Leamington vs St Ives Town
Date: Monday 2nd January 2017
Kick Off: 3pm
Competition: Southern League Premier Division
Ground Address: The Phillips 66 Community Stadium, Harbury Lane, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, CV33 9QB (For SatNavs use CV33 9SA)
It was always going to be a big ask to come to the home of the table topping Brakes and get something with a full team. With both first choice strikers not in the starting line up, Dubi Ogbonna due to a two match ban and Danny Kelly still not fully match fit, Ives manager Ricky Marheineke could perhaps have been forgiven for going into this game with a defensive formation. But he made a statement of intent as he continued with his now preferred 4-4-2 formation with midfield man Jared Cunniff joining Josh Dawkin up front.
Whilst Ives came into the game on a good run of form the Brakes had stuttered a little recently so were hungry for the three points to consolidate their top spot ahead of the chasing pack.
The home side came out of the traps hard and created their first half chance from a flowing move down the left after only three minutes as Ahmed Obeng and Connor Gudger combined to send Richard Gregory speeding into the box with the ball at his feet. But as so many strikers have this season Gregory found Ives skipper Lee Chaffey a hard man to get past and a perfectly timed challenge took the ball off his toe.
Ives suffered a huge blow only two minutes later as midfield dynamo Tom McGowan suffered an ankle injury in an innocuous looking midfield challenge with Jack Edwards that forced the Ives man from the field to be replaced by utility man Jack Bradshaw in a like for like change.
The home side almost took advantage whilst the visitors were still settling after this blow. The tricky Obeng delivered a teasing cross from the left that Liam McDevitt did well to head clear under pressure. But the ball fell to Rob Thompson-Brown who drilled it straight back into the box where it look a ricochet and fell to the feet of Gudger who’s well struck shot was fortunately straight at keeper Tim Trebes.
Trebes was called into action again on 16 minutes as Thompson-Brown found space to run at the Ives defence before being shepherded across the face of goal forcing him to unleashing his intended shot from 25 yards the keeper making a comfortable save low to his right.
Having weathered the host’s early storm the visitors were slowly finding their way into the game. They created their first real opportunity on 21 minutes as Jack Higgs, Dawkin and Cunniff all combined well down the left to get the latter into a crossing position. His effort rebounded off Joe Magunda, but the ball fell to Morgan Penfold 25 yards out. His first time effort was seen late by Brakes stopper Tony Breeden, but the Fabian Bartez look alike moved his feet quickly and made a difficult save look easy.
At this point in proceedings the home side were certainly in front on points and their shot count was still rising fast. Courtney Baker-Richardson wasted a very good opportunity to put them in front on 28 minutes as he failed to apply the finishing touch from close range having been teed up by a clever touch from Gregory who had expertly taken down a deep cross from the left by Gudger on his chest.
Gregory got the ball in the net himself five minutes later as he ran clear onto Edwards flick from a long free kick by keeper Breeden. But the Ives back line had held their discipline well and an assistant’s flag correctly cancelled out the effort.
Two more Brakes efforts came and went in the next two minutes as first Edwards rose highest to get on the end of a Baker-Richardson corner from the left, but he failed to hit the target from a good central position. Only seconds later Thompson-Brown almost got clear through the right channel only to be denied by an excellent recovery tackle by Jordan Jarrold.
As half time approached Ives suddenly had a very good ten minute spell in which they created a couple of good chances. On 39 minutes a cross from the right by Seymour-Shove was won at the back post by Bradshaw, Magunda sliced his attempted clearance straight to Cunniff on the edge of the box. The Ives striker skilfully took the sting out of the ball and dropped it dead for Penfold who curled a first time effort that flew a hair’s breadth the wrong side of Breeden’s right hand post with the watching keeper rooted to the spot.
Cunniff was running his heart out in the cause and was giving the Brakes back line a few problems. Only two minutes later he jinked his way past Magunda before being brought down on the edge of the D by Mace. Higgs lined up the free kick and somehow found a gap to get it through the seven man wall, but keeper Breeden was alert to the danger plunging low to his right to make the save.
Having survived the early onslaught from the home side and finished the first half well even the least optimistic amongst Ives fans were beginning to think that we could get an unexpected something from this game. Unfortunately that thought lasted only two minutes into the second period as the home side went in front with a very simple goal. Richard Taudry found space to float in a cross from the right and Baker-Richardson timed his run to perfection to arrive between the Ives centre backs and get in a clean header from ten yards which looped over Trebes and nestled inside the post.
Ives had half a chance to grab what would have been a controversial equaliser only two minutes later as Mace hammered an attempted clearance against the raised hands of Cunniff. Everyone stopped expecting the whistle to blow, but it did not, Cunniff slipped the ball through to Dawkin on the edge of the box, but the Ives striker took a touch rather than shooting first time giving Gudger chance to rob him of the opportunity.
Having missed the chance to get level Ives found themselves two behind only six minutes later as Callum Gittings picked out the speedy Obeng wide on the left. The winger instantly took off skinning Harry O’Malley and cutting in on goal before hammering the ball home past the exposed Trebes at his near post.
Obeng had been causing O’Malley problems throughout and he enjoyed a real purple patch for the next fifteen minutes. The most noteworthy of his runs came on 66 minutes as he jinked past three visiting defenders at pace before delivering a low driven cross that Liam McDevitt just managed to scramble clear at the expense of a corner.
Ives fans were pleased to welcome Danny Kelly back from his hamstring injury as he replaced Penfold on 68 minutes. He was instantly in the action winning a free kick off Magunda 30 yards out on the right. O’Malley rose highest to Higgs free kick, but could only direct his header straight at Breeden.
Ives were not giving up and they continued to maintain their input to this entertaining game. An excellent flowing move down the left ten minutes from time saw Jarrold thread a pass through to the ever willing Cunniff . He in turn played the ball into the run of Dawkin who was unlucky to see his well struck effort from inside the box deflected away for a corner.
The Brakes had one chance to add icing on their cake with three minutes to go as substitute Ryan Rowe was put through the centre by Thompson-Brown only to be denied by a brilliant covering tackle from skipper Chaffey. The shouts fans for a penalty were rightly waved away by referee Neil Pratt.
The final opportunity for a deserved goal came Ives way as Kelly did what he does so well, held up a ball into his feet from Bradshaw and then released it perfectly to put fellow sub Scott Sinclair clear. The flying winger did everything right firing hard and low across keeper Breeden from 15 yards. But the Brakes stopper was equal to the effort making a brilliant one handed save.
Overall verdict was that again this match showed just how far Ives have come since early season when they were blown away at the Pro-Edge Stadium by Leamington. The home side will finish in the top three and are a very good side, but as in recent games against the top sides Ives matched them for long periods. The only difference this time was that little bit of luck did not go our way to grab a deserved goal that could have made all the difference. The man of the match accolade was deservedly won for the second game in a row by stand in striker Jared Cunniff who was at the centre of every one of Ives positive moves and never dropped his fantastic effort level throughout the entire ninety minutes.
St Ives team : Trebes, O’Malley, Jarrold, Chaffey (capt), McDevitt, Higgs, Seymour-Shove (Sinclair 86), McGowan (Bradshaw 6), Cunniff, Dawkin, Penfold (Kelly 68)
Unused subs : Coulson, De’ath,
Goals : none
Supporters Man of the Match : Jared Cunniff
Final Score : Leamington 2 St Ives Town 0
Attendance : 525