St Ives Town 0 Chesham United 2
Date: Tuesday 21st February
Kick Off: 7:45pm
Competition: Southern League Premier Division
Ground Address: ProEdge Westwood Road, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, PE27 6DT
Ives unbeaten home run that stretched back to early November came to a grinding halt against the play off chasing Generals who repeated their performance and score line of the reverse fixture at the start of the season.
Manager Ricky Marheineke made four changes of personnel and an additional three positional changes in an attempt to sharpen up the Ives after three come from behind draws in a row. The changes included a first start for 16 year old Kasey Douglas who replaced Danny Kelly in a central striker role.
The Ives lined up with young Douglas leading the line up against ex Premier League centre back Darren Purse. Jared Cunniff was playing the number ten role just off the youngster and it was he who went close to putting the home side in front after only eight minutes as he got between keeper Ashlee Jones and Mat Mitchel-King as both hesitated as a wind assisted punt from Tim Trebes dropped just outside the Generals box. Cunniff got a toe to the ball just ahead of the other two, but his effort floated wide of the visitor’s goal.
With skipper Charlie De’ath back in the side at left back Jordan Jarrold was operating in a left midfield role and he was brought down 25 yards from goal five minutes later. Jack Bradshaw went for power with the free kick, but the Generals five man wall held firm, although Ryan Blake certainly felt the full force of the effort and took a few moments to recover.
The visitors were playing against a strong breeze in the first half and it took them a while to get into the game. A long free kick by keeper Jones brought them their first opportunity of the evening on 17 minutes. Another man with Premier League connections Phil Roberts managed to find enough space inside the box to bring down the ball, turn and get a shot away. Fortunately his well struck effort went straight at keeper Trebes who held on well.
Right from the early stages it was clear that the visitors were looking to stretch the play as much as possible and use the full width of the pitch. Dave Pearce was hugging the left hand touchline with Ryan Blake similarly playing in a wide right role. However it was the Ives right side that Chesham appeared to be targeting at every opportunity. Keeper Jones was also cleverly looking to keep his kicks low into the wind and one such kick on 23 minutes caught the Ives defence out as it travelled right through to Pearce. He cleverly jinked inside Scott Sinclair leaving him floundering, but fortunately fired his low drive into the side netting as Trebes narrowed the angle.
By this stage of the game Ives defence were finding themselves under more and more pressure. Liam McDevitt made an excellently timed last ditch tackle to prevent the experienced Barry Hayles getting clear onto a slide rule pass from Sam Youngs.
Hayles then wasted a golden opportunity to put the Generals ahead on the half hour. A quick break following an Ives free kick saw the ball fed out to Pearce on the left again. This time he went outside the struggling Sinclair before getting to the bye line and sliding the ball across the six yard line to the unmarked Hayles by the back post. But the man with over 250 Football League appearances to his name did not allow for the notorious Westwood Road bobble and that was just enough to ensure he sliced his effort wide with the goal at his mercy.
Keeper Jones was forced into his only real save of the night on 36 minutes. His poor kick went straight to Cunniff 40 yards from goal. Cunniff skilfully knocked the ball sideways to Josh Dawkin who took a touch and let fly a pile driver from fully 35 yards that was dipping in under the crossbar until the fingertips of Jones intervened to deflect it over the top. This lead to a sequence of three consecutive Ives corners the third of which was lashed well over the top by Lee Chaffey.
Dawkin tried another effort from 30 yards only one minute later, but this time his contact was not quite as good and Jones had a much more comfortable save to make. Cunniff showed a glimpse of his ability four minutes before the break as he single handily carved out a half chance. He found space to bring down a long punt from Trebes 35 yards from goal and then set off on a mazy run that took him out towards the right corner flag. He then battled his way past two Generals defenders to get to the bye line. His attempted cut back to pick out Douglas was only just intercepted by a stretching Purse.
The final opportunity of an entertaining first period fell to the visitors only seconds before the break. On a rare occasion they probed down the right and a clip into the box was knocked down by Hayles for Roberts to crash in a volley that forced Trebes into a spectacular diving save high to his right to push the ball away.
With the strengthening wind now at their backs the visitors began to build the pressure on the Ives back line right from the off in the second period. Pearce was again the instigator exactly sixty seconds after the restart as he swung in a cross to the near post that was attacked by Hayles. He got just ahead of McDevitt, but directed his header inches the wrong side of the post.
Keeper Trebes was in action again four minutes later as he did well to divert a deflected cross from the left by Toby Little wide of his near post. It was all Chesham at this point and the Ives defence was creaking, but not quite breaking. Breaking point arrived on 64 minutes as Pearce played in the overlapping Little down the left and his cross picked out Blake who had drifted between the two Ives centre backs perfectly. Blake did as all schoolboys are taught and headed the ball down and back across the keeper giving Trebes no chance as the ball beat him low to his right and went in off the post.
The Generals did not sit back on their lead but continued to push forward and almost doubled their advantage 15 minutes from time. Trebes just managed to claw away and in-swinging corner from Pearce under heavy pressure. The ball fell to Blake who clipped it back into the centre where substitute David Hutton rose highest, but only succeeded in directing his close range header straight at Trebes who blocked well and the ball was scrambled clear.
Ives survived that scare, but were not so fortunate three minutes later as Youngs delivered the coup de grace. He was allowed to run into the box unchecked to get on the end of a low cross from the right by Blake and deftly clipped the ball over the exposed Trebes and in at the far post.
To their credit the home side gallantly tried to get back into the game, but the closest they came to a consolation goal were a long range header from Chaffey that presented a comfortable catch for Jones on 83 minutes and a battling run through the middle by both Cunniff and Dawkin in added time that looked like it had presented a shooting chance for the latter only for Purse to stick out a long leg and knock the ball out for a corner.
This was a night to forget for a number of players in the Ives ranks with few coming out with credit. Tim Trebes did well to keep the score line as it was with a number of smart saves and Josh Dawkin battled well as always, but the supporters vote for man of the match went to Jared Cunniff as once again he was at the heart of most of Ives positive football.
St Ives team : Trebes, Sinclair, De’ath (capt), Chaffey, McDevitt, Higgs (Kelly 55), Dawkin, Bradshaw, Douglas (Seymour-Shove 65), Cunniff, Jarrold
Unused subs : O’Malley
Goals : none
Supporters Man of the Match : Jared Cunniff
Final Score : St Ives Town 0 Chesham United 2
Attendance : 152