Southam 3 Cadbury Athletic 1: Bellingham and Bridges prove a deadly combination for Saints

Mark Bellingham and Louis Bridges combined to score all three as Southam beat Cadbury Athletic 3-1.
Mark Bellingham and Louis Bridges combined to score all three as Southam beat Cadbury Athletic 3-1.

Two goals from Mark Bellingham and a third from leading scorer Louis Bridges saw Saints to their fourth win in a row at Banbury Road, writes David Hucker.

Saints forced an early corner but could not make it count and the visitors swept to the other end where captain Stuart Butcher floated in a harmless- looking cross that Tom Cooper diverted into his own net to give them a fourth -minute lead.

Good work from Joao Sousa and Bridges set up Bellingham, but his close-range shot was straight at keeper Kenny Sanders.

Play switched to the Saints penalty area, where a shot was poked wide and, with no let-up in the action, Bellingham and Bridges chased down a bouncing ball with the latter volleying past Sanders for his 20th goal of the season.

Tom Cross had to be alert to deny the lively Tony Clarke as Athletic continued to look dangerous on the break. A cracking Bridges effort hit the bar and the ball came back down into the arms of a grateful Sanders.

Saints got the goal they were looking for in the 23rd minute. Cooper sent a long ball downfield to Bridges who, under a challenge, nudged it to Bellingham to fire home left-footed from close range.

The visitors missed a gilt-edged chance to equalise from the spot in the 32nd minute after Adam Guest was adjudged to have handled. However, Cross twice saved from Butcher, who then put the ball wide.

Saints nearly made them pay from a corner shortly after and Clarke had another good chance four minutes before the interval, but Cross was again his equal.

The tireless Bridges and Bellingham combined again in the 53rd minute as Saints increased their lead. Cadbury protested that Bellingham was offside but the goal was allowed to stand to take his tally to six in seven matches.

Butcher had a good chance to pull one back in the 64th minute but shot harmlessly over.

As the clocked ticked down, Athletic mounted a series of attacks to try and salvage something from the game and Cross denied Clarke before Jack Brighton headed an inswinging corner off the line in the 82nd minute.

Cross denied Clarke one more time as Saints avenged their 2-0 defeat at Lye Meadow earlier in the season.

Tomorrow, Saints travel to Pershore Town (3pm) for their rearranged Les James Midland Football League Cup tie and then visit Bromsgrove Sporting on Tuesday (7.45pm).

 Southam United Reserves came within seconds of being the first side to take points off Stratford Alliance Division One leaders Shipston.

After a Tom O’Callaghan double, Sean Roberts looked to have salvaged a point for Southam, only for Shipston to score with the last kick of the game to make it 4-3.