Smiley faces all-round as St Neots Town find their goalscoring groove to claim a first win of the Southern League Premier Division season
- Credit: Archant
Andy Davies might need to find his happy emoji after this St Neots Town performance.
The joint Saints boss tweeted a series of upset and angry symbols to reflect his mood in the wake of an opening day Southern League Premier Division defeat at Slough last Saturday.
But a lot can change in football in the space of four days – something his side proved by putting the long-ball giants of King’s Lynn to the sword at the Premier Plus Stadium last night.
This thrilling 5-2 success was a triumph for brains over brawn; for beauty over beast; for short and slick passing on a super surface over aircraft-bothering high punts.
Hat-trick hero James Hall led the swashbuckling Saints to glory on a night when he also had a hand in their two other goals. That’s not a bad way to make a home debut.
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Strike-partner Dubi Ogbonna won both of the penalties that Hall emphatically dispatched and also got his own name on the scoresheet. That’s not a bad return for someone described as being ‘not fit yet’ by his manager.
And the other man to join the goalscoring party was Declan Rogers. His strike, which completed a match-changing burst of three goals in the space of nine first-half minutes, was the reward for a tireless display.
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Rogers has often been admired for his ability on the ball, but sometimes criticised for his contribution off it. On this evidence, both aspects of his game are on point.
But for all their pomp and swagger when going forward, Saints had to be thankful to their goalkeeper Alex Archer for preventing them from falling behind.
The recalled number one produced an instinctive – and almost incredible – stop to deny Lynn midfield man Lee Stevenson from point-blank range when the scoreline was still blank.
Rogers had already had a couple of chances at the other end by then. He dragged the first wide when under pressure from a defender and forced visiting goalkeeper Alex Street into a fine save with the second.
But the breakthrough eventually arrived from the spot when Ogbonna was dragged down and Hall did the honours to spark a quickfire flurry of Saints goals.
That 33rd minute opener was followed by a second for the home team and their hottest shot. Hall was perfectly placed to pounce three minutes later a goalkeeping fumble which followed some slick Saints passing involving Jonny Hall, Ogbonna and Rogers.
And even better was to come three minutes before the break when a quick Hall pass and a clinical Rogers finish left Saints fans pinching themselves, boss Davies celebrating on the pitch and visiting players ranting at the assistant referee for not flagging either the creator or goalscorer offside.
Only a fully-stretched Street fingertip prevented Ogbonna from stretching Saints’ advantage in the opening minute of the second half as his header was kept out.
But the frontman was did earn the spot-kick from which strike-partner Hall completed his hat-trick three minutes after the hour.
For the second time, he sent Street the wrong way from the spot to put the result beyond doubt.
It remained that way after Toby Hilliard grabbed the first of his and King’s Lynn’s two consolation goals, which were split by a fifth Saints strike.
That deservedly came from Ogbonna as he converted a Hall delivery which was placed perfectly into his path.
Ogbonna probably should have helped himself to a second goal moments later when twice being denied after Street had pushed an initial Rogers shot into his path.
But the damage had long since been done by then on a night of high entertainment and huge encouragement for Saints.
Now they need to back it up when welcoming Frome this Saturday, 3pm.