In previous seasons, Slough have struggled to achieve positive results against the top sides in the league - and so this match against the pre-season bookmakers’ favourites, managed by former Windsor & Eton boss Dennis Greene, would provide an excellent opportunity for Steve Bateman’s side to prove their credentials as potential champions, and also banish memories of Tuesday evening at AFC Hayes.
Knowing a win could take them back to the top of the league, Slough started by far the strongest, and former Arsenal youth team left-back Rene Steer was given a torrid time early on as Sean Sonner and Steve Sinclair made good progress time and time again on the right.
Slough would not let St Neots settle on the ball, hassling every blue-shirted player in possession, and this almost paid dividends on a number of occasions. Sean Sonner blocked a clearance and gave Ben Abbey a sniff of goal, but the striker’s low measured effort was too weak and too close to Michael Duggan.
Duggan was called into action to make a more difficult save soon after, a spectacular dive to palm away a long-range effort from Stuart Swift.
Ben Abbey perhaps should have scored as Murphy whipped a low ball across the face of goal, but he looked to have been caught in two minds and neither he or Sonner could beat Duggan.
Predictably enough, the much-fancied visitors put together a long spell of pressure, with tricky right winger Pearson Mwanyongo at the heart of most of the threat. However Danny Murphy defended well against him and really limited the supply line to Shane Tolley and former Aston Villa striker Stefan Moore, who between them managed 94 goals last season.
The visitors were adamant they should have been awarded a penalty on 20 minutes as Alex Brown tussled with Tolley as he tried to head a long pass back to James Warrington, but the striker was backing in to Brown and seemed to hit the turf too easily for the officials to consider awarding a foul.
The Saints’ anger was to intensify as Slough went straight down the other end and played the ball out on the left to Swift. The midfielder’s whipped cross was perfect for Ben Abbey arriving in the six yard box, and he planted his header into the top corner, giving Duggan no chance. Stefan Moore and Neil McKenzie talked their way into referee Mark Tweed’s notebook as St Neots’ frustration began to spill over – Moore now facing a one-game ban as a result.
St Neots responsed by fashioning a shooting chance for McKenzie, but he fired well over, and Moore set up strike partner Tolley for an attempt from 25 yards, but it was sliced well wide.
But on the stroke of half time, Slough scored a crucial second. Sean Sonner flicked on a Swift corner and Nathan Bowden-Haase was able to bring the ball under control and poke it beyond Duggan and the covering defenders.
With the quality in the St Neots squad, most expected the visitors to come out fighting in the second half and lay siege to the Rebels goal, but Slough were in no mood to give away goals cheaply, and the Saints found the back three and particularly goalkeeper Warrington in inspired form.
Warrington was alert to pull off a fine save early in the second period, having not really been tested in the first, turning Dan Jacob’s shot around the post.
The game began to flow from end to end, but Slough’s defensive display was that of a team high in confidence. Warrington spread himself well to deny Tolley, diving bravely at the striker’s feet as a goal looked certain.
As St Neots began to leave gaps at the back, Paul Coyne, another player in superb form of late - and massively influential again in this match - played in Steve Sinclair, but the winger found himself under pressure and couldn’t get enough power on his shot at goal.
But the visitors went closer still on 69 minutes as another Jacob shot from the end of the box remarkably rebounded off the inside of a post and bounced along the goal line before being cleared.
Slough then broke and in a flash, a ball over the top was half-volleyed towards goal, but quick reactions from Duggan saw him produce a superb save to turn the ball over the bar when it looked like the Rebels had taken a three-goal lead.
Slough perhaps should have registered a third goal as Duggan came out of his goal to clear, only to lose possession to substitute Dan Burnell – but the striker’s attempt at goal was headed away easily.
Warrington looked to have been beaten once as he was grounded and scrambled to narrow the angle and make a save, but St Neots played the ball all the way across goal, only to be cleared by Murphy.
A frustrated St Neots twice more came close but the day belonged to Slough and particularly man-of-the-match Warrington. The 20-year old stopper superbly denied Moore again, getting one hand on his shot to turn it over the bar, before making another flying save from Jacob deep into stoppage time, which ensured that his side would return to the top of the table and leave St Neots in eighth place.
St Neots Town Line up
Michael Duggan, Ashley Deeney, Rene Steer, Lewis Webb (c) (Lewis Hilliard), Nick Henebery (Chris Managu), Chris Hope, Pearson Mwanyongo, Neil Mackenzie, Stefan Moore, Shane Tolley, Dan Jacob. Subs not used: Jordan Gent, Max Avory, Jack Mitchell.