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The Saints kept up the pressure at the top, but were made to fight all the way by the young Cooks.

Saturday 3rd February 2024





Thorpe 23 (pen)

Att; 68


The Cooks played host to promotion chasers St Neots Town looking to gain some revenge for the 1-0 defeat they had inflicted on us early in the season and Scott Carlin made one change to his starting eleven from the side that drew 0-0 with Desborough last Saturday. Bailey Weatherly was given the nod ahead of Luke Bullement who dropped down to the bench where he was joined by the returning Sharma Bako and midweek signing Jamari Hart who has joined us on work experience from the Cobblers. Josh Jones and Dalton Leon were both ruled out through injury where they joined Ben Gough in the treatment room. St Neots manager Cameron Mawer, assisted by former Cooks striker Steve Khune, made one change to his team also as Nathan George started, swapping places with Ollie Brookes.

The visitors won the toss and opted to kick with the wind at their backs in the first half. Not one of the gales we have become accustomed to at Compton Park, but a significant breeze that blew from the car park towards the village. Left-back Murphy Culkin used this to his benefit with his long throw capability and his first example led to a chance for the Saints, but Rhys Thorpe was falling backwards as the ball dropped in front of him and he sliced his shot wide. Culkin was to be involved in most of their set-pieces, not just the throw-ins and he launched a big free-kick to the back post where Cooks skipper Harley Mallard won it in the air and when the ball fell to Thorpe, he could only direct his weak header at John Meadows. Thorpe was heavily involved in most of St Neots dangerous early moments and when keeper James Goff came off his line to beat Dom Wysocki to the ball, he launched it up the park to send the Saints number nine racing towards the goal, but a bit of a bobble and a poor touch saw the ball get away from him and go out for a goal-kick.

Wysocki used his pace to run on to a pass on the half-way line and broke into the Saints penalty area and despite the attention of two red shirts, he pulled the ball back across to pick put Jack Connor 8-yards out, but he didn’t find the connection he had been looking for and Goff saved his shot and with Wysocki trying to get to the loose ball before it went off, Tommy Reynolds ‘cleared’ the ball across the face of his own 6-yard box and luckily for him he got away with it. From this the visitors actually broke away with intent and Jordan Brown tried to find James Hatch in the centre, but Mallard cut it out and cleared the danger. Harvey Williams played in a low ball from the right that Earl Atat got to first, then Meadows dived on a loose ball as it bounced inside the box from another long Culkin throw. A good run down the left by Wysocki saw him cut it back into the danger area, but Connor was unable to make it pay just before Weatherly turned inside and almost found Sonny Knights as he made a run to the edge of the box as the Cooks began to even the game out kicking into the wind. Williams had to get on his bike to keep in an overhit Robbie Parker pass by the right corner flag and he did really well to cut back inside before whipping in a cross that Ben Dimond headed out, but the game was to take a massive swing in favour of the visitors on 23 minutes.

A big kick from Goff saw Hatch chase alongside Brad Ilunga and even though the ball was heading straight into the waiting gloves of Meadows, the Cooks centre back illegally impeded the Saints skipper and referee Tom Taylor pointed to the penalty spot. A definite penalty, no qualms there, but Mr Taylor also dug into his back pocket and produced his red card, deeming this to be a goal-scoring opportunity even though the ball had gone through to the keeper with no chance of anybody reaching it on the wind. Thorpe, who had already spurned a couple of chances from normal play, hit the penalty high to Meadows’ right and the Saints had the lead and a man advantage with 23 minutes played. Scott Carlin moved Ben Dimond back to reunite with Mallard in the centre of the defence leaving us a man shy in the centre of midfield, with this being the only feasible option he had in truth.

Meadows jumped to catch a high bounce from a punt down field and was caught late by Thorpe after he had the ball in his gloves and although the free-kick was given, the referee opted not to speak to the striker even though we have seen a few bookings already this season for exactly the same offence. Lovely control by Weatherly then saw him steer a great ball down the line and into the path of Kieron Mobbs’ run, but the young left-back lost his footing as he got into a crossing position and the ball ran out for a goal-kick. Brown took advantage of the ball deflecting into his path just to the left of centre and he ran on before hitting a good shot across Meadows from outside the box, only to be denied by the Cooks keeper who reached up with his left arm to make a fine save. Dean Dummett picked up a yellow card for a foul on Knights on 32 minutes just before Parker forced a save from the edge of the box, but his effort lacked the power needed to give Meadows any real concerns.

