Ives beaten at Hitchin

Hitchin Town 3 v St Ives Town 2

Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central  19-08-2023

Nigel Howlett reports from Top Field

A frustrating day for Ives management team who felt that they could so easily have got something from this game but despite an excellent second half performance it was the speed and clinical finishing of the Canaries that decided the contest.

Manager Ricky Marheineke went for a change in formation going for a bold three at the back line up which saw Murphy Culkin come in on the left side to join Jordan Williams and Charlie Johnson. This allowed Paddy Casey and Johnny Herd to be pushed further forward to provide a greater threat in wide positions. But the Ives found themselves a goal in arrears before the new formation had any chance to bed in at all. Culkin was done for pace by Isaac Galliford after only 80 seconds and having sprinted past the struggling defender the hosts centre forward made no mistake thrashing the ball home past the exposed Eddie Brearey from just inside the box.

Ives began to settle into the contest and create a few half chances of their own. In 13th minute Johnson lost his marker to get on the end of a Herd long throw but his powerful header from by the penalty spot was straight at Charlie Horlock who made a comfortable save. The visitors went even closer to levelling things up three minutes later when Brandon Njoku cleverly dropped off his marker to find a little bit of space to get on the end of Casey’s teasing cross from the right. But once again the header was straight at Horlock who was this time forced into palming the effort over the crossbar.

Casey did well at the other end midway through the first half as he came in with a timely interception at the back post to prevent Galliford turning in a dangerous Bradley Bell cross from the right after the full back had combined well with Diogo Freitas-Gouveia in one of the host’s trademark pacey breaks.

Having survived that break Ives again enjoyed a period of good possession where they continued to create half chances. Skipper Michael Richens got on the end of an in-swinging Herd free kick from the right but under heavy pressure from defenders he failed to hit the target with his back post header. On the half hour the hard working Njoku did very well to keep in a long ball wide on the left. He took the opportunity to run at the defence and got past Bell cutting into the box but rather than try and pick out a team mate arriving in the centre he went for goal from a narrow angle allowing Horlock to make the save.

Having battled so hard to try and find a route back into the game Ives then found themselves undone again on the break. In 35th minute Galliford chased down a long ball and forced Culkin into an error before feeding in Freitas-Gouveia who gleefully slotted past the exposed Brearey to double the host’s advantage. The lead should have been three only two minutes later as Galliford outmuscled the covering Casey and fed in Freitas-Gouveia who again beat Brearey with his fierce effort from just inside the box and was unlucky to see the effort rebound from the upright.

The half ended with Richens taking down Freitas-Gouveia as the speedy winger was breaking away again. The foul took the Ives skipper’s card count up to three after only four games of this embryonic season. It also gave Galliford chance to fire a fierce cross shot across the face of goal that just evaded everyone in the centre and flashed past the far post much to Brearey’s relief.

Ives came out in determined mood at the start of the second period and set off in search of a route back into the game. Njoku was proving a handful for the Canaries defence and his powerful 50th minute run cutting in from the left saw him get to the bye line but again he was unable to find a team mate with his pull back. Richens won the resulting corner in the air but could only direct his header wide.

But with Ives pushing forward there was still a very real threat of the hosts grabbing another at the other end as the Canaries pacey front men continued to hunt down every long ball up the park. Finley Wilkinson manager to outpace Jordan Williams to get on the end of just such a long ball from Ciaren Jones in 53rd minute but the number eleven fired his first time effort just wide from the edge of the box. The next effort from the Canaries on the hour was a little different as it involved an attacker running at Ives back line. Freitas-Gouveia picked up the ball in midfield and ran across the front of the defence before firing just wide from 20 yards.

Njoku had been having a real battle with the hosts back line throughout and his tenacity earned him a penalty in 64th minute as he harried and robbed Jones right on the edge of the box. The host’s defender was forced to rugby tackle the Ives centre forward just inside the box to prevent him getting away. The fact that the foul was inside the box saved the Canaries defender from a red card with the double jeopardy rule coming into play excellent referee Stuart Smith awarded the spot kick and booked Jones. The centre back’s action however proved worthwhile as Njoku saw his rather tame spot kick saved by the diving Horlock.

But going so close seemed to lift Ives to greater efforts and they went close three times in the next five minutes. Substitute Enoch Andoh had a long throw knocked down to him at the back of the box but he snatched at the effort and fired well over from a good position only sixty seconds after the penalty miss. Three minutes later a snap shot from fully 30 yards by Njoku almost caught out Horlock with the scrambling keeper pleased to see the effort flash inches wide of his left hand post.

The keeper was forced into an excellent save in 69th minute as a Herd long throw was knocked down to Luke Harris just outside the box and his crisp first time effort skimmed through the crowd but failed to find the net thanks to the outstretched right hand of the diving Horlock.

Having gone close on so many occasions Ives did finally manage to halve the arrears with 15 minutes to go. Njoku harried Toby Syme into a mistake just outside his own box and robbed the defender before jinking through and clipping the ball past the exposed Horlock to get Ives back into the game.

Could a barnstorming finish be on the cards?, unfortunately not as the hosts restored their two goal advantage in the simplest fashion eight minutes later. Richens was adjudged to have pulled back Freitas-Gouveia 25 yards from goal to concede a free kick. Ives lined up a five man wall expecting a shot from the Canaries winger who had picked himself up to take it. But he caught out the Ives back line with a clever kick sliding the ball sideways to his left where Wilkinson had been left completely unmarked. The host’s striker hit his first time effort well and it found the back of the net beating the out of position Brearey low at his near post. The keeper being caught as much off guard as his defenders by the unexpected move.

But Ives were not done and reduced the arrears again in 88th minute. Two substitutes combined to set up the goal as Kellan Hickinson fed in Tyrone Baker, the winger cutting from the left and getting to the bye line before driving in a low cross that was deflected high into the roof of his own net by Jones.

There was an added six minutes at the end which was long enough for both sides to go close to adding to their tally. Galliford was put clean through in the first of those added minutes and should have killed the contest but Brearey did well to quickly close him down and bravely block the shot at close range.

Another mazy run from Baker carved out Ives chance to get something from the game two minutes later. Once more he got away down the left and got the bye line his pull back picked out Richens on the edge of the box, but the skipper was stretching for it and could only prod it on the Harris who in turn fed it on to Hickinson. The substitute struck the ball well from just inside the box but by then a whole posse of defenders was hurtling across the Canaries box to try and block the shot and sure enough one of them deflected the ball away to preserve the hosts lead and take them on to their third victory out of the opening four games.   

Final Score:  Hitchin Town  3  St Ives Town  2


HITCHIN: Galliford 2, Freitas-Gouveia 35, Wilkinson 86

ST IVES: Njoku 76, Jones (own goal) 87

Team Line Ups:

HITCHIN: Horlock (capt), Bell, Eadie, Syme, Jones, Barker, Freitas-Gouveia (Georgiou (90+4), Cotter, Galliford, Idiakhoa, Wilkinson, Unused subs: Gleeson, Tearle, Black. Luwero

ST IVES: Brearey, Casey, Herd, Richens (capt), Williams, Johnson, Culkin (Hickinson 78), Harris, Njoku, Bell-Toxtle (Baker 51), Nassunculo (Andoh 63), Unused subs: Smith, Hottor

Cards: Yellow:  HITCHIN: Jones (64), ST IVES: Casey (37), Richens (40), Williams (73), Johnson (89)


Attendance:  468