Merthyr TOwn 2 St Ives Town 0
Date: Saturday 15th April 2017
Kick Off: 3pm
Competition: Southern League Premier Division
Ground Address: Merthyr Town Football Club, Penydarren Park, Park Terrace, CF47 8RF
A threadbare Ives side decimated by injuries, suspension and unavailability made the long trip to South Wales and not unsurprisingly came away with nothing from a tough game against the play-off chasing Martyrs.
But that bare statistic belies the level of commitment and effort put in by the gallant thirteen man squad that made the trip. The side arrived with a game plan to contain and frustrate their illustrious hosts and executed this plan to perfection until they were undone by a slip up by Club legend Dan Moyes which lead to the hosts being awarded a somewhat soft penalty in the 52nd minute. From that point on it was going to be tougher than climbing one of those very steep Welsh hillsides for Ives to get back into the game and they were killed off by a second 17 minutes later. But to their credit the thin orange line did not capitulate, but continued to battle all the way to the end.
With Jack Bradshaw suspended, Lee Chaffey, Jack Higgs, Danny Kelly and Matt Wright all unavailable and Kasey Douglas still injured manager Ricky Marheineke was forced into a last minute recall for veteran Moyes from his loan spell at Eynesbury and had only scholars Jamie Short and Tiago Dias to form a substitutes bench with an average age below seventeen. This lead to an unusual five, four, one formation with a far from fully fit Dubi Ogbonna leading the line on his own.
Ives set up was so effective in annulling the Martyr’s attack in the first half that keeper Tim Trebes did not have a single shot to save from the divisions second highest scorers who have averaged above two goals a game all season at home. The only items of note in the first period are recorded below.
In the tenth minute overlapping full back Scott Barrow got down the left and clipped in a cross directed at man mountain centre forward Ryan Prosser. But Liam McDevitt was equal to the task just cutting the ball out as Prosser rose to head home.
Thirteen minutes later the Martyrs had a shout for handball right on the edge of the box against Moyes turned down as the ball bounced up off the 3G surface and appeared to hit his arm. Fortunately both the referee and his assistant had their view obscured by the many players around the edge of the Ives box and that small scare was survived.
The tricky Corey Jenkins was causing a few problems down the left and two minutes later he got past stand in right back Charlie Day and delivered a low cross to the near post that McDevitt again did well to deflect away from the late arriving Keyon Reffell.
The home side’s first menacing strike at goal took until 32nd minute to arrive when Elliot Richards struck a 25 yard drive that deflected wide off Tom McGowan as the Ives man closed him down. Again the corner was well defended with McDevitt once more getting above the menacing figure of Prosser.
The Martyrs tried to build up the pressure as half time approached and Trebes was called into his first real action of the afternoon as he dived full length to spectacularly punch away a cross from the right by Reffell on 42 minutes and did very well to get through the crowded goalmouth to punch a corner away from the head of Prosser a minute later.
Martyr’s captain Ashley Evans was dropping deep to find space in centre of midfield and his pin point pass picked out Adam Davies overlapping down the right just seconds before the half time whistle. Once again the evergreen Moyes was in the right spot to stretch and head away Davies’s near post cross.
So stage one of Marheineke’s plan had been achieved as Ives had arrived at the break with a clean sheet and not only had they prevented the home side getting on the score sheet they had been so effective in their tactics that their hosts had not managed to build up a head of steam and the big home crowd on a sunny Easter Saturday had been kept quiet.
Stage two of the plan was to keep things just as quiet for the first twenty minutes of the second period to ensure that the pressure built up on the hosts who needed nothing less than a win to ensure their place in the end of season promotion play offs. Unfortunately this plan came unstuck only seven minutes into the second period as Moyes was robbed by Reffell inside the box before he could complete a clearance and in a desperate bid to get the ball back he stuck out a leg that the Martyr’s striker fell over. Referee Ollie Williams was right on the spot and his instant decision was penalty. Prosser took the responsibility and although keeper Trebes went the right way he was beaten by the power of the big man’s strike low to his right.
Falling behind suddenly sparked a response from the visitors and less than sixty seconds later a flowing move through the middle of the park involving McGowan and Josh Dawkin saw Peter Clark thread a pass out to Ben Seymour-Shove on the right. His low cross to the near post was won by Jarrad Wright. But the centre back’s attempted clearance cannoned off Ogbonna and rebounded just past the post.
The hosts should have gone two in front on the hour as substitute Kyle McLaggon combined well with Richards down the right before the latter got to the bye line and teed up a golden opportunity for Prosser who with the home fans already rising to celebrate a well worked goal, inexplicably blazed wide from ten yards with the goal at his mercy.
However the home faithful did not have to wait long to celebrate their second goal which effectively killed the game. The overlapping Barrow had been a thorn in Ives side throughout the afternoon with his direct running down the left. On this occasion he got past Day and cut in on goal before cleverly looking up and clipping a perfect cross between the Ives three central defenders to pick out Prosser who had the simple task of directing his header from eight yards past the exposed Trebes. To his credit Ives keeper reacted well and got a good right hand to the goal bound effort, but unfortunately for him the deflection did not stop the ball finishing up in the bottom corner of the net.
Even though the game was now effectively over as a contest Ives continued to probe for a consolation goal and Ogbonna did well to twist in the air to try and direct a Seymour-Shove cross from the right on target thirteen minutes from time. But with the ball just behind him the chance was never easy and the effort failed to trouble home keeper Oliver Davies.
As the clock ticked down Ives took the opportunity to give pitch time to both of the young lads on the bench and 17 year old debutant Jamie Short showed his promise by sticking with his man and putting in a noteworthy block to prevent Reffell putting the icing on the Martyrs cake two minutes from time after Jenkins had got down the right and set him up.
The final item of note in the game was Jordan Jarrold winning Ives first corner of the game three minutes into added time. Charlie De’ath won the flag kick in the air, but still could not force keeper Davies into a save as the ball flew wide of his left hand post for the final action of the day.
This was definitely a game for the tactical connoisseurs of football rather than a performance of passion. It was good to see the whole Ives squad give their all for the cause and battle all of the way to the finish. Club captain Charlie De’ath won the man of the match vote from the group of travelling faithful consulted and I would not disagree with that. His closest challengers were probably Tom McGowan who ran his heart out in the centre of the park and Liam McDevitt who, as ever, gave a heart on the sleeve performance.
Best of luck to the Martyrs in their quest for the play offs. Ives must refocus for the next two games and try and build some momentum into the impending League Cup Final.
St Ives team : Trebes, Day, Jarrold, De’ath (capt), McDevitt, Moyes, Seymour-Shove, McGowan (Short 86), Ogbonna (Dias 84), Clark, Dawkin
Unused subs : none
Goals : none
Supporters Man of the Match : Charlie De’ath
Final Score : Merthyr Town 2 St Ives Town 0
Attendance : 608