St Ives Town 1 AFC Sudbury 1
Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 14-08-2023
Nigel Howlett Reports
Brandon Njoku’s second well taken goal in two games should probably have been enough to give Ives another maximum return on the back of Saturday’s excellent victory at Nuneaton. The fact that it didn’t was down to an opposition that was willing to battle all the way for ex St Neots manager Marc Abbott and one brief lapse of concentration at a corner late in the first half.
Ives first competitive fixture in their new Monday evening slot at quattro tech Westwood Road attracted a decent attendance and they were treated to an entertaining game where only in the closing stages did the exertions of 48 hours earlier begin to show for both sides.
Manager Ricky Marheineke made three changes to freshen up the side that had fought so well to claim the maximum return at Nuneaton with Aaron Smith coming in at left back for Johnny Herd, Ed Hottor replacing Luke Harris in the centre and Enoch Andoh slotting in on the left wing for Tiago Nassunculo. All three of those being rested were included on the bench.
It was the first of Smith’s trademark long throws that created the games first shooting opportunity in eighth minute. The throw was only half cleared with the ball dropping to skipper Michael Richens on the edge of the box, but he screwed his first time effort well wide of keeper James Bradbrook’s right hand post.
The visitors carved out their first half chance two minutes later as Jake Turner robbed Hottor in the centre circle and fed in Joe Neal through the right channel. It took an excellent blocking tackle from Paddy Casey to prevent Romario Dunne forcing home Neal’s low cross at the back post.
The opening goal in the 18th minute came from a perfectly flighted in-swinging free kick from the left by Richens. Njoku timed his run to perfection, leapt like the proverbial salmon to meet the ball at the near post and power home his header giving Bradbrook no chance.
Now with their noses in front Ives went in search of a second and chances came and went in the following ten minutes. Fernando Bell-Toxtle and Hottor combined well to set Tyrone Baker off on a run in 24th minute. Baker weaved his way past defenders across the face of goal but having created the space for the shot then dragged his effort from just outside the box wide. Charlie Johnson rose highest to an Andoh corner two minutes later knocking the ball down into the mix where Njoku went for the spectacular trying an overhead kick to force the ball home but the effort went straight into the hands of Bradbrook.
The closest that Ives came to that vital second goal was in their very next attack only seconds later. Jordan Williams outjumped keeper Bradbrook to flick on a Smith long throw. Bell-Toxtle hooked the ball back from beyond the far post. Williams again rose highest in the crowded goal mouth but his header rebounded off the crossbar. Andoh was first to the dropping ball but his attempt to force it over the line was headed away from under his own crossbar by Tom Dickens.
Having survived that period under the cosh only one goal in arrears the visitors then began to show themselves again as an attacking force. Dickens put Ollie Caley-Brown away down the right in 33rd minute. The speedy winger cut in and unleashed a fierce cross shot that beat the diving Eddie Brearey but flashed across the face of goal with Yellows fans behind the goal claiming that Ives athletic keeper had got a touch.
Those same supporters were enjoying themselves with the lights on their mobile phones giving a good indication that they felt that the floodlights should be on by this point in the evening. But those lights were on nine minutes later thus Ives had no excuse for losing Turner as he ghosted in unmarked at the far post to head home Caley-Brown’s corner from the right to level things up just before the break.
The equaliser sparked a reaction from Ives and it took an excellent diving save from Bradbrook to prevent Baker restoring the host’s lead right on half time. The agile keeper plunged low to his right to palm away the winger’s crisp right foot drive from the edge of the box.
The second half was a much more even affair than the opening period with both sides struggling to create more than half chances to win it. The first fifteen minutes of it were played out without either keeper being tested. The first shot at goal from either side came on the hour and again it was a Smith long throw that created it. This one cleared everyone in the centre of goal and found Andoh lurking beyond the far post but he failed to keep down his effort to half volley the dropping ball.
Another Yellow’s corner ninety seconds later created more problems for Ives back line as the ball ricocheted around the box before eventually falling to Olu Oluwatimilehin and it took a brave block from a flying defender to keep out his goal bound effort.
The best chance for either side to grab that all important second goal came in 69th minute thanks to the tenacity of Njoku. He ran onto a flick from substitute Nassunculo and out battled Dickens to get his shot away. Bradbrook reacted well to push the fierce effort up into the air but Kellan Hickinson, who had only been on the field a matter of ten seconds, was following up. He got his head onto the ball six yards out but could only manage to hit a covering defender on the line with the effort.
The next ninety seconds saw the visitors twice go close to getting their noses in front. Initially an effort from Caley-Brown cutting in from the right deflected off an Ives defender and looked like it was going to loop over Brearey. The ball eventually dropping inches wide of the post much to the relief of Ives keeper. But it was he who showed huge presence of mind to keep the hosts level from the resulting corner. The half cleared flag kick was picked up by Turner on the back corner of the box and what was probably his attempt at a cross almost found the back of the net as it floated goalwards on the breeze. A fast back peddling Brearey got to the ball and was going to hold it when he realised that his momentum would take him backwards over the line. Instantly he threw the ball away from goal and it was hacked clear by a defender.
Njoku will probably feel that he should have done better with his next half chance in 73rd minute as a Richens free kick from the left rebounded off a defender and fell to his feet just outside the six yard box. The ball came quickly to him as he landed from his jump to try and get his head on the initial kick and he was unable to untangle his feet stabbing the effort wide.
The next opportunity fell to the visitors in 76th minute as Josh Okpolokpo fed in Neal through the right channel but the Yellows centre forward failed to hit the target as Brearey came to meet him. The unfortunate Okpolokpo was involved less favourably five minutes later when he picked up his second yellow card in nine minutes. The first had come following an altercation with Richens in the centre circle but this second one was entirely his own fault. Caught dallying with the ball just outside his own box by Andoh who nicked it off him and was just getting away when the full back pulled him back to give excellent referee Gareth Davis no option but to dismiss him. With the chance to punish the Yellows further from the resulting free kick Richens turned down the opportunity to go for goal or put the ball into the crowded box inexplicably playing it square to Hickinson who lost possession meaning that the ten men almost broke away to grab an unlikely victory.
There was an expectation that with the visitors now down to ten Ives might be able to come up with a barnstorming finish to push on to victory. But although they had a lot of possession in the remainder of the game they began to look a little leggy as the exertions of the game at Nuneaton 48 hours earlier began to take their toll and the resolute Yellows held firm so effectively that the hosts were unable to test Bradbrook further.
Final Score: St Ives Town 1 AFC Sudbury 1
ST IVES: Njoku 18
SUDBURY: Turner 41
Team Line Ups:
ST IVES: Brearey, Casey, Smith, Richens (capt), Williams, Johnson, Baker (Nassunculo 63), Hottor (Hickinson 68), Njoku, Bell-Toxtle (Harris 87), Andoh, Unused subs: Culkin, Herd
SUDBURY: Bradbrook, Okpolokpo, Tarpey (Oteng 75), Turner (capt) (Bennett 79), Lewis, Dickens, Caley-Brown, Oluwatimilehin, Neal, Dunne (Hunter 59), Bareck, Unused subs: Cousens, Whitehall
Cards: Yellow: ST IVES: Richens (72), Andoh (90+3) SUDBURY: Dunne (40), Lewis (88)
Red: Okpolokpo 2x yellows (72) & (81)
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: Enoch Andoh