St Ives Town 3 v Nuneaton Borough 0
Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 13-01-2024
Nigel Howlett Reports
In the end this turned out to be a routine home victory as Ives continued their excellent run since Christmas at quattro-tech Westwood Road. But the Boro looked far from the club in turmoil that they are for the first thirty minutes of the game. The visitors well documented woes over the recent past have seen them ousted from their ground over unpaid rent, losing their owner and manager and in the past few days three of their start players have departed the fold to pastures new. However they can still field an experienced starting eleven and that showed in the early stages of this game as they took the game to their hosts and created a couple of opportunities.
In only the second minute Callum Chettle seized a chance to unleash of powerful shot from the edge of the box that was only gathered at the second opportunity by 18 year old debutant keeper Arber Grosha. Ten minutes later Jaden Charles got away down the left and delivered a dangerous cross to the near post where Kane Richards threw himself at it but just failed to make contact.
Ives first chance of the afternoon arrived at exactly the mid-point in the first half when a mistake by Boro skipper Isaiah Osbourne allowed Dan Barton to scamper away through the centre. But the young winger delayed his shot a split second to long allowing Victor Nirennold to slide in and block. Jonny Edwards pounced on the loose ball but failed to hit his effort cleanly allowing keeper Dan Jezeph to make a comfortable save.
A number of visiting sides have been caught out by the pace of Ives front line in recent games and that is exactly what happened to Boro ten minutes before the break. Greg Kaziboni tricked his way past Charles down the right then showed the full back a clean pair of heels to get to the bye line. Barton and Edwards both attacked the teasing cross delivered to the back post and almost seemed to get in each other’s way. The ball rebounded off the shins of Edwards straight to the feet of Benji Mensah ten yards out and the young wing back kept his composure to casually side foot the ball home for his fourth goal in as many games.
The visitor’s heads did not go down and they continued to battle. Ed Hottor picked up a 37th minute yellow card for clumsily scything down Prince Mancinelli 30 yards from goal. An unorthodox free kick saw Kyle Storer try to change the angle for the shot by playing the ball the ball sideways to Chettle. His driven shot took a deflection off an Ives defender but Grosha held on well.
A poor clearance from Jezeph set up Ives next opportunity in 40th minute. The ball went straight to Michael Richens 35 yards from goal, the scrambling keeper did well to get back and just touch the Ives skipper’s ball into the box away from Edwards but it fell to the feet of Barton who failed to hit the target from ten yards. Even then the chance was not gone as Mensah arriving at pace managed to keep it in, but his first-time effort from a narrow angle slammed into the outside of the post.
There was a brief heart in mouth moment at the other end just before the break. Luke Curtlin played in Richards through the right channel and the Boro centre forward went down under the combined challenge of Jordan Williams and Grosha. Fortunately referee Daniel England was well positioned and immediately waved away claims for a spot kick.
Boro’s lack of depth of their squad following the departures was exposed as their bench was exclusively formed of inexperienced youngsters. They had been forced to make an early change when ex Ives man Camron McWilliams limped off and he was replaced by 17 year old Curtlin. They also lost skipper Osbourne at the break, his replacement also being youth team player Beau Friel. Ives looked to exploit the frailties that started to appear in the oppositions back line and went close only 50 seconds after the re-start when Aaron Smith did brilliantly to not only keep in a ball down the left but to deliver it as an inviting cross to the near post. Edwards attacked it six yards out but the ball came off his shoulder and looped over the bar.
The hosts doubled their lead ten minutes later this time ruthlessly exposing Boro’s inexperienced back line. A Smith long throw from the right was initially headed clear by Nirennold but the ball dropped to Richens 25 yards from goal. He hopefully lifted it back into the box where it dropped to Williams who had been a little slow to get out. Fortunately for Ives centre back Curtlin had been even slower and played him onside. Williams had time to take the ball down, pivot on it and get his shot away. Jezeph reacted well and got a hand to it but failed to keep the ball out of the net.
Now two in front and well in control the hosts introduced their second debutant of the day in Stevenage loanee Theo Alexandrou. The youngster’s first involvement within a couple of minutes of coming on to replace Barton was to burst down the right and deliver an inviting cross that Edwards again failed to make clean contact on.
Boro player manager Storer could blame no one but himself for Ives third in 68th minute as he dallied on the ball inside his own box only to be robbed by his opposite number Richens who then gleefully slammed home past the exposed Jezeph.
Edwards had been desperately searching for a goal all game and he had the opportunities to get a hat trick in the closing stages. In 73rd minute he was presented with a clear shooting opportunity by Alexandrou who had hounded and robbed a Nuneaton defender as the visitors again tried unsuccessfully to play out from the back. The centre forward’s well struck shot from the edge of the box beat Jezeph but rattled his right hand upright and bounced away. Patient Ives build up in 84th minute saw the move finished with a fantastic teasing ball into the danger zone off the outside of his boot by Mensah. Edwards beat Jezeph to the ball but the keeper reacted brilliant to parry over the effort from point blank range.
The all action Alexandrou and Mensah were both involved in setting up the final chance for Edwards in last minute. Alexandrou initially showing his pace to keep the ball in and feed it inside to Mensah who in turn teed up Richens for a shot from just outside the box. Edwards was in the line of the shot, but rather than deflect it he took it in and spun on it getting away a fierce shot from ten yards that Jezeph did well to deflect around the post.
Ives first double of the season at the expense of the struggling Boro who look like they have a very bumpy road ahead. The hosts next three league games see them coming up against three of the top four but all of those games will be on 3G surfaces so it will be interesting to see them putting their new found belief to the test against the best on their preferred surface.
Final Score: St Ives Town 3 Nuneaton Borough 0
ST IVES: Mensah 34, Williams 56, Richens 68
Team Line Ups:
ST IVES: Grosha, Mensah, Smith, Richens (capt), Williams, Casey, Barton (Alexandrou 57), Hottor (Joyce 85), Edwards, Kaziboni (Harris 77), Tomlinson, Unused subs: Oti
NUNEATON: Jezeph, Nirennold , Charles, Storer (Edmonds 84), Chettle, Richards, Mancinelli, McWilliams (Curtlin 26), Butterfield, Rowe-Turner, Osbourne (capt) (Friel 46), Unused subs: Wallis, Whitehouse
Cards: Yellow: ST IVES: Hottor (37) NUNEATON: Charles (66)
SPONSORS MAN OF THE MATCH: Benji Mensah