What is the best way to get over the end of a fine cup run? Start another one of course . . .
And that is exactly what St Neots Town did last Saturday when enjoying FA Trophy success a week after enduring FA Cup disappointment.
Matt Clements’ men saw off fellow Step 3 side Matlock Town in a rain-lashed first qualifying round clash at the Premier Plus Stadium thanks to a solitary strike from Nabil Shariff in the second half.
It provided further evidence that missing out on reaching the first round proper of the FA Cup has served as a springboard for Clements’ men rather than being the cue for a slump, following up a terrific way to follow up a welcome Southern League Premier Division Central success at Lowestoft last Tuesday when Saints triumphed 2-1 at Lowestoft thanks to a brace of Shariff goals.
“Going out of the FA Cup was a huge disappointment for everyone, but we have responded really well,” said Clements.
“The win on Tuesday was important both in terms of the league and getting over the cup defeat, and it was great to follow it up in the Trophy.
“We were exceptional off the ball against a very good side and there is no doubt we deserved the win. Every man put in a fantastic shift and the clean sheet is a real positive.
“It’s great to get through to the next round and, who knows, it could be the start of another exciting journey in a cup competition.”
Clements was forced to shuffle his pack for the visit of Northern Premier Division side Matlock – who were unbeaten in seven games and had won 7-0 in midweek - with influential defender Taylor Parr joining midfield duo Luke Knight and Harry O’Malley on the injured list.
Matty Miles, regularly used as a full-back, and Tom Wood, more commonly found in the heart of defence, formed a fine makeshift alliance in midfield with recent signing Russell Short impressing at the back alongside the back-in-favour Dan Olaniran.
The first half was relatively even with an off-balance Short and Dion Sembie Ferris firing over when presented with Saints’ best opportunities.
Sembie-Ferris turned provider early in the second half when his cross was steered against the outside of a post by frontman Gary Wharton.
But the crucial breakthrough eventually arrived after 64 minutes as Shariff raced onto an aerial ball from Wood and coolly lifted the ball over advancing Matlock goalkeeper Ross Durrant.
Substitute Claudio Ofosu saw efforts saved and blocked as Saints searched for a second goal while Shariff twice went close on the break in the closing stages.
But his earlier goal proved enough to secure progress as Saints survived one late scare when Matlock man Bradley Beatson’s volley clipped the top of the crossbar.
Saints’ victory earned them a reward of £3,250 as well as a place in the draw for the second qualifying round today (Monday).