Sending-off hands the initiative to Southam


After recent defeats to two of their title rivals, Saints gained a precious three points at the Vale Stadium, but made heavy weather of beating a JKS side that had just three players remaining from the team trounced 9-0 earlier in the season, writes David Hucker.

In a scrappy opening spell, neither side could get into a rhythm, with Saints guilty of poor delivery into the box.

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However, Saints gained a fortuitous 31st-minute lead when home keeper Joseph McErlean misjudged a long ball from James Hardie, allowing it to bounce over his head and into the goal despite the efforts of a defender to clear.

A last-ditch tackle then denied Simeon Smith.

Despite the JKS defence looking suspect, Saints were not sharp enough to take advantage and a cross from Oli Manoochehri that just eluded Smith at the far post summed up their first-half display.

A minute into the second period, Ajibade hit the bar and Saints were made to pay for their lack of spark as JKS equalised in the 54th minute when a free header from a corner just crept over the line.

The home side went into the lead 15 minutes later from a free-kick which went in off Hardie, but pressed the self-destruct button within two minutes when Ralph Richardson was sent off for a second bookable offence.

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This gave Saints renewed hope and Ajibade brought them level from the penalty spot with 15 minutes to go after Smith had been brought down and then Brad Rees put them back in front with a thunderous shot that gave McErlean no chance.

But the match was far from over as a JKS header went over the bar from close range and Passey cleared off the line after a mistake by Jim Stott.

Smith had a good chance to wrap things up with nine minutes to go but, after bursting through, he hit a weak shot straight at the keeper.

Tomorrow, Southam travel to Worcestershire to meet Pershore Town where they will be without Quentin Townsend, who starts a four-match suspension and Neil Stacey, who sits out the second of his two-match ban.

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With John Blunsom ruled out for the season through injury, it leaves Saints with only one recognised central defender in Charlie Neale, meaning Simon Proctor may have to drop back from midfield.

With Coventry Copsewood taking points off leaders Continental Star in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night, Saints are back in control of their own destiny, although will need to win all their last six matches to guarantee the title.

n Saints will be forming a reserve team next season from their current under-18 squad and youth team.

The reserves will play in the Midland Football Combination Under-21 division.

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The team will be managed by Ian Ray, who is undertaking his UEFA A Licence and has a long association with the club, working at first team, youth and academy level, as well as winning two league championships as manager of the ladies’ team.

Anyone interested in a trial for the reserve, youth or academy teams should contact Ray on 07721 034265.