NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Golden chance to climb out of the relegation zone goes begging as St Neots Town are stung by eight men
- Credit: Archant
Manager Marc Abbott admitted St Neots Town allowed a glorious opportunity to escape from the Southern League Premier Division Central relegation zone to go begging.
Saints were stung by a stoppage-time sucker-punch at the hands of eight-man Redditch when having to settle for a 1-1 draw in the Midlands last Saturday.
The late twist – in a match they had led from the third minute thanks to a Gary Wharton goal - meant Abbott’s men remained in the bottom three by virtue of an inferior goal difference.
“Before the game I would definitely have taken a point on the road,” said Abbott. “However, it was a huge disappointment not to win in the end.
“We didn’t manage the game well enough. We were breaking forward, had the ball pinched and were left exposed for Redditch to equalise. It was a case of us making the wrong choice and getting punished for it.
“In truth we didn’t utilise the extra men well enough when playing against 10, nine or eight, but full credit goes to Redditch as they showed a never-say-die attitude to get themselves level.
“It was another day in which we picked up a point when teams around us didn’t, but the disappointment was clear in the dressing room afterwards as it was such a good opportunity to get out of the relegation zone in a ruthless and relentless league.”
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Wharton’s second goal in as many matches handed Saints the perfect start and goalkeeper James Philp preserved that advantage with a penalty save five minutes before half-time.
Redditch were then reduced to 10 men on the stroke of the interval when Richard Batchalor was sent off for a cynical challenge on Scott Pollock which led to the young Saints midfielder being withdrawn ahead of the second half.
The home side saw their numbers drop further with 18 minutes to go when Michael McGrath foolishly collected a second caution for handling a corner into the net – and then saw red again late on when Jamie Ashmore was dismissed.
But Saints failed to press home their advantage and were then stung as Robbie Bunn hit a shock leveller.
Saints now face back-to-back home clashes in their quest for survival. They host play-off challengers Biggleswade Town in an A1 derby showdown this Saturday (3pm) ahead of a crunch clash against Lowestoft – the side level with them in the battle to avoid the drop – on March 16.
“Biggleswade have a lot of players injured and their goalkeeper is suspended so we see it as a good time to play them,” added Abbott. “But we also understand and respect what they bring to the table after having a successful season and we definitely won’t take them lightly.
“We want to keep building momentum with another big home game the following Saturday and hopefully the fans will be firmly behind the boys again.
“We have now shown that we are hard to beat and I’m confident we will win more games between now and the end of the season.”
Scott Sinclair has become the latest player to leave Saints, but Abbott is keen to strengthen with a couple of additions.