A Culkin free-kick just inside the Cooks half came off Connor’s head for a corner and we saw the first poor delivery from Culkin as he swung it over everybody’s heads and out for a goal-kick beyond the back post. The left-back had a quick chance to make amends and he did so with a dangerous long throw that the home defence allowed to bounce inside their box and it fell to George in the centre with the defender going for power and his strike took a slight deflection as it went over the bar for a corner-kick. Culkin took it of course and this time Meadows punched it away, but St Neots worked it back out to Culkin who sent in a great cross only for Hatch to get his angles wrong as he directed his header wide of the far post despite being unmarked. Once again, a long Culkin throw was allowed to bounce inside the box, but this time it flew up to hit Thorpe on the arm and after the whistle had gone Culkin smashed the ball at goal, only to hit the unfortunate striker in the erm…shall we say midriff. After a squeal and a quick count up, physio Craig Lambert’s cold sponge wasn’t required although the striker does have my sympathy on this one.

Almost inevitably the next action came from Culkin as he hammered in a free-kick just inside the Cooks half in front of his manager’s dug-out and it turned into a shot on target as it fizzed past everyone except Meadows who took it cleanly. Great work from Paddy Cichosz inside his own half saw him not only win the ball back but go past another red shirt before sending Wysocki through the centre and he played it into the box for Knights, but Goff did really well to come off his line quickly and get a touch on the ball as the Cooks man attempted to stretch and get there before him. That was the final action of a first half that had seen St Neots enjoy the lion’s share of the attacking play, especially following the red card showed to Ilunga, but they had failed to take full advantage of the wind and the extra man leaving this game very much alive as the two teams headed into the break.


Half-time; Cooks 0 Saints 1


The Cooks now had the wind at their backs and Connor was first to show as he ran on to a ball over the top, while down the other end Brown hammered the ball across the 6-yardb box with Atat clearing it to safety. Brown was shown the yellow card for simulation on 53 minutes just before the previously cautioned Dummett made way for Magloire Muyembe as Mawer made the first change of the game. Atat became the next player to pick up a booking, this time for holding although the Saints player appeared to be backing into him and committed the first foul, then 60 seconds later the card was out again, this time for Charlie Bowen for a foul on Weatherly, which again seemed harsh. With the cards now back int the ref’s pocket, Weatherly delivered the free-kick into the Saints box where Tommy Reynolds was forced to head it behind for a corner, then Mobbs played in a good low ball from the left that saw Connor beaten at the near post at the expense of another flag-kick. Steve Khune must have said something to the officials as the yellow card was back out on 66 minutes for the Saints assistant manager, while back on the pitch Wiliams volleyed just wide from a tight angle down the car park end.

Carlin’s first change came after 71 minutes as Weatherly was given a breather, giving Hart his first chance in a Cogenhoe shirt but it was the visitors who were next to threaten as Brown did well inside the box on the right before sending in a low cross that Dimond dealt with. Hatch was deservedly shown the yellow card on 74 minutes for a late challenge on Knights and Hart took the ensuing free-kick which Mallard headed on, but it was a defender’s head with the next touch. Hart got the ball back just outside the box and he took it left with a nice turn, but unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his cross in play under pressure from Reynolds. Both teams made another change on 77 minutes with Dex Nkrumah replacing Connor and the yellow carded Brown coming off for Tom Rowley (I think, they didn’t have a 20 on their teamsheet). Mallard steered a good defensive header back to the safe hands of Meadows, while Parker got into the box on the left before finding Thorpe inside the 6-yard box, but his poke at goal was saved my Meadows with the Cooks keeper recovering quickly to dive on the loose ball.

