Ives secure top 10 finish with last day win

St Ives Town 3 v Alvechurch 2 

Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central  27-04-2024

Nigel Howlett reports

Ives concluded their best ever season at step three with another hugely entertaining encounter and although all of the goals came in the last twenty minutes this end to end game could easily have seen more than the five that made up the result. With Dan Barton out with injury manager Ricky Marheineke again went with the bold attacking 4-3-3 formation that had entertained us last week at Halesowen.

That formation may have been thrown very early on with Luke Harris picking up an injury that saw him leave the arena midway through the first half to be replaced by fit again Johnny Herd, but the experienced full back slotted perfectly into the centre of the park and very quickly looked at home there whilst also giving Ives an alternative long thrower as well as free kick and corner taker.

The game started in the way that it was going to continue with Jake Hutchings doing very well to help out his fellow centre back Jordan Williams by sliding in to make a brave block of Jaanai Gordon’s fierce seventh minute drive after the Church centre forward had robbed Williams just outside the box and driven in on goal. The resulting corner saw the ball fed back to Nick Clayton-Phillips who unleashed a screamer from the corner of the box that beat the diving Sam Bentley but just scraped over the crossbar.

Ives thought that they had grabbed the lead three minutes later. Skipper Michael Richens unleashed a dipping, swerving, pile driver from 30 yards out that screamed past the despairing dive of Church keeper Ronnie Hollingshead, thudded the crossbar and looped high into the air. Jonny Edwards was first to react nodding home the dropping ball only to have his celebration interrupted by the assistant’s upraised flag.

Unusual to say this season, but Edwards should probably have done better with a 23rd minute chance set up by Myles Cowling. The Ives busy midfielder robbed a dallying Dylan Mitchell deep inside his own half, the ball was fed inside to Amaru Kaunda who in turn fed in Edwards through the right channel. But with only keeper Hollingshead to beat the Ives striker fired his effort wide of the far post.

It took a brilliant flying save from Bentley to maintain the parity in 33rd minute. Dylan Allen-Hadley cut in from the left and let fly an effort from just outside the box that looked destined for the top corner before being diverted over the top by the acrobatic Bentley. The resulting Clayton-Phillips corner led to a scramble in the Ives box that ended with Ethan Patterson stabbing the ball into the side netting from close range.

Ives got the ball in the net for a second time in 37th minute. A brilliant flowing move involving Edwards and Richens ended with the latter picking out Theo Alexandrou with a brilliant cross field ball and the young striker finished well only to become the second player of the game to have his celebration terminated by the assistant’s upraised flag.

The game continued in the same vein with both sides going close again in the closing stages of the first half. Richens had a 39th minute shot deflected wide. Jake Hutchings rose highest to win the resulting corner at the back post but could only direct his header wide of the post. The last opportunity before the break fell to the visitors but Clayton-Phillips fired his 25 yard free kick well over the top to take the game into half time goalless.

As has often been the case of late Ives lifted their game at the start of the second period and had Alexandrou got a better first touch to Herd’s 49th minute clip over the top he would have got clear but he gave Hollingshead chance to react and slide in to claim the ball.

But even as Ives looked to build the pressure the visitors were still looking dangerous on the break. Bentley had to be at his best to deny Allen-Hadley again two minutes later as the young wide man again cut in from the left and fired in a powerful low right footed effort that Bentley was forced to push away at full stretch low to his left.

The hosts came with millimetres of going in front in 54th minute when they hit the woodwork for the second time in the game. The chance was created by the brilliance of Alexandrou as he cleverly drew in and then beat Archie Crowther by the corner flag before setting off along the goal line. His pull back picked out Cowling in a little bit of space just inside the box. The young midfielder coolly tried to pick his spot around the covering defenders and he almost got it right but his shot rebounded off the crossbar. Richens pounced on the loose ball but could only fire straight into the hands of a well positioned Hollingshead.

Another Herd corner caused problems for the visitors two minutes later as again Hutchings managed to lose his man to get in a header at the back post but this time his effort was hacked away from just in front of the goal line by Crowther.

