St Neots are one win away from the title

ST Neots Town chairman Mike Kearns has told his players: “Forget the goal difference – if we beat North Greenford United on Saturday, we will be the champions!”

He’s right, of course: it would take a miracle for Slough Town to catch St Neots if both teams win their penultimate games. As the chairman points out: “Slough would have to score a goal every two minutes and 40 seconds in their last game to overtake us.”

As things stand, St Neots have scored 105 goals and conceded 36; their rivals for the title Slough have scored just 72 and conceded 38. That all adds up to a goal difference of 35.

As manager Dennis Greene says in his exclusive Greene Shoots column this week: “If Slough have only scored 72 goals in 40 games, they’re not going to score 35 in two!”

“We’re all very excited,” continued Kearns said. Laying all the mathematics aside, it basically comes down to this: if the Saints win, the Saints are up. However, let’s not take our eyes off the ball here. St Neots still have to win on Saturday while Slough are at home to Leighton Town. That was something Kearns was keen to point out.

“We will be treating this one as the hardest game of the season,” he said. “North Greenford are a well-organised team and gave us a tough game down there last year.

“So we’re not counting our chickens just yet. But it will be good to get a big crowd for the game – bigger hopefully that the crowd that came to see us play Slough. And if we win, then we can all celebrate together.

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“Promotion to the Premier Division of the Southern League after just one season in Division One would be a fantastic achievement.”

What a difference 90 minutes makes. Before their games on Saturday, St Neots and Slough were locked together at the top of the table. With three games to go, they both had 84 points and the title to play for. By 5pm, all that had changed.

After holding on tight to their 1-0 lead at Fleet, which came courtesy of another Ben Mackey goal, St Neots discovered their promotion rivals had gone down 5-2 at play-off candidates Bedworth United. What a wonderful trip back from Hampshire that must have been.

It was a mature performance from a Saints side that had stuttered in recent weeks, losing one and drawing two of their last three games.

Michael Duggan made a great save from Mark Watkins early on before left-winger Lewis Hilliard lifted the ball over the top of the Fleet goalkeeper, but onto the top of the crossbar. Mackey’s goal came just three minutes before the break when he got on the end of a sliding pass from the lively Dan Jacob and drove the ball home past Ryan Price.

In the second half Adrian Sear headed a good chance over, Stefan Moore had a shot blocked on the line, and Mackey had a strike deflected wide.

Gavin Miller was unlucky with a spectacular overhead kick late on and St Neots defender Chris Hope had to clear a James Taylor shot off the line. Junior Konadu and Jacob went close before the end. With four minutes left Price pulled off an excellent save to deny Mackey a second goal.