AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 St Ives Town 2
Date: Saturday 22nd July 2017
Kick Off: 3pm
Competition: Pre-Season Friendly
Ground Address: Hayden Road, Rushden, Northamptonshire, NN10 0HX
Ives excellent pre-season form continued as they met, and conquered, their toughest opposition yet as they visited Hayden Road to play the powerful Diamonds. The hosts had showed their form only four days earlier as the turned over a very strong Northampton Town side 2-0. But well taken goals by Jimmy Hartley and Peter Clark ensure that the visitors made the short trek back into Cambridgeshire with a well deserved victory.
On paper this always looked like a very tough test for the Ives and manager Ricky Marheineke must have been hoping to get a full side out for the game. Unfortunately injury and unavailability combined to ensure that he was short of five players a number of who would have probably featured in the starting eleven. But the new look Ives have strength in depth and a belief throughout the entire squad this season.
Each side went close around the ten minute mark first the livewire Hartley robbed Richard Bunting inside his own half and strode forward before releasing a well timed pass into the path of James Hall cutting in from the left. Hall took the shot on first time, but his effort from 20 yards was always rising and just cleared home keeper Matt Finlay’s crossbar.
Almost directly from the goal kick Diamonds worked their way down the left and although Brett Longden prevented Ollie Brown-Hill getting in a cross the ball was laid back to full back Sam Brown who picked out Nabil Shariff in the centre of the Ives box. Shariff should probably have done better, but only succeeded in directing his header from eight yards just over the top.
The visitors had a let off two minutes later as the Diamonds thought they had gone in front. Shariff worked his way down the right and delivered a cross to the back post where Brown-Hill had found some space. His shot from close range was scrambled away off his line by young goalkeeper Conor Barton with Diamonds players claiming the ball had crossed the line. Fortunately goal line technology was not required as the assistant on the clubhouse side of the ground had spotted that Brown-Hill had wandered into an offside position when the cross was delivered.
Shariff pulled another save out of Barton on 15 minutes as he was allowed to run at the Ives defence before unleashing a low skimming drive across the wet turf from 25 yards. But young Barton was equal to the effort plunging low to his left to smother the shot.
Prior to this point Ives had been looking to absorb the hosts pressure and break quickly at every opportunity. But by half way through the first half they were beginning to get on top and seizing their opportunities to harry the opposition all over the park. Tom McGowan won the ball in the middle of the park on 25 minutes and set loose a fast flowing move down the left which saw James Hall and Phil Draycott exchange passes before the latter laid the ball back into the path of McGowan just outside the box. He curled his effort inches over the top.
Hall and Draycott combined again down the left two minutes later and this time the latter’s effort from 25 yards was deflected forcing a very good save low to his right from keeper Finlay. The resulting corner came to nothing, but Ives took a deserved lead only seconds later, thanks to the persistence of Hall. He hassled and robbed Blaze Punter (who should have probably gone for the type of clearance his name suggested) deep inside his own half. The Ives front man unselfishly fed the ball into the feet of strike partner Hartley on the edge of the Diamonds box. The skilful Hartley took a touch before lashing the ball high into the roof of the net past the exposed Finlay.
The visitors continued to play impressive football for the remainder of the first period moving the ball around at pace with everyone looking comfortable on the ball and the pace, and movement of Hartley and Hall giving the Diamonds centre backs a very tough time. In spite of their domination during this period they failed to carve out any further clear cut chances before the break.
Clear evidence of how seriously manager Marheineke was taking this game came at the break as in previous games wholesale substitutions have arrived at this point. But on this occasion the second half resumed with the same eleven on the pitch. The hosts did change their keeper and two outfield players and it was they who pushed forward early in the second half, but an attempted cross shot from Shariff was bravely headed away at full stretch by the impressive Lewis Ferrell.
A comedy of errors in the Diamonds defence presented Clark with a tap in to double Ives lead on 51 minutes. Draycott went down the left and delivered a low cross which Adam Pyke should have dealt with at the near post, but his touch completely deceived two of his colleagues who completely missed the ball as it rolled along the six yard line before arriving at the far post where Clark executed the coup de grass by side footing it home giving substitute keeper Ben Heath no chance.
The hosts immediately made two further changes in a desperate attempt to force their way back into the game. Ives also made their first change five minutes later replacing young Barton with regular first choice keeper Tim Trebes. Two of these substitutes were involved just after the hour as Diamonds had a shout for penalty turned down. Rushden sub Joel Gyasi battled his way into Ives box before colliding with the combined might of Trebes and skipper Charlie De’ath. But the excellent referee Matt Law was right on the spot to wave away the hosts claims for a spot kick which really only came from their supporters.
Three minutes later Ives came close to killing the game off as another flowing move almost put Hartley in. The ball was scrambled away from him as he tried to get a shot away inside the box. But it was only half cleared to Hall on the right corner of the box. His curled left foot effort was heading for the far corner of the net before it was spectacularly pushed away by a full stretch Heath.
The direct running style of Gyasi was the only thing causing Ives back line any real concerns and he went close again on 73 minutes as he picked up ball in central midfield before running at the Ives back line and unleashing a rising drive from 25 yards that Trebes was pleased to see clear his crossbar.
Fifteen minutes from time the expected mass change came as Ives made five substitutions. However even with this large number of changes to the personnel Ives still looked fairly comfortable and it was something of a surprise when Gyasi grabbed a consolation goal three minutes from time. Again he picked up the ball deep and drove at the defence, but this time his effort from 25 yards crept past an unsighted Trebes and found its way into the bottom corner of the net.
As we all expected this game was played in a competitive fashion from the off and was a very good pre-season test for both sides. It was good to see that a less than full strength Ives side were still able to play their new quick passing, high tempo, game under more pressure from a quality opposition. The optimism for the new season remains high and the new playing style will undoubtedly attract new supporters along to the Pro-Edge
Final Score : AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 St Ives Town 2
Goals : Hartley 28, Clark 51
St Ives team : Barton (Trebes 56), Longden (Short 75), De’ath (capt), Femiola (Chaffey 72), Ferrell, McGowan (Torkornoo 75), Seymour-Shove (Robins 75), Clark, Hall (Wright 75), Hartley, Draycott (Seymour-Shove rolled on 80)
Attendance : 300 approx
Match Report by Nigel Howlett