I think we should have been out of sight in the first half and I think we wasted eight or nine very good chances. But we have been very professional and 2-0 is a good result.
“We have got the job done and we have got another trophy cabinet and that was the agenda at the start of the game.”
St Ives were certainly the better side in the opening stages, despite joint manager Jez Hall describing them as underdogs in the run-up to the game. David Cobb put two early shots wide and was a threat – and, following a defensive slip, Avelino Vieira had a chance cleared off the line. Will Fordham got a foot to the ball in a goalmouth scramble but the ball was again stopped on the line. And had Karl Gibbs been a step closer to the ball he would have made contact with the ball when it buzzed across the box in front of him.
But St Ives best player for the first 45 minutes was their Histon loanee goalkeeper Barney McLaughlin. He made two very good saves from Hilliard and one from Ben Farrell. In the second half he tipped an Ed Adjei header over the bar.
With both club’s playing their football in the Southern League this season, in the end it was the Premier Division side that had that little bit more than the Division One Central side.
For St Neots, who were flirting with relegation when the management team turned up late last year, it was a second trophy after they won the Southern League Red Insure Cup against Tiverton Town last month.
“There was a lot to do when we came here but the lads responded well,” said Abbey. “The chairman and the fans have backed us – we have pulled together and got the job done and it just shows you that when you work together you get things right you get the rewards.
“I am delighted for the club after it was looking at a bit of doom and gloom around October time because to walk away with two trophies we can look back and think actually it wasn’t a bad season.
“We have lots of work to do – we will go and watch a few play-off games and identify a few players, we will have a little break and then start putting our heads together.
“We are already speaking to people because we have to start doing our work now and we are looking forward to hopefully assembling a half-decent side.”
And what about the budget for next season? Will there be money in the coffers for a promotion push?
Abbey said: “We have to sit down and discuss that, the chairman is not long from getting back from his holiday and we keep that kind of thing cloak and dagger.
“We will keep what we are doing quiet and we will be humble about what we are doing and we will just try and get the job done in the right way.”