Nigel Howlett Reports
St Ives Town 3 v Barwell 1
Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 27-11-2023
The battle of the in-form sides in the division provided entertainment a plenty, a barn storming second half comeback saw the threadbare Ives extend their winning league run to a record breaking five games as they inflicted a first defeat in eight on the Canaries.
With illness, injury and unavailability cutting deep into their small squad the Ives were only able to name two on the bench with the starting line up including late call ups for dual registered Callum Milne returning from Corby Town and Greg Kaziboni whose last start had been at Needham Market in late September.
With the above in mind it is perhaps not surprising that it was the visitors who had the majority of the early possession and created the games first opportunity after only six minutes when Tom Cursons dropped off at the back post to take down a deep Kobe Chong free kick. It took a brilliant goal line clearance from Paddy Casey to keep out his powerful drive that beat the diving Eddie Brearey in the Ives goal.
The hosts first opportunity of the game fell to Milne as the visitors struggled to clear an Aaron Smith long throw. The ball eventually dropping to the centre back beyond the far post. He struck his effort well but the ball deflected away off the legs of a covering defender.
Brearey had to be alert and have a fantastic sense of exactly where his area ended to ensure that Ives stayed level in 25th minute. A ball through the right channel from Chong looked like it had put Cursons clear. Brearey timed the sprint from his line to perfection to slide in and claim the ball off the toe of the advancing striker but the keeper also showed fantastic awareness to release the ball as he slid out of his area on the wet surface pushing it away to safety.
By this point in the game Ives had settled down and were beginning to create better chances of their own. Michael Richens fired a thirty yard free kick around the Canaries two man wall to force a diving save out of visiting keeper Harry Griffiths only ninety seconds after Brearey’s heroics at the other end. Ives best chance of the first period came and went on the half hour courtesy of one of their trademark flowing breaks. The move ended with Jonny Edwards sliding a ball through the Canaries back line that Brandon Njoku just beat keeper Griffiths to. But the young striker was heading away from goal at pace and off balance when he tried to strike the ball into the empty net and it flew inches wide of the gaping goal.
To rub salt in Ives wounds at missing that chance they then fell behind to a sucker punch eight minutes later. Chong delivered another deep free kick to beyond the far post where MJ Kamara timed his run to perfection to meet the dropping ball cleanly and send in a towering header that flew past Brearey and just inside the far post. Canaries celebrations suggested that they thought they had done a lot more than just scored the opener in this game. They took that momentum into the next few minutes and went close to increasing their lead just before the break as Brady Hickey ghosted between the Ives centre backs to get on the end of Ethan Hill’s ball in from the right. But fortunately his header was straight at Brearey who held on well.
There was just time for Richens to almost catch out Griffiths with a free kick from fully 35 yards that just scraped over the crossbar with the young keeper, who had positioned himself for the anticipated clip to the back post, scrambling back to cover.
Canaries right winger Beck-Ray Enoru was being watched by a plethora of scouts from higher level clubs but Ives had been very effective in keeping him out of the game in the first half. But someone of Enoru’s ability is going to have influence at some point in the game and he had two good chances early in the second period. Three minutes after the re-start Chong fed him in through the right channel and it took an excellent diving save, low to his left, by Brearey to keep out his first time effort from the edge of the box.
Ives box looked a bit like a shooting gallery in 53rd minute as a corner from the left bounced around. Enoru’s had the first go and his goal bound effort rebounded off one of his own team mates. The follow up by Hill also bounced away off the body of friend, or foe, in the crowd in front of Brearey’s goal.
The game was by no means all one way and Ives carved out another opportunity to get level in 57th minute as Njoku got across his man at the near post to get on the end of another of Richens in-swinging free kicks. But the young striker got a bit to much of the ball and directed his effort wide of the near post.
Give Njoku his due though he will always keep trying and eight minutes later he came up with the equaliser in almost identical fashion as he again attacked the near post and this time his close range flick to Kaziboni’s in-swinging cross was perfectly directed giving Griffiths no chance. Three minutes later and the tables were turned completely as the Canaries defence failed to deal with Sam Tessler’s clip over the top as Njoku harried and hassled them. Kaziboni picked up the loose ball and burst clear through the centre to fire Ives in front.
Things could have been a little different though as between those two goals Brearey had pulled off another good save to deny Enoru after Hickey and Josh Flanagan had combined well to set up the shooting chance for the dangerous winger. Enoru showed another flash of his abilities in 73rd minute when he burst down the left to deliver a cross to the near post where Micah Edwards met it perfectly and was a little unlucky to see his powerful header rebound off the body of a well positioned Brearey.
Ives effectively killed the game off in 78th minute as another Tessler clip over the top was met with hesitation amongst the nervy Barwell back line Kyle Rowley and fellow centre back George Ward both seemed to expect the other to deal with it and that type of hesitation is fatal with Njoku around. He nipped between the two, seized the ball, once again rounding the exposed Griffiths and this time finding the back of the net.
Now well on top Ives went close to a fourth, three minutes later, as another of their familiar flowing breaks once more caught the visitors back line in disarray and this time Richens, who had brought the ball from halfway just kept going and his fierce shot from 20 yards almost dipped under the body of the diving Griffiths who was pleased to see the rolling ball go wide of his right hand upright.
Ives comfortably saw out the remaining time to end a very successful November for the club. The result lifted the hosts to 14th in the table and prevented the visitors from moving up into the play-off places. The only disappointment was the small crowd, many were no doubt put off by the cold and the rain. But those of you who chose to stay by the fireside missed out on a thriller and there is plenty to warm your cockles in this Ives side.
Final Score: St Ives Town 3 Barwell 1
ST IVES: Njoku 65 & 78, Kaziboni 68
BARWELL: Kamara 38
Team Line Ups:
ST IVES: Brearey, Harris, Smith, Richens (capt), Milne, Casey, Kaziboni (Cowling 82), Hottor, J. Edwards, Njoku, Tomlinson (Tessler 46), Unused subs: none
BARWELL: Griffiths, Flanagan, Kamara, Hill, Rowley, Ward, Enoru, Chong, Cursons (Davidson-Miller 72), Hickey (capt), M. Edwards, Unused subs: Evans, Master, Kutshienza, Manocchio
Cards: Yellow: ST IVES: Casey (53), Harris (90+2) BARWELL: Rowley (33), Hill (45)
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: Brandon Njoku