Gary King and the Abbey brothers watch St Neots Town surprise Hemel Hempstead Town
- Credit: Archant
Hemel Hempstead Town must have wondered what had hit them at 4.45pm on Saturday night.
(This article was publised before St Neots Town lost 4-3 at home to Biggleswade Town on Tuesday night. Lewis Hilliard scored a hat-trick for the Saints.)
Having scored 19 goals in their two previous games, the high-flying Hertfordshire side likely as not turned up at second-from-bottom St Neots Town’s Cozy Stadium half expecting an easy ride – but, following the appointment of Gary King and Arlesey Town’s Zema Abbey as joint bosses at St Neots last week – with Zema’s brother Nathan named as their assistant – the home side put on a performance of supreme confidence and ability.
At the end of the 4-1 win, King told The Hunts Post: “We came with a game plan and the boys carried it out. We needed it to give the boys a lift and kick start our season.”
The Abbey brothers sat in the stands, while King took control of St Neots for their first game since the departure of Iain Parr as manager.
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This season, in the Premier Division of the Southern League, the Saints had won just two games (or three if you count the scrubbed off result against the now defunct Hinckley United), but on Saturday, under new management, they beat one of the favourites for promotion quite convincingly.
It was an astonishing turnaround for a team that had accrued just six points on the board from their previous 13 games. They now have nine from 14.
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“It’s just great when it works like that,” said King, who took solo charge for this one after being named as joint manager Zema Abbey on Friday.
King was appointed Parr’s assistant at The Cozy Stadium just last month and moved to lure the Abbeys away from Arlesey Town when offered the hotseat last week. Nathan Abbey will be the co-managers’ assistant.
Ed Adjei put the Saints 1-0 up in the first half with a lively strike from the left hand side of the goal with the Hemel goalkeeper beaten at his far post.
The visitors replied right at the start of the second half when the Saints goalkeeper Niall Conroy was slow to react and Charlie Mpi beat him.
But the excellent Lewis Hilliard struck within a minute to make it 2-1, smashing the ball so hard from 16 yards that the goalkeeper couldn’t stop it, and Jake Woolley hit home a Hilliard cross from a tight angle at the back post for 3-1.
The fourth goal came from Jay Davies, the son of Parr’s original assistant Andy Davies, he cost the club £4000 from Welling, who has been disappointing in midfield at times this season, but played with freedom on Saturday and picked up a loose ball half way up the field and slipped it past the goalkeeper after a fantastic solo run.
Ben Mackey, the former St Neots striker, who now plays for Hemel, had scored five goals in their midweek 10-0 thrashing of bottom-of-the-table Bashley. He went close with a header early on but picked up a knock within 10 minutes and was substituted at half time.
“I had hoped they would come with the mentality that they were flying with 19 goals in their last two games and that they would trip up today. Sometimes a team can be too confident,” said King. “I don’t think they ever got themselves going due to the way we set up.”
During the summer, King left Arlesey to ‘take a break’ from football. Zema Abbey was manager at the Bedfordshire club until his move up the A1. It’s safe to say his previous employers were not very happy at his and his brother’s departure.
King said: “The reason I brought in the lads from Arlesey is because we are a team that are used to working with each other and it’s not a surprise that I would go for something that is proven and I know – that’s just football.
“I came here as an assistant and I was genuinely looking forward to working with Iain ... but with Iain’s new role [director in charge of youth developement], that kind of came at me. I hadn’t prepared my mind to take over as the gaffer because I was having a break from football.
“But when the opportunity presented itself and I thought about, I couldn’t turn down an opportunity as good as St Neots. I think it’s a fantastic club.”
Under King and Abbey (and Abbey), St Neots were in action again last night (Tuesday) when Biggleswade Town were their visitors; that looked another tough game on paper, but football is played on grass, not paper.
King said: “It’s just about bringing a level of stability to our play now and making the players understand exactly what we are asking of them and that they play within the shape that we set up. Our priority is to move away from the drop zone as soon as we can.”