Stratford Town v St Ives Town
Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division Central – 02-02-19
The play-off chasing Town pulled out all of the stops to beat the freeze and get this game on although the first half entertainment may have suggested that the players from both sides did not really share the enthusiasm of the home ground staff as they struggled to come to terms with a sticky but bobbly pitch.
The early pressure came from the visiting Ives with Andrew Osei-Bonsu registering the first effort at goal in tenth minute after Danny Kelly managed to get a flick onto a long Charlie De’ath throw. But the Ives number nine fired his first time shot well over the top from fifteen yards.
Ives won the first corner of the game in their next attack two minutes later as Osei-Bonsu and George Bailey combined well on the left Bailey’s attempted low cross from the bye-line was cut out at the near post by Chris Cox but the resulting flag kick came to nothing.
The Town’s first real opportunity arrived in 16th minute as Ives struggled to clear a Lewis Wilson cross from the right the ball eventually arriving at the feet of Ross Oulton 20 yards from goal. He tried to curl his right footed shot inside Martin Conway’s left hand post but did not really trouble the keeper as his effort flew a couple of feet wide and thudded the boards as Conway scrambled across to cover it.
The hosts seemed to be the ones struggling most to come to terms with the conditions and as the number of misplaced passes grew they began to earn condemnation from the home support. Ives continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock and in 27th minute a Ben Toseland cross from the left floated over the last defender and dropped to Kelly beyond the far post. He showed good skill to swivel on the ball but his right footed effort lacked power and was straight at the well positioned home keeper Ross Etheridge who comfortably held on.
An Ollie Snaith ball over the top in 34th minute almost brought reward as the speedy Osei-Bonsu almost got away but Etheridge was smartly off his line to hack away. The keeper’s clearance flew straight back to Snaith 40 yards from goal. With the Ives faithful urging him to go for goal he tried his luck but Etheridge was smartly back into position to make a comfortable catch.
Ives final opportunity of the first half came six minutes before the break as Mark Coulson and Ben Baker combined well down the right to get the latter to the bye-line. The young Ives winger had time to look up and pick out Bailey on the edge of the box with his pull back. Bailey went for placement as he tried to side foot the ball home but did not get a good contact and lifted his effort well over.
The home faithful seemed to spend much of half time complaining that their heroes on the pitch were performing as poorly as they had seen them all season. What they were not taking into account was the level of effort Ives were putting in the ensure that nowhere on the pitch did they have time on the ball to put together the type of passing football they were used to seeing.
The second half started as the first had ended with Bailey again failing to really test keeper Etheridge from a good position. The 50th minute chance was created by Munashe Sundire and Snaith who interchanged passes on the right before the latter picked out Bailey by the penalty spot. This time he hit the target but the effort lacked power and Etheridge made another comfortable save this time low to his right.
Keeper Conway had enjoyed a fairly quiet first period but he needed to come to the party on three occasions in the next fifteen minutes. In 52nd minute Wilson Carvalho and Albi Skendi combined well on the left with Skendi delivering a teasing cross that the dangerous Nabil Shariff was looking to get on the end of but Conway rose above the ex St Neots striker to cleanly claim the ball under heavy pressure. He did even better on the hour as he sprinted off his line to bravely slide in and just beat Shariff to a precise through ball inside the full back by Skendi. His third save four minutes later was even better as an Oulton shot from 25 yards took a deflection off De’ath and looked like beating the keeper who showed his athleticism to twist in the air and fingertip the ball onto the crossbar. The ball rose high in the air but his defenders came to their keeper’s aid as they reacted first to scramble the loose ball to safety.
Although the hosts were enjoying a lot of possession Ives were still looking very dangerous on the break and in 67th minute another pacey move saw Osei-Bonsu play a perfectly weighted Crossfield ball into the run of the overlapping Toseland on the left. He in turn picked out Sundire on the edge of the box but the all action midfielder flashed his first time low drive across the face of goal and wide of the post.
Having dealt so well with Town’s attempts to play through or around them Ives were almost undone in the simplest route one fashion ten minutes from time. A long punt down the middle by Etheridge somehow eluded everyone and Shariff was onto it in a flash clear of the last man only Conway stood between him and what would almost certainly be the decisive goal. But the Ives stopper kept his nerve stayed upright and made an excellent close range save to his left to preserve the parity.
Ives had one more half chance to grab all three points three minutes later as Parker delivered a cross from the left that picked out substitute Jake Newman ten yards out by the back post. Newman cleverly tried to loop his header over Etheridge but the Town keeper was alert to the danger and moved his feet well to make a comfortable catch.
The two sides continued to cancel each other out for the remaining seven plus two added minutes and a point a piece was probably a fair return over the ninety minutes. In fact a goalless draw was probably a shrewd bet before the start as two in form sides both with excellent defensive records met on a difficult pitch not conducive to flowing football but fair play to Stratford for getting the game on. On the back of this result the Town reinforce themselves in third spot whilst Ives move up one place to eleventh.
Final Score : Stratford Town 0 St Ives Town 0
Goals : none
Team : Conway, Coulson, Toseland, Sundire, De’ath, Kelly, Bailey (Newman 73), Parker (capt), Osei-Bonsu, Snaith, Baker (Seymour-Shove 73)
Unused subs : Wallis, Jarvis Wilson, Patrick
Man of the match : Munashe Sundire
Attendance : 285
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photos by Gemma Thompson.
|February 2, 2019
|Southern League Premier Division Central
|St Ives Town