This was my second visit to the JSJ Stadium (aka New Roker Park) and it has to be one of the best at Step Six in the local area. With the current restrictions and rules in place the whole evening was run very professionally by the club with numerous stewards in place and hand sanitiser placed randomly around the ground. Each time a ball went out of play and into the spectator area it was cleaned and sanitised before being used again.
The game played in front of a crowd of 82 people which up from the 76 who had seen the 1-1 draw with MK Irish at the weekend. Luke Gregson's side had been knocked out of the Vase by Thurlow Nunn First Division South side Little Oakley in their first game of the season and been beaten by Bedford in the league before the draw with MK Irish.
The Saints had won all three of their games played so far being a 0-3 victory at Hillingdon Borough, a 1-2 win at Langford and a 5-2 home victory over London Tigers on Saturday.
Stotfold had the better of the play in the first half and looked more dangerous but went in at the break 0-1 down when Bilal Aalouache scored easily after some good work down the right hand side.
In the second half Liam Gooch in the home goal made a number of good saves as the visitors looked to add to the lead before Gregson headed home impressively at the far post following a free kick from the left hand side. Many fans have said the hangtime the player-manager had in the air was reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo at the peak of his game.
Gregson was involved again when Stotfold added a second. Another free kick was swung into the box and when jumping for the ball he collided with goalkeeper Donald Manaj. With Manaj on the floor injured the ball was bundled home by Kim Forsythe. I'm sure even the most ardent of Stotfold fans will watch the replay and think they got away with that one as 99% of the time the referee would of blown up for a foul on the goalkeeper.
The final score of 2-1 was greeted with celebration and relief by the Stotfold squad and fans - they had worked very hard at the back against a very strong St Panteleimon side who will be challenging for the title this season.
Defeat for The Saints is very rare so for Stotfold this could be a pivotal result. Prior to the result last night they had played Seventy-Six league games, after entering Saturday football in the 2017/18, in which they had only lost three which is an amazing record.
ST PANTELEIMON DEFEATS
2019/20 (SPARTAN SOUTH MIDLANDS LEAGUE DIVISION ONE)
FA VASE - LONG BUCKBY (HOME) - 3-4
CHALLENGE TROPHY - MK ROBINS (AWAY) -D 2-2 (Lost 14-13 on PKs)
LEAGUE - WINSLOW UNITED (AWAY) L 2-4 and NEW SALAMIS (AWAY) L 0-2
2018/19 (MIDDLESEX COUNTY LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION)
FA VASE - CRAY VALLEY (HOME) - L 1-3
MIDDX INTERMEDIATE CUP - PFC VICTORIA (HOME) - L 0-1
LEAGUE - INDIAN GYMKHANA (AWAY) - L 0-5
2017/18 (MIDDLESEX COUNTY LEAGUE DIVISON ONE C&E)
MIDDX JUNIOR CUP - CHAPE LONDON (HOME) - D 1-1 (Away win on PKs)
ANAGRAM RECORDS TROPHY - BROADFIELDS (HOME) - D 0-0 (Home win on PKS)
DIVSION ONE CUP - NEW HANFORD (HOME) - Game was won but was awarded to away side.
Both Stotfold and The Saints are on the road on Saturday. The Eagles go to London Lions and the early season table toppers go to Rayners Lane.