Alexandrou the hero as Ives win five goal thriller

St Ives Town 3 v Needham Market 2

Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central  27-01-2024

Nigel Howlett reports

Ives finally broke their jinx against the Marketmen at the fourteenth attempt, a run that dates back to the FA Vase days when these two sides first met sixteen seasons ago. The game that finally ended the run provided five star entertainment all the way between two in-form sides.

Stevenage loanee Theo Alexandrou drew the plaudits for two very well taken goals to open his account for the club but his goals were backed up by another brilliant all round team performance that deservedly inflicted only the third defeat of the season on the second placed visitors. The Marketmen equally played their part in an entertaining game twice pegging back their hosts and only being denied a late point by an assistant’s upraised flag.

Manager Ricky Marheineke perhaps unsurprisingly named an unchanged starting eleven after his side’s demolition of league leaders Mickleover on their own patch last week. Needham Market made just two changes to their starting line up from their previous victory at Halesowen with new signing Adam Mills coming in for Nico Valentine and ex Ives man Dylan Williams returning in place of Luke Ingram.

There was an early opening for the visitors when the lively Jamie McGrath picked out Tevan Allen inside the box but Benji Mensah and Josh Tomlinson were quick to close him down and disposes the midfielder before he could get a shot away.

Ives first threat in 12th minute came from a left wing cross delivered by Aaron Smith, Alexandrou won the header but visitors keeper Marcus Garnham was alert to prevent Mensah getting onto the knock down. Three minutes later and the hosts went in front with a goal of beauty. Skipper Michael Richens threaded the perfect ball through the heart of the visitor’s defence. Alexandrou timed his run through the right channel to perfection and unleashed a fierce first time effort from the edge of the box which gave Garnham no chance.

The host’s lead lasted just ten minutes before Kyle Hammond levelled things up with a clever finish from close range after he ghosted in to flick home Mills teasing cross from the left. Home keeper James Dadge had no chance of keeping that effort out but he showed his metal just after the half hour as he flung himself to his left to parry away a fierce drive from the edge of the box by Mills.

Ives carved out a couple of opportunities to get back in front before the half time interval. Alexandrou got in front of his man to get on the end of Richens 35th minute free kick to the near post but he got a little bit to much on the ball and directed his header into the side netting. The all action Alexandrou was involved again right on half time when he put Mensah away on the right. Garnham did very well to move his feet and hurl himself across goal to just fingertip the wing back’s hanging cross off the head of Jonny Edwards.

Skipper Richens showed Ives intent straight from the off in the second half as directly from the kick off he surged through the centre of the park to win a corner. Garnham struggled to deal with the resulting flag kick only succeeding in palming the ball down into his own box but fortunately for him the ball was scrambled away before Ed Hottor could latch onto it.

Ives early pressure continued and Alexandrou had a well struck 25 yarder well held by the diving Garnham. Full back Jake Dye also did well to just prevent Dan Barton getting onto the end of Mensah’s hanging cross to the back post. Centre back Jordan Williams then restored the host’s lead in 64th minute as the Marketmen again struggled to deal with an Ives corner. Garnham again pushed the initial flag kick away but it was lifted back into the box by Paddy Casey. Defenders seemed to leave the dropping ball to each other and it eventually dropped to Williams by the penalty spot who confidently swept the ball home past the exposed keeper.

Not unsurprisingly the visitors again lifted themselves looking to get back on terms. Casey was in the right spot to clear a 70th minute effort from Hammond off the line but the second equaliser did arrive four minutes later. Substitute Seth Chambers and Allen combined well on the right with the former picking out Jamie McGrath on the edge of the box and his first time effort took a deflection on its way into the net giving Dadge no chance.

It was always going to take a special goal to separate the two sides on the day and that is exactly what we got in 79th minute. Barton burst through the centre before feeding the ball out to Alexandrou on the right edge of the box. The youngster hit another first time effort, that may have been a shot, or may have been a cross, either way it arrowed into the top corner of the net past a startled Garnham.

Even then the high flying visitors were not going to lie down. Straight from the re-start Richens was forced to pull back McGrath to pick up the games only yellow card but preventing the striker breaking through Ives ranks. The four man wall did its job to keep out the resulting free kick. But there were still a couple more scares for Ives before they could claim their reward. McGrath got on the end of Allen’s 88th minute corner but directed his header wide.

The final heart in mouth moment came deep in added time when Allen’s free kick to the back post was won in the air by Keiran Morphew and the loose ball was forced home from close range. But the striker had strayed fractionally offside and much to the relief of most in the ground the assistant’s flag went up to deny what would have been a cruel blow.

Now sitting in a mid table position with the six points lost from the sad demise of Nuneaton very swiftly restored and the hoodoo finally broken in form Ives can also claim to have beaten the top two in the division in their last two games and new leaders Redditch will not be looking forward to welcoming the boys from Cambridgeshire next Saturday.

Final Score:  St Ives Town   3  Needham Market  2


ST IVES: Alexandrou 15, 79, Williams 64

NEEDHAM MARKET: Hammond 25, McGrath 74

Team Line Ups:

ST IVES: Dadge, Mensah, Smith, Richens (capt), J. Williams, Casey, Barton (Harris 85), Hottor (Cowling 80), Edwards, Alexandrou, Tomlinson, Unused subs: Joyce, Kaziboni

NEEDHAM MARKET: Garham, Dye, Smith, Hammond, K. Morphew (capt), D. Morphew, Williams (Chambers 69), Mills, Lay (Valentine 73), Allen, McGrath, Unused subs: Lawrence, Okunowo

Cards:   Yellow:  ST IVES: Richens (80)       NEEDHAM:  none


Attendance:  352