Battling effort for 10-man St Neots as they are downed by leaders Bedford

Charlie Johnson saw red for St Neots Town as they lost 1-0 at Bedford Town.

Charlie Johnson saw red for St Neots Town as they lost 1-0 at Bedford Town. - Credit: KARYN HADDON

A battling performance from 10-man St Neots Town kept Southern League Division One Central leaders Bedford Town close but not close enough as they fell to another defeat.

Renee Howe got the only goal in the 1-0 win, his 20th of the campaign and his third against Saints in three outings, and the visitors lost defender Charlie Johnson to a straight red three minutes later.

But they refused to yield and although they never looked like getting an equaliser, they kept themselves in the contest.

It is a spirit manager Pete Gill will look to harness as he attempts to snap them out of a bad run, this making it one win in the last 10 league games and only goal scored in the last six.

They had Neo Richard-Noel and Myles Cowling back from bouts of COVID-19 while Callum Anderson was back after injury.

The league leaders are an imposing side and came into the contest unbeaten in six and that, plus a heavy pitch, meant St Neots struggled to find their rhythm in the early going.

Connor Tomlinson moved inside the last defender but fired high over the bar in Bedford's first chance and Joe Butterworth was the next home player to find himself in a scoring position, but his effort was blocked by a defender.

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St Neots' first attack took 14 minutes to arrive and resulted in a corner from which Kwai Marsh-Brown’s shot deflected off a defender.

It was a rare visiting sortie though with the home defence dominant and only a free-kick from Richard-Noel presented any sort of a threat to home keeper Alexander Street.

And at the other end Howe twice tested Louis Chadwick in the St Neots goal and Will Summerfield lacked any finesse following a great run by Lewis Miccio.

The knockout blow came nine minutes after the break. Hugh Alban-Jones beat two defenders to cross to the near post for Howe score and it seemed to have got worse with Johnson's foul on Tomlinson making him the fourth Saint to be dismissed the season.

St Neots swiftly reorganised though with recent signing Perry Wilson filling in at the back and they showed plenty of determination to redress the balance, if the big chance never came.

They now sit 13th with a trip to Barton Rovers next up on Saturday.