NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Defensive shortcomings prove costly as St Neots Town fall at the first FA Trophy hurdle
- Credit: Archant
St Neots Town were masters of their own FA Trophy downfall last Saturday.
The Southern League Division One Central strugglers bowed out after being beaten 3-1 by Northern Premier League South East Division table-toppers Carlton Town.
And Marc Abbott's men only had themselves to blame for falling at the first hurdle in Nottinghamshire on a day when defensive deficiencies again reared their ugly head.
Saints were second-best throughout the first half, but were still level with the break in sight. However, they then allowed Oliver Clark a free header from a Niall Davie set-piece to head the hosts ahead in the 40th minute.
And just five minutes into the second period it was a case of same supplier, same finisher and same outcome as Clark was given the freedom of the penalty area to convert a corner.
While such sloppy defending is unacceptable, the response was commendable as Saints caused their high-flying hosts problems.
Sam Goode halved the deficit when tucking away a Lee Watkins corner and further chances to level were spurned.
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But Saints' hopes of a comeback were undone when substitute Mason Rhiney conceded a penalty with three minutes to go. Tom Maddison made no mistake from the spot to seal Carlton's progress and leave Saints contemplating what might have been.
"We conceded at disappointing times and in a disappointing manner late in the first half and again early in the second half," admitted manager Abbott.
"We went there with a gameplan that allowed them to have possession, but that took away some of our attacking threat.
"Carlton were better than us in the first half but it was frustrating to get so close to half-time and then give away a poor goal.
"It was another blow to go further behind so soon into the second half, but the players reacted very well to give Carlton plenty of trouble before a poor decision led to the penalty which settled the game."
Saints received £500 in prize money for their early exit from the national competition.
Saints now go to Division One Central rivals Yaxley tomorrow (Tuesday) in the first round of the Southern League Challenge Cup, 7.45pm.