St Ives Town 6 v Kettering Town 0
Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 26-12-2023
Nigel Howlett Reports
Ives supporters received the perfect Christmas present as their heroes produced a scintillating Boxing Day performance to blow away a woeful Poppies side. The hosts were pleased to return to quattro tech Westwood Road after three tough away games which had brought no reward. With Jonny Edwards passing a pre-match fitness test they also had the very rare luxury at this stage of the season of having a fully fit and available squad to pick from. Manager Ricky Marheineke made four changes from the pre-Christmas defeat at Leamington with Benji Mensah, Aaron Smith, Edwards and Josh Tomlinson all returning to the starting eleven.
There looked to be little between the two sides in the early stages of the game and the first two chances both fell to the visitors. The Poppies MK Dons loanee Phoenix Sholtz was finding a bit of room on the right and he got in the first shot of the game in fourth minute as he cut inside and fired across the face of goal from the corner of the box.
What turned out to be the visitors best chance of the game arrived five minutes later as Sholtz hung up a cross to the back post where Dan Jarvis had ghosted in unmarked. He tried to power his header high to Eddie Brearey’s left but the Ives stopper reacted well to dive full length and claw the effort away.
Ives were beginning to get a foothold in the game and wasted two, or three, opportunities to get players clear by over hitting the through ball but all that ended with a brilliantly taken goal from Mensah in 18th minute. The goal came at the end of a flowing move started within their own half that was ended by Myles Cowling laying the perfect pass into the young wing back’s well timed run. Mensah still had a lot to do as goalkeeper Will Johnson and a defender were both desperately looking to close him down. But the youngster kept his cool and deftly lifted the ball over both keeper and defender into the net a whirled away to celebrate leaving Johnson and his defender, Ben Toseland, to slide into each other.
From that point the hosts took the game by the scruff of the neck harrying their opponents mercilessly all over the park. Other chances came and went before Edwards doubled the lead five minutes before the break. Dan Barton set off on another of his mazy runs straight through the heart of the Poppies back line. The run eventually taking him clear of the struggling last man Kelvin Langmead. The young winger got his left footed shot away from just inside the box and it came within inches of opening his account for Ives. Keeper Johnson flung himself to his left and got a hand to the ball doing just enough to divert it onto the post. The covering Toseland looked like he was going to clear but got it tangled up his legs allowing Edwards to get a foot in and prod it over the line.
Those remaining five minutes had five more added to them thanks to an early injury to Poppies Tyrone Lewthwaite that eventually saw him relaced. During that time Ives could so easily have added to their lead on at least four, or five, occasions as they completely over ran the struggling visitors. Edwards thumped at 44th minute 25 yarder inches wide of Johnson’s left hand post with the keeper beaten. The chance had been set up by the all action Mensah harrying and robbing Poppies skipper Rhys Sharpe deep inside his own half.
Johnson’s goal then led a charmed life in the added time. Two minutes in and again Mensah dispossessed the struggling Sharpe and this time fed in Njoku through the right channel. Ives speedy striker unselfishly pulled the ball back into the path of Mensah who had continued his run. He in turn fed it on to the unmarked Edwards at the back post and it took a brilliant block from the diving keeper to keep out the centre forward’s well struck effort.
The final added minute saw another scramble inside the Poppies box as a Smith long throw bounced around the area before being fed out to Barton on the right and he hung up a teasing cross to the back post where Michael Richens rose above the crowd and powered down a header that bounced to safety off the foot of the post with Johnson looking on.
The Poppies fans in the bumper Bank Holiday crowd were no doubt hoping, and probably expecting, a much improved performance from their side in the second half but it did not materialise as the rampant Ives piled on the pressure with an all action display that gave their opponents no time at all to settle. Only two minutes after the re-start Cowling hung up a cross to the back post where Edwards rose highest but powered his header over the top.
Smith was enjoying the freedom of the quattro tech Westwood Road pitch as he was being left in acres of space on the left side of the park as young Sholtz seemed constantly caught in two minds of whether to go and mark him or stay inside to deal with the threatening runs of Cowling and Barton. Smith was using this time and space well and in 48th minute he fed in Mensah whose shot from just inside the box beat keeper Johnson but was cleared off the line by the covering Toseland.
