St Neots Town climb to second but the Southern League’s top spot could be just a decision away
ADEOYE Yusuff was only on the pitch for 19 minutes on Saturday, but the lively St Neots Town winger scored a screamer against St Albans City before injuring his shoulder and retiring back to the bench.
It was an important goal with the Saints fighting back from 1-0 down to win the game 3-2 and climb up to second in the Southern League Premier Division table where they are now just two points behind leaders Hemel Hempstead Town.
And they could have a helping hand to the top spot this week if Kettering Town are finally kicked out of the league and their points are expunged.
Kettering, who St Neots are due to play next Saturday, at present have scant players and are locked out of their temporary Nene Park home.
“It’s a sad situation,” said St Neots chairman Mike Kearns. “But that’s football.
“I’m 99 per cent certain that they won’t play football again – and that means Hemel would lose points and we would go top.”
It will be a matter of wait-and-see for the club this week then. But confidence is high after Saturday’s win. “It was our best performance of the season against the best side we have played this season,” said manager Iain Parr.
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The Saints had to battle for the points, that’s for sure. Lewis Toomey and Sean Shields had early chances, and it was Toomey who struck to put the visitors ahead in the 22nd minute.
But Ollie Thorne, re-united with Jay Davies in the centre of midfield, was unlucky not to win a penalty soon after, and Lewis Hilliard’s surprise 30-yard shot went just wide.
When Barry Hayles – yes, the former Jamaican international – played Toomey through, the St Albans striker rounded Michael Duggan but was unable to hit the target.
With the midfield duo pulling all of the strings, St Neots continued to threaten and a Davies shot was saved at full stretch by goalkeeper Nick Jupp before Ben Mackey had a snap shot blocked by a defender.
Saints finally equalised when a through ball from Mackey bamboozled the visiting defence and Thorne celebrated the signing of his contract with an angled drive that found the net.
Duggan had to make two saves early on in the second half when Shields and St Albans’ other former Jamaican international Micah Hyde both tried their luck.
But it was St Neots who took the lead when Stefan Moore finished off an excellent move which involved Dan Jacob and Hilliard. Moore almost scored again but his audacious lob was just too high and Knox was forced to make the save of the match to stop a Mackey shot.
St Neots defender Jon-Paul Duncliffe left the pitch with a rib injury in the 62nd minute and it was his replacement, Yusuff, who scored the goal of the game in the 78th, a left-footed strike from just inside the box, before leaving the pitch himself in the 81st.
It had been quite a cameo.
There was a penalty shout when Moore was brought down late on, before Shields made it 3-2 with a superb strike in the 88th minute.
There almost time for an equaliser, but Duggan pulled off a late-ditch save to deny St Albans substitute Chris Henry.
St Neots: Michael Duggan, Jon-Paul Duncliffe (Adeoye Yusuff (Jordan Gent)), Ed Adjei, Ollie Thorne, Arthur Lee, Gavin Hoyte, Lewis Hilliard, Jay Davies, Stefan Moore, Ben Mackey (Kaine Felix), Dan Jacob.