Plenty to analyse as goals arrive at the perfect times for St Neots Town to claim derby triumph

Tom Meechan (left) and Ryan Hawkins (right) both scored for St Neots Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES

Tom Meechan (left) and Ryan Hawkins (right) both scored for St Neots Town. Picture: CLAIRE HOWES - Credit: Archant

Timing is everything in sport. And the two goals scored either side of half-time by St Neots Town to set them on the way to Cambridgeshire derby glory last night could hardly have been more perfectly-timed.

Saints recovered from the dodgiest of starts at soggy ProEdge Westwood Road to ultimately emerge as emphatic 4-1 winners against Cambridge City in the Southern League Premier Division clash.

Fit-again Drew Roberts’ fine header from a pinpoint Jamie Anton cross in the final few seconds of the opening period and Tom Meechan’s self-earned and converted penalty soon after the restart were certainly a pair of match-changing strikes.

They put Saints firmly in control of a game in which they had earlier trailed and looked anything but a team who would end up pocketing the three points so cosily.

And they might just be season-changing goals as well. The out-of-sorts Saints’ promotion challenge certainly needed a spark and this triumph may have provided it.

“Any win is a good win,” stated boss Batch.

“We were poor for the first half-an-hour, but as soon as we got used to dealing with the pitch, we got on the front foot.

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“It was a night when some very basic things had to be done and sometimes those things weren’t pretty.

“But it is all about winning games of football and we did that.

“A couple of in-game changes helped with that and we managed to score at really good times. And we all know that goals change games.”

This was one of those crazy nights that only non-league football can provide - not least due to the presence of copious amounts of sawdust down one particularly squelchy touchline and a statistician on the pitch.

Ben Jones normally analyses Saints matches from the comfort of the dug-out or stands, but due to a shortage of players he was pressed into footballing service last night.

He didn’t look out of place either after receiving the unlikely instruction of “we need you to bring your boots, fella” from Batch.

“He was brilliant,” added the Saints chief. “He did very well at right-back and then went into midfield and did a fantastic job there as well.

“It wasn’t completely random as we know Ben is a very good player who could still perform regularly at this level if he hadn’t chosen to pursue a career in the field he has.

“But last night we were in a situation where we needed him on the pitch.”

Jones certainly looked more comfortable than fellow full-back Brett Longden who conceded the third minute penalty that allowed Josh Dawkin to smash City ahead.

As Batch quite rightly pointed out, Saints were second-best in the opening third of the match. But, thanks to some poor City finishing and the evening’s outstanding moment of quality, they found themselves on level terms.

Ryan Hawkins exquisitely lifted a 21st minute free-kick over the City defensive wall and into the top corner after Tom Meechan had been clattered by defender Lee Chaffey.

Saints went on to take command with that double-strike either side of the interval. Roberts’ first of the campaign (a sentence presumably never written in November before) in first-half stoppage time was swiftly followed by Meechan’s spot-kick soon after the resumption.

It became even more comfortable for Saints when a Hawkins burst towards goal was cynically stopped by City defender John Kyriacou, who recived an inevitable red card for his troubles.

And further gloss was applied to the scoreline deep into stoppage time when Oscar Galliford’s effort looped up and over stranded City keeper Barrett.

Given the scoreline, the state of the pitch and the fact they had thrown a centre-back up front for the final 25 minutes themselves, it probably wasn’t the smartest move for a few City fans to harangue Saints number two John Beck over his preferred style of play as he departed for the dressing room post-match.

Timing really is everything in sport . . .