Late equaliser saves St Neots blushes at strugglers Greenford
IT SHOULD have been a formality: St Neots in third with 24 points from 11 games, North Greenford United bottom of the Southern League’s Central division with eight points from 10. But it wasn’t.
Instead of St Neots making light work of their opponents, as their dominance in the first 15 minutes of the game had suggested they might, they were lucky to come away from the north west London ground with a point after waking up from a 60-minute slumber just in time for Adrian Sear to find an 88th-minute equaliser.
Manager Dennis Greene was furious. “For the first 15 minutes it was like top against bottom,” he said. “We had four or five chances, and got the ball in the net, then they were the better side for the next hour.
“We never really looked like scoring again and had no desire to win the match.”
It was a remarkable turnaround. Stefan Moore put the Saints 1-0 up in just the eighth minute - but they really should have been further ahead by the time they began to lose their shape just a third of the way through the first half.
Greene was missing two key players - defender Chris Hope with an ankle injury and suspended striker Shane Tolley - so he handed 21-year-old Dutchman Rodney Sno his full debut up front and paired teenagers Jordan Gent and Nick Henerbery in the centre at the back. The manager also dropped captain Lewis Webb to the bench, so in midfield Junior Kanuda partnered Adrian Sear with Dan Jacob and Pearson Mwanyongo the flanks. For the first 15 minutes Mwanyongo, on the right, was brilliant. He caused the Greenford defence all sorts of problems, cutting inside with his quick feet and beating the left back on the outside with sudden bursts of pace to find the space to cross.
It was from one of these dangerous crosses that Moore found the net - the ball falling to his feet just yards from the line after a short goalmouth scramble.
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Moore put a header wide on 14 minutes before Henerbery had a point-blank header saved after a lovely Gent nod-back from a long Jacob corner.
But that was that. Just when you thought it was going to a drubbing, the Saints promptly went to sleep.
“We started so well I think the players thought we were going to cruise it,” said Greene. “You can’t turn it off and on like a tap. We got into a frame of mind that it was easy and before you know it it’s half time and it’s 1-1. Then we had to try to turn it round and we couldn’t do that.”
It was Zac Joseph who got Greenford’s equaliser - on 27 minutes. Right back Ashley Deeney had just made a powerful run from back to front and was out of position when the home side broke. The Greenford player volleyed the ball past Michael Duggan after meeting a cross from the left.
“At half time I told them to do what they had been doing in the first 15 minutes and get the ball out wide.
“It was working well for us and then suddenly they are trying to play through the middle. I told them: ‘when you’re playing teams like this, basic football wins football matches. Get it down, play football, get it wide and get the crosses in’.
“Why would you want to complicate it? Keep it simple.”
The players obviously slept through the half time chat too. They came out for the second half and were 2-1 down in six minutes when the defence let Peter Martin ghost into the box and meet another cross with another volley.
Greene’s half time changes - bringing on Aaron Greene for Sno and moving Jacob up front - had made little difference. Sno should have made more of his first half chances; Jacob - to be fair - was starved of them in the second.
Greenford had a couple of opportunities to extend their lead, but Martin put his one-on-one shot wide, while Charlie Hill also sent the ball wide from a volley.
Greene sent on Lewis Hilliard for Kanuda and the team started to react to the manager’s shouts of ‘urgency’. Sear volleyed the ball wide and further sub striker Chris Mananadu was flagged offside as his shot rolled into the net.
In the 88th minute Sear rose above the Greenford defence to meet a Jacob cross and sweetly guide the ball home. “We got ourselves out of jail,” said the manager. “It was probably a draw we didn’t deserve.”