NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Boss Matt Clements takes the blame as St Neots Town see their tough start to the season continue with feeble FA Cup exit
- Credit: Archant
Manager Matt Clements accepted full responsibility for St Neots Town’s miserable FA Cup exit last night.
Saints crashed out of the famous competition when suffering a 3-1 derby defeat at the hands of lower-level Cambridge City – a sixth match without victory so far this season.
In all truth they got exactly what they deserved for an occasionally awful and often lacklustre performance.
It featured so many of the worrying traits mentioned by Clements in a pre-match rallying cry, but didn’t include the reaction he wanted to back-to-back Southern League Premier Division losses over the Bank Holiday weekend.
“I take full responsibility for the performance and result,” insisted Clements. “I can only apologise for it.
“It is clear the squad I’ve assembled is not reacting to the things we are trying to do, and the club deserves better.
“Change needs to happen here and now, and I will also take responsibility for ensuring that is the case.”
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Two former Saints men hit the goals that put hosts City on top in the first half.
The first of them was bundled in by Lewis Wilson after goalkeeper Mike Emery (who looked to be playing with an injury) made a mess of attempting to claim a corner.
The second was coolly dispatched from the penalty spot by Tom Knowles after he had been sent tumbling by Luke Knight.
St Neots were rarely seen as an attacking force in the opening half. Scott Sinclair struck a post with a shot out of nothing just before they fell behind, while Dion Sembie-Ferris and skipper Micky Hyem both put efforts just wide.
The arrival of an electrical storm towards the end of the first period did more to light up the occasion than Saints’ play.
They were better after the break, especially after a 53rd minute double substitution that saw Danny Watson and Dylan Williams introduced at the expense of two senior men – player-coach Lee Clarke and captain Hyem.
Sinclair was denied by the woodwork for a second time when seeing his fierce shot hit the underside of the bar with a scrambling Sembie-Ferris unable to put away the rebound.
Another goal did arrive a few minutes later, but it came at the other end as Salim Relizani gave some outstanding Knowles approach play the finish it deserved.
Knowles was probably the star individual performer on a night when the home team had plenty of contenders for that accolade.
Identifying a stand-out Saints performer was a considerably more difficult task with substitute Watson providing one of few moments of quality when hitting a consolation with 17 minutes to go. He expertly struck with a precise lob after spotting City keeper Niall Conroy in no man’s land.
Watson could and probably should have reduced the arrears further when seeing a far simpler chance well kept out by Conroy with three minutes to go.
Had he found the net on that occasion, a grandstand finish would have been guaranteed, but Saints can have no complaints about the outcome.