St Neots Town 1 Stourbridge 2
For the second game in a row Stourbridge fought back from a goal down at the interval to snatch the three points and with Kettering slipping up at home to St Ives, the Glassboys were able to draw level on points with the Northamptonshire side at the top of the table.
Jordaan Brown was ruled out through injury, while Darryl Westlake pulled out of the match through illness. Aris Christophorou returned to the side after missing the last two games and Callum Powell, Rob Thompson-Brown and Luke Benbow were restored to the starting line-up after being amongst the substitutes at Biggleswade. Kaiman Anderson, Leon Broadhurst and Chekaine Steele dropped down to the bench, where they were joined by Tom Tonks, who is edging closer to a return after undergoing ankle surgery earlier this year.
The hosts were missing two defenders through suspension, Taylor Parr and Russell Short, but the Saints were able to call on new loan signing Andrea Borg from Peterborough United, who had played against Stourbridge for Kettering in the FA Trophy at the end of October.
Both teams took a little while to settle but St Neots took the lead from the game’s first chance with 14 minutes gone. A low cross into the box from Gary Wharton on the right was only half cleared and Dylan Williams fastened on to the ball just outside the area and his sweetly struck low drive arrowed past James Wren into the far corner of the net. Nabil Shariff then sliced a left-foot 25-yard shot wide after good work from Lee Watkins in the 20th minute.
Stourbridge were being let down by some stray passing as they struggled to get a stranglehold in the game, but the visitors went close to an equaliser on the half-hour mark. Thompson-Brown delivered a free-kick into the area where Stuart Pierpoint rose to direct a header towards the six-yard box and Benbow might have done better with his header, which nevertheless was well saved by Finley Iron.
On the stroke of half-time the Cambridgeshire hosts had an opportunity to extend their advantage with Wharton screwing a shot past the post from 18 yards after Christophorou had been caught in possession and then in stoppage time Stourbridge had a chance of their own. Callum Powell picked himself off the floor to drive inside the area and get a shot away that was blocked by Iron.
Half-time – St Neots Town 1 Stourbridge 0
Stourbridge immediately showed more purpose after the break and a pulsating second period ensued with the Glassboys applying some good pressure at times, but the hosts had some chances too as play opened up.
In the 47th minute Benbow played the ball across to Powell on the right and he checked inside before hitting a low shot that Iron saved with ease. Almost immediately the Saints were on the attack and Shariff forced Wren into a parried save at his near post with a shot from the left-hand side of the box and then with the danger not over Williams lofted a shot over from the edge of the box with the Stour defence at sixes and sevens.
Stourbridge responded with a goal-kick from Wren bouncing through to Mills and he drove to the by-line before looking to cross and the ball flicked off a home player for Benbow who had to adjust his feet but his effort on goal was saved by Iron and then in the 54th minute Mills provided a cross from the left and Benbow’s looping header dropped on to the roof of the net. St Neots hit back immediately with a dangerous low cross just evading Wharton at the far post.
The Glassboys introduced Broadhurst in place of Birch on 57 minutes, but the long serving Stour midfielder hadn’t touched the ball before his side got back on level terms straightaway. A deep diagonal free-kick from Pierpoint was headed back across goal by McCone and Benbow fired home on the half-volley.
Stourbridge won another free-kick soon afterwards and Thompson-Brown sent the ball in from the right-hand channel with Pierpoint’s looping header having to be turned over by Iron, but from the resulting corner on 62 minutes the visitors grabbed the lead with McCone finding the net with a close range header.
In the 69th minute a loose clearance from Johnny Herd enabled Benbow to feed Powell who saw his low shot saved by Iron down at his near post. St Neots responded with Powell being dispossessed and Shariff laying the ball back into the path of Dan Olaniran who curled a shot that may have clipped the crossbar and was only a whisker away from the top corner.
Anderson replaced Powell moments later to provide some fresh legs and Stourbridge threatened again on 77 minutes when Hayden played a cross-field ball that was collected by Mills and he linked up with Thompson-Brown with the latter then making room for a shot that Iron was equal to. A minute later Mills crossed from the left and Broadhurst fashioned a header that again Iron saved.
Stourbridge survived a late scare when a long throw-in on the right was headed goal-wards by Olaniran, however Wren eventually collected amid a sea of legs and the visitors replied with Forde fizzing a 25-yard shot over the bar before the final whistle sounded to round off a good few days on the road for Gary Hackett’s men.
Photos from Saturday's game -
Team – Wren, Hayden, Christophorou, McCone, Pierpoint, Forde, Powell, Birch, Benbow, Thompson-Brown, Mills
Subs – Broadhurst (for Birch 56 mins), Anderson (for Powell 73 mins), Steele, Tonks, Maher (not used)
Bookings – Mills, Pierpoint, Forde
Scorers – Benbow, McCone
Updated 18:35 - 12 Feb 2019 by Nigel Gregg