St Ives Town v Hitchin Town
Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central 19-10-2021
A massive three points as Ives returned to winning ways for the first time since mid-August. The victory was made all the sweeter as it came in what was being billed by supporters from both sides as an early season relegation six pointer with the Canaries arriving at Westwood Road sitting rock bottom of the table just two points and two places below their struggling hosts.
The true irony of the result was that the man who got the winner had been a Canary until just over a week ago but barely given an opportunity at Top Field Urijah Gordon-Douglas had chosen to join the Ives instead so he can be forgiven that his celebration after his 24th minute header hit the back of the net seemed as much directed at his former manager as anyone else in the ground.
With so much at stake a cagy start was expected to be on the cards but that was not the case at all as both sides started very positively with both keepers called into action in the first few minutes. Visitor’s custodian Charlie Horlock showed he was on his toes by just beating Nabil Shariff to a Gordon-Douglas flick in the fourth minute. Two minutes later Ives man between the sticks Ben Heath had to show that he was similarly alert as he just managed to grab the ball off the toe of Luke Brown after Dan Akubuine’s long throw had been allowed to bounce inside the hosts box.
Play continued to swing end to end in these early exchanges and keeper Horlock made a comfortable save to a well struck Dylan Williams 25 yarder in eighth minute. Probably the best of the early opportunities was created and missed by Luke Brown in tenth minute as he got on the end of a flick from Malaki Black, got past Brett Solkhon and tried to lob his effort from the edge of the box over the advancing Heath but the ball sailed harmlessly over the crossbar. The busy Williams was played in down the left by Camron McWilliams two minutes later but his attempted right foot curler from a narrow angle drifted just past the far post.
That concluded the early exchanges and the game looked like it was settling down into the tight encounter that we were probably all expecting but Gordon-Douglas had other ideas and a big desire to show his former employers what they had missed out on. He started and ended the move that lead to the only goal of the game roaming forward on the left side before picking out Williams on the right hand touchline with a brilliant cross field ball. Williams had time and space to tease up a cross to the back post where Gordon-Douglas had continued his run to ghost in completely unmarked and give Horlock no chance with a powerful header from six yards. Wheeling away in celebration a finger pointed to the away dug out ensured that his message got across.
Now with their noses in front Ives were in no mood to give anything away and a few uncompromising tackles ensured that any probing attacks from the visitors were soon halted in their tracks. Michael Richens picked up his fifth booking of the season for one of these in 34th minute and the hosts struggled to clear the resulting free kick swung into their box by Lawrie Marsh, the ball eventually falling to Kye Tearle and Heath again showed he was alert plunging to his right to push the low shot around the post.
Another Canaries free kick brought more danger three minutes later. This time Ben Toseland was the man to conceded it as he upended Rio Da Silva inches outside the right edge of the box after the tricky visitor’s number nine had bustled past McWilliams. Alex Brown curled the free kick over Ives four man wall but inches wide of Heath’s left hand post as the keeper scampered across his line to cover.
Ives had not gleaned many more opportunities since getting in front but they almost caught the visitors dallying five minutes before the break. Williams found a little bit of space to take down and turn on a McWilliams throw just outside the Canaries box, his first time effort was enough to cause a few flutters in Horlock who threw himself to his right to try and cover the shot and was mightily relieved as the ball which beat his dive flew into the side netting just the wrong side of the post.
There was one heart in mouth moment for the large crowd of Ives supporters just before the break as another Marsh free kick was launched into the swirling wind and held up swinging away from Heath who had chosen to come for it. The keeper was always struggling and initially dropped the ball but he was first to react and pounced onto it just ahead of Tearle to ensure that the hosts enjoyed their cup of tea one goal to the good.
There was some good news for the visitors at the break as their talisman striker Callum Stead who had been released by Northern Premier League South Shields that day had made his way back from the North East to re-join his former team mates. Named as a hopeful substitute he had arrived at the ground during the first half and replaced the unfortunate Lewis Barker at the interval.
