Eaton Socon 0 v St Ives Town 1
Huntingdonshire FA Senior Cup 1st Round 31-10-2023
Nigel Howlett Reports
A Charlie Johnson header from a corner after 26 minutes was the goal which sent cup holders St Ives through to the semi-final of Hunts FA Senior Cup but all of the plaudits must go to the hard working step six Eagles who battled hard throughout to ensure that this game remained much tighter than many would have expected right to the end.
One thing that did help the hosts though was their bobbly River Road pitch and it was that which prevented Tiago Nassunculo testing home keeper Devon Phelan in the second minute. Ives rangy striker had started his run on the half way line and things opened up for him nicely to get an effort away from just outside the box but the bobble meant that the effort went high and wide.
The first effort on target of the evening came in the 18th minute but debutant Nick Keyamo’s flicked header to Aaron Smith’s long throw only required a comfortable save to his left for keeper Phelan.
With Ives in total control and moving the ball around well despite the surface it looked like simply a matter of time before they could find a way through the hard working Eagles back line. An excellent 25th minute through ball from Johnson looked like it had put Jonny Edwards clear but Josh Newman had other ideas and came sliding across to bravely block the shot when it came.
The visitors got their noses in front in the simplest fashion from the resulting Luke Harris corner which perfectly picked out the unmarked Johnson twelve yards out. The powerful centre half got his header spot on as he found the top corner of the net just beyond the despairing dive of Phelan.
Now in front and in complete control of the game Ives fans in the compact stadium were expecting more goals to follow but it just did not happen. The next action for Phelan was not until ten minutes before the break when he struggled to keep out a teasing cross from the right by Harris that looked like it was going to drift in at his near post. He just did enough at the expense of a corner but this one came to nothing.
A couple more chances to increase the lead came and went in those remaining ten minutes before half time. Nassunculo’s flicked header to a Smith cross from the left required a routine save from Phelan. But the keeper did not even have to work to keep out the second one as Keyamo stabbed another low Smith cross wide of the near post.
The Eagles only real probe into Ives territory in the first half came in the very last minute with covering defender Paddy Casey blocking a Brad Brown shot from 25 yards before it even entered the box.
One change for Ives at the break with Jordan Williams coming on to replace Casey in a like for like swap in the back three. Ives fans still thinking that the goal fest was going to arrive soon were sadly mistaken as the battling Eagles kept themselves in the game. But things may have been a little different had Edwards hit the target as he got on the end of Nassuculo’s hanging cross from the right three minutes after the restart. But he was perhaps a little hampered by Fernando Bell-Toxtle getting across in front of him and the header flew over the top.
Edwards had a second opportunity to increase the lead two minutes later when he beat the Eagles attempted offside trap to get on the end of Harris’s deep cross in space but rather than take the ball down he tried to cleverly lob the out of position Phelan and the effort drifted just wide of the post.
Harris came close to catching out Phelan with another cross from the right that looked like it was going to drift in under the crossbar in 56th minute. But the fast back peddling keeper did just enough to claw the ball away. As the ball dropped inside the box Edwards went for a spectacular scissor kick that resulted in what golfers would call a fresh air allowing Eagles defenders to scramble it away.
Two more Ives changes just after the hour saw the introduction of Cambridge United loanees Brandon Njoku and Dan Barton to replace Edwards and Keyamo respectively. But even this exciting pair struggled to put together any flowing moves on this pitch. They did combine to carve out one opportunity 15 minutes from time when Barton got down the right and delivered a dangerous cross to the back post where Njoku arriving at pace met it on the volley but like others before him on the evening he failed to hit the target.
Ives continued to look untroubled but as the clock ticked down the home bench and supporters began to get a little more animated as they realised that there was still a small chance that they could get something from the game. That little bit of belief did transfer to the players on the pitch and the only recorded shots for the Eagles in the game both came in the last ten minutes but neither troubled Eddie Brearey in the Ives goal. An 81st minute snap 25 yarder from Callan Irvine went well wide and an added time effort from a similar distance by Frankie Webster took a similar trajectory.
The final whistle followed quickly after that effort to bring the curtain down on an evening where Ives can say that although they were by no means spectacular they got the job done and go into the hat for the semi-finals. The Eagles will hope that the level of effort shown throughout this game can be matched in their upcoming league fixtures to boost them up the Spartan South Midlands Division One table.
Other benefits from the game were the opportunity to get minutes in for squad players and also for the management team to get an opportunity to properly run the rule over new signings Keyamo and centre back Sam Tessler who looked composed, although not really tested on an overall satisfactory evening.
ST IVES: Johnson 26
Team Line Ups:
EATON SOCON: Phelan, Buckle, Flack (Samupita 84), Newman, E. Smith (capt), Irvine, Webster, Brown, Jolly (Zekri 72), Mitcham (Kimpton 58), Rhaman, Unused subs: Buckland, Reid
ST IVES: Brearey, Hottor, A. Smith, Bell-Toxtle (capt), Tessler, Casey (Williams 46), Keyamo (Barton 61), Harris, Edwards (Njoku 61), Nassunculo, Johnson, Unused subs: Richens, Cowling,
Cards: Yellow: EATON SOCON: none ST IVES: none
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke Harris