Richens should probably have done a little better with a 54th minute shooting opportunity. Smith’s long throw from the left was knocked down to the Ives skipper near the penalty spot but under pressure from defenders he snatched the effort over the top.
Brearey’s first real action since that excellent save in the first ten minutes came in 56th minute as he was forced into a diving save low to his left hanging on well to Jarvis’s shot from just outside the box. But play quickly swung back to the opposite end of the pitch as Njoku and Mensah combined well inside the Poppies box. The move eventually ending as Mensah wriggled his way between a couple of defenders but fired over.
Ives third arrived just after the hour at the end of another flowing move. The ball again being fed out to Smith who had time to pick out his man with his cross. He went deep where Mensah did remarkably to not only keep the ball alive but flick it past a defender to get to the bye line before picking out Cowling on the edge of the box with his pull back. The midfielder’s shot was heading for Johnson’s bottom right hand corner, and that is where the keeper went, but Edwards cleverly deflected the shot on the way through sending it into the opposite corner.
Less than three minutes later Ives added a fourth. Edwards got clear on the right and drove in a cross to the near post where Njoku got across in front of his man to fire home from six yards. By this point the pressure on the Poppies goal was relentless and Ives players were so keen to score that they were getting in each other’s way. A flowing 69th minute move saw Barton put clear down the right and as his low driven cross was delivered to the near post it was met simultaneously by Cowling, Njoku and Mensah who between them only managed to prod an effort wide.
Poppies supporters were clearly not happy with their players performance on the day and there was a sparky moment a few seconds after that let off for the visitors as skipper Rhys Sharpe reacted badly to words aimed at him from some of his own supporters as he was being substituted by Gedeon Okito. But the real signal to get the visiting supporters leaving in their droves was Ives fifth goal fifteen minutes from time. The immaculate Cowling threaded another perfectly weighted pass into Njoku’s run. The striker took on the shot first time from just inside the box, but keeper Johnson spread himself well to make a block. Unfortunately for the keeper the first person to react to the loose ball was the Ives striker and this time he made no mistake.
The Poppies almost snuck a late consolation as Langmead got on the end of a pin point cross from the left by Jarvis. Although the centre back’s header beat the diving Brearey. Mensah was on hand to clear the ball off the line to preserve the clean sheet.
There was still time for Cowling to claim the goal that his all around performance had fully deserved and to put the final nail in the Poppies coffin two minutes from time. A move started just inside the visitor’s half by Cowling as he fed the ball out to substitute Greg Kaziboni, back to the feet of Cowling, on to Njoku who pulled it back to the penalty spot where Cowling who had continued his run met it perfectly to fire into the top corner of the net.
Ives supporters with long memories will take great satisfaction in this result. The host’s first season at step three, Bonfire night 2016 saw the Poppies come to Westwood Road and batter Ives 7-0. How things have changed in the intervening seven years and now Poppies fans know just what such a battering feels like. Ives must however use this result as a catalyst to resume their upward momentum which had been knocked a little off course during their recent run of tough away games and on paper a tough run now follows with four of their next six games against teams in and around the play-off places.
Final Score: St Ives Town 6 Kettering Town 0
ST IVES: Mensah 18, Edwards 40 & 62, Njoku 65 & 75, Cowling 87
Team Line Ups:
ST IVES: Brearey, Mensah, Smith (Harris 81), Richens (capt) (Hottor 73), Williams, Casey, Barton (Kaziboni 86), Cowling, Edwards, Njoku, Tomlinson, Unused subs: Tessler, Oti
KETTERING: Johnson, Toseland, Langmead, White (Miller 64), Andrade, Lewthwaite (Bennett 23), Sharpe (capt) (Okito 69), Dawson, Scott, Jarvis, Scholtz, Unused subs: Reilly, Dobson
Cards: Yellow: ST IVES: none KETTERING: Sharpe (36), Langmead (85)
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: Myles Cowling