Church manager James Fry made his first change in 63rd minute replacing Daniele Reka with Finley Thorndike and that change had an almost instant impact as Thorndike almost scored with his first touch. Fed in by Clayton-Phillips, his shot from just outside the box beat the diving Bentley but clipped the outside of the post. Only seconds later the young substitute had another opportunity. This time teed up by Gordon for a fierce drive that stung the hands of Bentley as the keeper parried it away.

At the other end Ives leading scorer Edwards continued his quest to finish the season with 30 league goals to his name and he twice went close in 67th minute. Initially robbing Josh Dugmore he fired in a low 25 yarder that forced Hollingshead into a diving save low to his right. Then getting on the end of Richens in-swinging corner but steering his near post header over the top.

The goal that had been threaten all afternoon finally arrived with eighteen minutes to go. Keeper Hollingshead decided to come for Herd’s long throw and he managed to get a fist on it over the crowd at the near post. But his punch lacked power and was poorly directed falling at the feet of Richens who slammed it home first time from 15 yards.

Just like buses, having waited so long for one to come along a second followed it almost immediately. Richens was the provider this time as he clipped a ball past a static Patterson to put Edwards through. The big man claimed his 29th of the season as he just beat the on rushing Hollingshead to the ball to poke it past him then calmly rolled it into the empty net.

Now two in front and well in control Richens had a chance to make it three in 75th minute when Patterson clumsily upended Alexandrou inches outside the box in a central position. The skipper tied to repeat his brilliant free kick at Barwell earlier in the month. But this one was a little to close and although he got it over the four man wall he was unable to get it down quickly enough.

Just when it looked like Ives were coasting a little bit of brilliance from Gordon suddenly turned the game on its head. Kartell Dawkins got away down the right and delivered a tempting cross to the near post where Gordon met it perfectly with an acrobatic flying scissor kick that fired the ball past Bentley from twelve yards.

The hosts then needlessly conceded a penalty to level things up with nine minutes to go. Once more the move came down the right with Allen-Hadley trying to run onto Dawkins ball into the box. Even if he had got to it the young winger was going away from goal towards the corner flag but Bentley rashly slid in from behind him to try and claim the ball only to give away the spot kick. Gordon sent Bentley the wrong way to level things up. Now very much game on.

But Ives were not done and an 85th minute corner was half cleared to the edge of the box where Cowling came in at pace to attack the dropping ball only to be taken down clumsily by Clayton-Phillips. Referee Ashley Butler was in the perfect position to see the point of contact and decided that this time it was inside the box. Edwards presented with the opportunity to claim his 30th of the season was calmness personified from the spot sending Hollingshead the wrong way to end Ives season on a high.

So ends the Ives best ever season at step three. First ever top ten finish (ninth), record points haul (58 from 40 games), divisions leading team scorers (87) and leading individual scorer in the division Jonny Edwards (30). All that after one of the worst starts ever with only one win in the first twelve games and only six points on the board at the end of October. From that point on the team has hit play-off form and been the real entertainers of the division.

We can all hope for more of the same next season, enjoy your summer.

Final Score:  St Ives Town   3  Alvechurch   2    


ST IVES: Richens 72, Edwards 73, 86 (pen)

ALVECHURCH: Gordon 80, 81 (pen)

Team Line Ups:

ST IVES: Bentley, Casey, Smith, Richens (capt), Williams, Hutchings, Alexandrou (Kaziboni 79), Cowling, Edwards, Kaunda, Harris (Herd 23), Unused subs: Fifield,

ALVECHURCH: Hollingshead, Dugmore (capt), Dyer, Mitchell, Paterson, Crowther, Allen-Hadley, Clayton-Phillips, Gordon, Dawkins, Reka (Dawkins 63), Unused subs: Ofosu, Hallahan, Cassidy, Carter

Cards:   Yellow:  ST IVES: Richens (24)       ALVECHURCH: none


Attendance: 373