Errors cost Ives as Stratford take the points

St Ives Town 1 Stratford Town  3

Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central  24-02-2024

Nigel Howlett reports

Three calamitous errors at the back cost Ives this game, one in which they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and carved out more opportunities than their play-off chasing opponents. But as is always the case in football it is what happens inside both boxes that decides the result and gifting your opponents three goals whilst failing to hit the target, or even failing to get a shot away, on to many occasions at the other end is a recipe for disaster and that is exactly what came to pass.

The hosts started the game well and inside the first minute they carved out their first opportunity. Michael Richens free kick from the right was knocked back to him and he curled the ball back to the far post where Josh Tomlinson and Jordan Williams got in each other’s way. The latter did manage to direct his header on target but Bards keeper Callum Smith made a comfortable save.

Only sixty seconds later chance number two came along for Ives but again they failed to test keeper Smith. Myles Cowling did well to block an attempted clearance from Dann Vann, the rebound setting Theo Alexandrou clear down the left. He got to the bye line before picking out Cowling on the edge of the box with his pull back, but a poor first touch meant the all action midfielder failed to get a shot away.

Ives continued to dominate these early stages and a flowing ninth minute move ended with Richens feeding Jonny Edwards on the edge of the box. Ives leading scorer took a touch and let fly a powerful drive that deflected wide off a defender. Another good chance fell to Cowling three minutes later when a Richens corner from the right somehow found its way right across the visitor’s box to arrive at his feet 15 yards out. He struck his effort well and it was on target but the ball deflected off Tomlinson and went over the top.

Having survived all of that early pressure the Bards slowly began to work their way into the game and their first threatening sortie into Ives territory came in the 18th minute when Lewis Ludford-Ison worked some space on the left before driving a shot across the face of Lewis Patching’s goal from the corner of the box.

The visitors got their noses in front in true route one style only sixty seconds later as a mix up between Williams and keeper Patching presented Callum Ebanks with probably the easiest goal that he will score this season. Keeper Smith delivered a long punt down the centre of the park. An initial nudge from Ebanks meant that Williams did not meet the ball cleanly but he was on hand to head the bouncing ball back to his keeper only for Patching to drop it at the feet of the Bards lurking centre forward who gleefully accepted the gift rolling the ball into the empty net.

Initially stunned to fall behind in such fashion it took Ives a few minutes to gather themselves but once they had they were soon threatening Smith’s goal again. In 25th minute Dan Barton scampered away down the right before picking out Alexandrou on the edge of the box with his pull back. Unfortunately the Stevenage loanee sliced his effort across the face of goal presenting a chance for wing back Aaron Smith arriving at the back of the box but his first time effort flashed across the face of goal to safety.

Leading scorer Edwards is usually a certainty to get a shot away if the ball arrives at his feet inside the box but even he was having an off day and made a complete mess of Ives next chance on the half hour. Richens delivered a delightful chip over the top that fell at Edwards feet on the edge of the box but the big striker managed to get the ball stuck between his feet allowing Liam Daly to recover and rob him before he could propel an effort goalwards.

As the clock ticked down towards half time it was the visitors turn to create but fail to convert a couple of good opportunities. Ebanks put Alex Worley away down the left in 32nd minute and the wing back’s driven cross arrived at the feet of Dan Lafferty arriving at the back post but the Bards number 20 failed to hit the target with his first time strike. Worley was also involved in the final effort of the half in the first of three added minutes when he flashed a low drive just wide from the left corner of the box.

Ives started the second half just as they had the first by taking the game to their opponents. The half was only 50 seconds old when Barton’s perfectly weighted cross field ball picked out Alexandrou cutting in from the left but the striker’s goal bound effort struck a defender and deflected wide.

Keeper Smith was really tested for the first time in 54th minute as he leapt full length to his left to brilliantly tip Richens powerful 25 yard free kick around the post. Each side in turn went close inside sixty seconds on the hour. The visitors first as Ebanks held the ball up well to tee up Lafferty who unleashed a rising drive from 20 yards that beat Patching and flicked the top of the crossbar on its way over the top. Straight from the resulting goal kick a flowing Ives move down the right ended up with the ball being fed across to wing back Smith cutting in from the left. His first time effort again failed to hit the target the ball ending up in the side netting.

The hosts continued to push forward in search of an equaliser and they got a helping hand from Bards skipped Paul McCone in 67th minute. An Aaron Smith long throw resulted in a scrambled inside the Stratford box and referee Harry Price was in the perfect position to spot McCone’s upraised arm block Tomlinson’s on target shot right by the penalty spot. Edwards proved as reliable as ever from the spot sending keeper Smith the wrong way to level things up.

Manager Ricky Marheineke went for the positive replacing wing back Paddy Casey with an extra midfielder in Luke Harris and within seconds of him joining the fray Barton just failed to find the top corner with a curling effort from the right that had keeper Smith hurriedly back peddling to cover the ball.

But only two minutes later disaster struck for Ives again as the Bards got back in front from another long Smith punt. The ball was flicked on and keeper Patching was slow to come for the flick allowing Lafferty to nip in and beat him to it. Once again a visitor’s striker was left with the simplest of tasks to roll the ball into the unguarded net.

Once more Ives rallied and Williams rose highest at the back post to direct a 78th minute Richens corner on target but Smith was equal to the effort and held on well. That proved to be the final noteworthy effort for the hosts as another error from Patching effectively killed off the game four minutes from time. The lively Ebanks managed to get behind Ives back line but his shot from the right edge of the box lacked power however, diving low to his right, Patching could only push the ball back into play presenting Worley following up with another simple tap in to complete the scoring.

Whilst this was a disappointing result for Ives it was far from a disappointing performance and to put it into perspective it was their first home defeat of 2024 and only their second since October last year.

Final Score:  St Ives Town  1  Stratford Town  3


ST IVES: Edwards 68 (pen)

STRATFORD: Ebanks 19, Lafferty 75, Worley 86

Team Line Ups:

ST IVES: Patching, Casey (Harris 73), A. Smith (Kaunda 82), Richens (capt), J. Williams, Hutchings, Barton, Cowling (Kaziboni 82), Edwards, Alexandrou, Tomlinson, Unused subs: Hottor

STRATFORD: C. Smith, Vann (Wilson 22), Worley, Daly, McCone (capt), Hussey, Coyle (Molyneux 75), Hawker (Hewlett 61), Ebanks, Ludford-Ison, Lafferty, Unused subs: Barkers, Lamb

Cards:   Yellow:  ST IVES: Richens (34), Alexandrou (84)       STRATFORD: Hawker (50), Lafferty (54), Worley (80)  


Attendance:  333