Cichosz became the seventh player to be shown a card, a yellow one for a foul and coming shortly after receiving a warning it was a justified one and before the visitors could take the free-kick, Bako came on in place of Atat with five minutes left of the 90, but there would be plenty to add on at the end. Hatch headed a Rowley free-kick at Meadows, then with the referee seemingly ignoring his assistants waving flag, he talked to George at length amid a lot of whining on the pitch and to be honest, I have no idea what was going on at this point, but eventually play restarted with a throw-in to the visitors. Thorpe won the ball with a good solid challenge before sending Williams through and he fired over from the edge of the box with the best chance we had seen for some time in what had now become a stop-start game. Wysocki delivered a cross from the left that came off the head of George and Knights twisted well and managed to hook a shot that would have gone just inside the post had Goff not got down quickly to make a save. Mobbs came off for Bullement a minute into stoppage time for the final Cogenhoe sub of the game and when his corner was headed out, Knights was quick to win the ball back just inside the box before darting forward and firing in a low shot that was blocked by a defender just in front of his keeper at the near post. Wysocki ran on to flick down the left and was caught by Reunolds, but as he continued the referee played advantage even the though the Cooks winger has lost all momentum and Bowen was able to get across and make a challenge. Two more Bullement corners failed to fall kindly for the Cooks as time ticked by, while St Neots consumed some more as Thorpe did the ‘I didn’t realise I was the one being subbed’ for a good ninety-seconds before he went off to be replaced by Michael Amaeshike on 90+3. In literally the last throw of the dice. Mallard slung one in from the left that Nkrumah got his head to, but it went straight through to Goff and probably at least three or four minutes earlier than expected, the referee blew for time on 90+4.


St Neots completed a 1-0 double over the Cooks and tables don’t lie, but in truth they haven’t played particularly well in either game and it is good to know that our young squad can push the teams at the top all the way. What we do lack is that experience though and the Saints did a job on us today, which plays a big part of being successful at this level of football and something we need to learn if we are to be up with teams like this in the play-off places next season. Good luck to Cameron, Steve and their team in their push for promotion, they certainly have the ground and the fanbase to compete should they make a quick return to step four in the summer and on another positive, Jordan Brown didn’t score against us which is pretty unusual and we have John Meadows to thank for that excellent save late in the first half. In fact, he usually scores when I see him play and did so every time I watched Real Bedford last season, as well as Eynesbury before that.

From a Cooks point of view, if we had taken the great chance that we had in the first half we would have come out of this game with a point, but who knows how the game would have panned out had we equalised back then. St Neots defended well today and gave us very little to play with, while we contained them to only a few chances ourselves and the red card was a big decision that went against too. We have and will play much better than this, but there were a number of plusses for Biff and his coaching team to take away from the game. Dom Wysocki was a handful again, the defence were largely solid against a formidable front pairing and two of the best wide players in the division in Brown and Harvey Williams, we just needed to keep a hold of the ball a bit more, especially when playing into the wind in the first half. Paul’s man-of-the-match today goes to Sonny Knights, twice denied an equaliser after great efforts and ran all afternoon for the team effort. Just a little note to Brad after his red card today, things can always be worse, your brother travelled all the way to Barrow today and was an unused sub in a 1-0 defeat. Swings and roundabouts I guess.

Next up is a trip to St Neots on Saturday, this time to face their neighbours Eynesbury, before we return to Compton Park for a Tuesday night game as we play host to Aylestone Park in a rare game under the lights.


Cooks; 1. John Meadows 2. Earl Atat (sub 12. Sharma Bako 85) 3. Kieron Mobbs (sub 17. Luke Bullement 90+1) 4. 5. Ben Dimond 6. Harley Mallard © 7. Dom Wysocki 8. Paddy Cichosz 9. Jack Connor (sub 14. Dex Nkrumah 77) 10. Bailey Weatherly (sub 16. Jamari Hart 71) 11. Sonny Knights. Sub not used, 15. Callum Farmer.

Red card; Ilunga (23) Foul deemed denying a goal scoring opportunity.

Yellow cards; Atat (56) Foul Cichosz (85).

Saints; 1. James Goff 2. Tommy Reynolds 3. Murphy Culkin 4. Robbie Parker 16. Nathan George 6. Charlie Bowen 7. Harvey Williams 8 Dean Dummett (sub 14. Magloire Muyembe 54) 9. Rhys Thorpe 10. James Hatch © 11. Jordan Brown (sub 20. Tom Rowley 78). Subs not used; 12. Ollie Brookes 15. Michael Amaeshike 17. Dammy Nickels.

Yellow cards; Dummett (32) Foul Brown (53) Diving 6. Bowen (57) Foul Hatch (74) Foul.

Referee; Tom Taylor

Assts; Ben Grundy & Stewart Glendenning




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