Ives came out for the re-start determined to hang onto what they had got. The slow build up from the back of previous games had gone and the ball was moved forward to the hard working quartet of Sharrif, Gordon-Douglas, Williams and Jack Snelus at every opportunity. The hosts were however still continuing to concede free kicks in dangerous areas. This almost lead to their demise in 51st minute as the wall seemed to disintegrate to allow Tearle’s 25 yarder through but again Heath came to their rescue getting down to his right and hanging on well.
The Canaries continued to go in search of a route back into the game but the resilient Ives back line ably assisted by considerable amounts of hard work from midfield and attackers covering back were looking reasonably comfortable in keeping their visitors at bay limiting them to half chances. Da Silva and Marsh combined to set up a shooting opportunity for Stead in 57th minute but his effort from a narrow angle was into the side netting. Stead was again involved in 72nd minute as he fed in Da Silva on the right his powerful low cross just evaded Black sliding in at the back post as it skipped off the wet surface.
Da Silva had managed to find the space on the right because McWilliams was struggling having picked up a knock and he was immediately replaced by Samir Nabi leading to a reshuffle at the back with Toseland moving from the centre back role that he had filled admirably to his more familiar left back role, Nabi going into the centre of the park and Richens dropping in alongside skipper Solkhon.
Ives came close to a clinching goal in 77th minute. Williams initial cross from the right took a deflection putting a wicked spin on the ball to take it over the head of Horlock, Akubuine covering at the back post was also almost deceived by the spin but just managed to smuggle the ball out for a corner off his body. The resulting corner from the left was only half cleared to the edge of the box where Nabi caught it perfectly on the half volley. Unfortunately for the Ives substitute his goal bound effort struck Gordon-Douglas on the six yard line and was scrambled clear.
Having failed to get the second goal to sew the game up Ives were always vulnerable sitting on their slender single goal lead and with a makeshift centre back pairing. The visitors spurned two golden opportunities to get something from this game in a two minute spell with ten minutes to go. In 80th minute Stead got fed through the centre and although he beat Heath with his low left footer from the edge of the box he was denied the equaliser by the smallest of margins as the ball deflected wide of the bottom of the post. Two minutes later Black also got through on a similar track but much to Ives relief he seemed to lose control of the ball as Heath came to meet him allowing the keeper to make a brave claim on the edge of his box.
There was one final opportunity for the Canaries to try and get something from the game and they threw caution to the wind with keeper Holock up for a 95th minute free kick. The ball was comfortably cleared and substitute Nathan Hicks galloped away up the park to get on the end of the clearance and guide it goal wards only to be denied by Tearle who remarkably ran eighty yards to slide in and knock the ball off the line.
With everyone around them also winning this very hard fought victory only move Ives up to one place above the relegation zone but with almost a third of the season now gone they equally sit only two points off a respectable mid table tenth place. This is certainly going to be a season where every point is going to be vital. The first clean sheet since the opening day and the first maximum return since those heady days of summer will be a huge lift to everyone at the club. It was fantastic to see the turn out on this warm but rainy autumn evening and we the supporters must now all pull together to get behind the team and act as the twelfth man to lift them to further glory.
Final Score : St Ives Town 1 Hitchin Town 0
ST IVES : Gordon-Douglas 24
ST IVES: Heath, Agemoh-Davies, McWilliams (Nabi 73), Toseland, Solkhon (capt), Hottor, Gordon-Douglas, Richens, Shariff (Hicks 84), Williams, Snelus (Cross 80), Unused subs : Milne, White
HITCHIN: Horlock, Akubuine, A. Brown, Marsh, Webb (capt), Jones, Barker (Stead 46), Tearle, DaSilva, L. Brown, Black, Unused subs: Smith, Snee, Moloney
Ives Supporters man of the match : Urijah Gordon-Douglas
Attendance : 201
Report by Nigel Howlett. Video by Dave Hook. Photos by Louise Thompson.
|October 19, 2021||19:45||Southern Premier Central||2021-22||90'|
|Club||1st Half||Final Score|
|St Ives Town||1||1|