St Ives Town v Kettering Town
Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division Central – 16-02-19
Ives manager Ricky Marheineke was left fuming at the end of this game after he felt that a couple of important decisions from referee Shaun Barry did not go his way but some of his ire was probably also frustration as a carefully mapped out tactical plan and an excellent battling performance were not quite enough to bring the Ives any reward against the champions elect.
The plan mapped out and drilled into the side so diligently by Marheineke and his assistant Craig Adams was a master stroke which saw Ives effectively negate the attacking threat from the League’s leading scorers almost completely in the first half. Eight changes from the previous week’s poor performance against Rushall saw all of the recognised strikers left out and two pacey wingers serving as the outlet to test the pace of the visitors back line.
From the outset Ives were solid in their formation although willing to concede possession in the opposition half once they lost the ball everyone took up their position inside their half and formed a formidable formation that the visitors were finding almost impossible to find a route through.
When they got the opportunity Ives were quick to break out at pace and with real menace they had the game’s first shot on goal in tenth minute as Ben Seymour-Shove stepped over a Mark Coulson ball in from the left allowing Ben Baker to tee up Ty Ward for a shot from the edge of the box. The busy midfielder struck it well but the ball was always rising and cleared Paul White’s crossbar by a couple of feet.
The Poppies first effort at goal did not arrive until midway through the first period when Dan Holman found a little bit of space in the centre and Marcus Kelly picked him out with a pinpoint cross from the left. Holman got some power in his header but directed it straight at Martin Conway in the Ives goal and the keeper hung on well. Even if the effort had beaten Conway it would have been chalked off as Holman had wandered into an offside position and the flag was up.
The visitor’s first effort was quickly followed by a second only ninety seconds later. Owen Wallis, recalled into the side after an injury lay off, was adjudged to have fouled Holman 25 yards out from goal in a central position. Kelly curled his free kick around the four man Ives wall but Conway was equal to the effort palming the dipping ball over the top.
With the tallest of Ives centre backs missing from the side either injured or suspended dead ball situations were always going to be a danger and the visitors went close again in 27th minute when Declan Towers lived up to his name as he rose above the pack at the back post to nod a Kelly corner from the right just past the post.
The big Kettering contingent in the bumper crowd of 639 was stunned to silence in 29th minute when Ives went in front. A slip by Dion Kelly-Evans in allowing a Coulson clip down the left to skim on off the top of his head allowed Seymour-Shove to get away into the box. The speedy winger just managed to loose off his shot before he was clattered by Towers. Referee Barry watched the shot sail wide before correctly pulling back the play to award the penalty. Robbie Parker was back on spot kicks and the Ives skipper made no mistake beating White with a powerfully struck effort low past the diving keeper.
The visitors did have one golden opportunity to get on level terms before the break when Towers showed his ability on the deck as he curled a perfectly weighted clip over the Ives back line to put Aaron O’Connor clear. With home defenders appealing in vain for offside O’Connor raced into the box but he tried to beat Conway with power rather than finesse and blasted his effort wide of the keeper’s right hand post from the edge of the box.
The half time interval could allow the Ives to go in clear in the knowledge that they had all worked hard and done their jobs executing the game plan to perfection. They no doubt came out for the second half expecting more of the same. But visiting manager Marcus Law took his turn to show his tactical nous as he had spotted a potential weakness in Ives line up in the first period and knew he had the perfect weapon to attack it on his bench. He replaced the ineffective Ben Milnes with man mountain ex Cambridge United professional Adam Cunnington. His new tactic to go more direct aiming for 6’ 5” Cunnington and aim to pick up the pieces around him.
The big man was an instant handful for the Ives centre back trio although he was not involved in the equaliser when it came ten minutes after the break. Coulson and Ward both went for the same ball in the centre of the park allowing Rhys Hoenes to break away and run at the Ives back line. He timed his pass to O’Connor to perfection to allow the striker to break into the box and this time he made no mistake as his powerful drive beat the diving Conway and billowed the back of the net.
Having got level the visitors now started to push forward looking to get their noses in front. Two minutes later Hoenes went down inside the box under challenge from Wallis but referee Barry was had a good view of the incident and waved away the appeals of Kettering fans and their players.
The pressure continued to mount and Conway was called into action again on the hour as Towers rose above the pack at the back post to get on the end of a Kelly corner from the right. He tried to cleverly loop his header over Conway but the keeper was equal to it moving his feet smartly to leap backwards and claim the dropping ball. The keeper was perhaps a little lucky two minutes later as the influential Lindon Meikle sprayed a pass out to the overlapping Kelly-Evans on the right. He hung up a cross to the back post where Cunnington rose above his marker to nod the ball down into the mix. Tom Wood’s attempted clearance cannoned off Holman and rebounded inches wide as Conway scrambled across to cover it.
The Poppies thought they were going to get in front in 65th minute as Meikle and O’Connor combined well on the left. The latter delivered a low cross that Cunnington looked like he was going to get on the end of but Wood pulled the big man back to prevent him stabbing the ball home. The unsighted Mr Barry did not initially give a foul but after consultation with his assistant on the far side he awarded his second spot kick of the game. Holman stepped up and hit his shot well to Conway’s left but the keeper had guessed his intention and flung himself across to palm the ball away.
The save only relieved the pressure momentarily as Cunnington powered himself through the crowd to get on the end of the resulting corner forcing Ives keeper to again display his heroics as he blocked the effort at close range. Holman’s follow up was also blocked on the line and the ball was finally scrambled away.
The winner arrived in 67th minute but manager Marheineke was convinced it should not have stood as he felt that Cunnington had fouled Wilson as he won the ball to knock it out to the right where Hoenes picked it up. The Poppies leading scorer did the rest cutting inside Coulson before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Conway into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.
Now in front the visitors did not sit back but continued to go in search of another goal to kill off the game. 15 minutes from time Michael Richens picked out the dangerous Hoenes in space on the right and he tried to repeat his trick of eight minutes earlier as he again went past the labouring Coulson before unleashing another powerful drive from the corner of the box that thudded into the chest of Conway.
Manager Marheineke now began to throw caution to the wind and roll on his regular strikers with Andrew Osei-Bonsu, Jake Newman and George Bailey all joining the fray replacing Ward, Wallis and Coulson respectively. Ives did carve out a few threatening moves into the Poppies final third but the only time they got close to any reward was in the first of the added five minutes when again Marheineke was convinced that Mr Barry got it wrong again as Baker went down in the area under challenge from Towers. But the official waved play on and the chance was gone.
The final whistle blew a few minutes later and Kettering can be pleased with their days work as they extended their winning run to five games and edged themselves a step closer to the title which in reality is now theirs to lose from their present position five points clear with two games in hand.
Ives are now six games without a win and still in search of those few additional points to see them over the line to safety for another season at step three. But they can take a lot from this game as they matched the champions elect for long periods and once again showed the level of work rate and commitment that must always be present to glean any reward in this unforgiving division.
Final Score : St Ives Town 1 Kettering Town 2
Goals : Parker 29 (pen)
Team : Conway, Jackson, Coulson (Bailey 89), Sundire, Wood, Jarvis Wilson, Wallis (Newman 83), Parker (capt), Ward (Osei-Bonsu 69), Baker, Seymour-Shove
Unused subs : Patrick, Snaith
Sponsors man of the match : Robbie Parker
Attendance : 639
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photos by Louise Thompson
|February 16, 2019||15:00||Southern League Premier Division Central||2018-19||90'|
|Club||1st Half||Final Score|
|St Ives Town||1||1|