NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: St Neots Town chiefs dish out fines and change captain following FA Trophy shame
- Credit: Archant
Manager Andy Davies has stripped Tom Ward of the St Neots Town captaincy as he begins to tackle the club’s dreadful discipline.
Ward was one of five players to be sent off during the course of Saints’ second qualifying round exit of the FA Trophy at the hands of Marine. It was his second dismissal of the season.
Both the initial clash in Liverpool last Saturday, which ended in a 1-1 draw, and a Tuesday night replay at the Premier Plus Stadium, which Saints lost 4-2 after extra-time, were marred be mass melees.
Every Saints man to see red during the two games - Sam Mulready, Nassim L’Ghoul, Tom Wood, Miles Smith and Ward - has also been fined two weeks’ wages.
The catalogue of shame brought the total number of red cards collected by Saints so far this season to nine. They are likely to face severe punishment from the Football Association.
Davies said: “The fans deserve better than what they have been getting from us this season.
“I don’t think anyone can fault our playing style or the way we try to entertain, but they should be able to see a full team on the pitch for 90 minutes.
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“We’re averaging close to a red card every other game and that is not acceptable on any level - nor are the amount of bookings we pick up for acts of petulance.
“We’ve had meetings with the five players who were sent off in the games against Marine and discussed what went on.
“All the lads have promised me they will learn from those mistakes and we have handed out punishments by fining them two weeks’ wages.
“I have also decided to change my captain. Tom is obviously disappointed and upset with my decision, but I didn’t expect anything else.
“I’m not here to make friends though - all I care about is doing what is right for St Neots.
“I took the vice-captaincy away from Taylor Parr after he picked up two red cards and I only feel it is appropriate to do the same thing with Tom now he has been sent off twice this season.
“I need my captain to be a calm leader with a level head.”
Davies believes that man is midfielder Micky Hyem, who will take over as skipper with immediate effect as Saints head to Frome for a Southern League Premier Division clasgh tomorrow.
Hyem has worn the armband in recent games while Ward has been out injured. Goalkeeper Alex Archer is the new vice-captain.
Saints are without Mulready and L’Ghoul who begin their three-match suspensions following their red cards at Marine last Saturday.
Mulready was dismissed for an off-the-ball clash which then sparked a mass brawl and led to L’Ghoul also being sent off.
The French winger was also seen to spit at an opponent during the melee by Saints bosses and was frozen out of their squad for the replay despite being eligible to play in it.
There were also allegations of racial abuse from a Marine player and member of their coaching staff towards Saints full-back Smith as that match came to a stormy conclusion.
Tom Wood, who scored Saints’ late equaliser at Marine, was the first man to depart during the replay.
He collected a second caution - for kicking the ball away - with 18 minutes of normal time to go.
Saints led 2-1 at that point but were soon pegged back and the game was still level when the big flashpoint took place with around five minutes of the second period of extra-time to go.
The already-booked Smith was shown a second yellow card while Ward received a straight red from referee Tom Bishop.
Saints’ remaining eight players battled on but succumbed to two goals in stoppage time at the end of extra-time.
And Davies believes the defeat could cost the club anything up to £15,000 as they lose out on prize money, miss out on a potential money spinner at National League North high-fliers Darlington in the next round and could be hit by an FA fine.
He added: “I feel for the eight players who were left on the pitch for the final few minutes of the replay.
“I can’t fault the lads who finished the game or those I substituted during the course of it.
“I have to put the blame down to the players who picked up the three red cards - all of which were avoidable.
“I thought it was a game we were going to win with 11 men on the pitch. We created the better chances while playing the better style of football.
“We managed to cope after going down to 10 men, but we couldn’t keep Marine out when we were down to eight.
“We can’t change what happened in the FA Trophy now so the emphasis is on responding in the right way tomorrow at Frome.
“I want to see a never-say-die attitude from my players and them to show we are a football team who do things the right way.”
Saints, who are only one point above the Southern League Premier Division drop-zone, are also without full-back Jonny Hall and midfielder Rogan McGeorge tomorrow as they serve one-match bans for picking up five cautions this season.
Saints have signed defender Chevron Mclean. The former Fulham Aldershot youngster, who has also played in Norway, will feature in the squad tomorrow.