St Ives Lionesses kept alive their hopes of claiming top spot in the Championship South with a very hard fought win over one of their rivals for the crown at a very sunny Pro-Edge Stadium.
The game was decided by a well taken early goal from Ives skipper Sasha Smith, but the result was achieved by an impressive all round team performance and a very solid defensive display in which keeper Kira Markwell and centre back Mollie Flack were outstanding.
The speedy Milton no. 10 had the ball in the Ives net as early as 3rd minute, but fortunately the eagle eyed match official had spotted her pull back on Megan Stowe as she powered through and disallowed the effort.
Hannah Seymour-Shove was winning a lot of the ball in the centre of the park and she almost put Smith clear in the 12th minute. It took a foul on the edge of the box by the Milton centre back to deny Smith a clear run on goal. The free kick came to nothing.
Two minutes later the same two players combined again and this time Smith battled her way clear to get on the end of Seymour-Shove’s through ball. The keeper bravely closed her down and blocked Smith’s effort at close range. But the tough centre forward battled on and just managed to turn the loose ball home from a narrow angle in spite of the efforts of a covering defender to clear.
Hannah Seymour-Shove continued to enjoy a lot of possession in the centre of the park and she combined well with Georgia Rebane to set up a shooting opportunity for Tierney Poore on 23 minutes. Poore’s effort from 20 yards was well struck, but straight at the keeper who held on well.
Milton slowly began to work their way into the game and started to create a few opportunities of their own as the half wore on. The two central strikers combined well to try and work their way through on 27 minutes. But when the shot finally came in it was blocked by an Ives defender. The ensuing scramble in the box ended with a follow up shot fired well over from a good position.
Keeper Markwell showed her alertness and bravery just after the half hour as the Milton centre forward broke clear onto a clip over the top. Markwell was quick off her line and bravely threw herself across the shot on the edge of the box. The ball ran loose to another Milton player following up, but Markwell showed her speed of recovery by again hurling herself in to the feet of the attacker. But this time she mistimed her challenge just outside the box and took out the opposition player instead of the ball. She picked up a yellow card for her troubles, but certainly took one for the team as she prevented a clear shot on a vacant goal. The free kick was hammered over the top so Ives preserved their lead.
Ives were somewhat under the cosh during the latter period of the first half, but did create one opportunity from a very direct move. A long punt from Markwell was skilfully brought down by Rebane 25 yards from the Milton goal. She instantly spotted Amy Seymour-Shove in space on the left and sprayed a long diagonal ball into her run. The young winger took the ball in her stride, took a touch, and fired in a powerful drive from the corner of the box that the Milton keeper did well to hang onto.
Markwell was again the Ives saviour two minutes from the break as the dangerous Milton no. 10 again managed to break clear to run onto a through ball from her fellow striker. But she got a slightly heavy touch on the ball which was just sufficient to give the ever alert Markwell time to sprint from her line and just win the race to the ball.
Ives had one chance to double their advantage right on the break as they won a corner which was delivered from the right by Hannah Seymour-Shove. Substitute Connie Liddiard managed to get in front of her marker and got in a clean strike at the near post but Milton’s keeper was again well positioned to make the save.
The home side started the second half in positive fashion and created three good opportunities in the first ten minutes. On 51 minutes Amy Seymour-Shove won the ball in midfield and played it into the feet of Rebane. She teed up Poore for a first time volley from the edge of the box that just cleared the crossbar.
Less than sixty seconds later a handball 25 yards from goal set up a free kick opportunity for the returning Smith. She struck her free kick well over the wall, but again the Milton keeper was equal to the effort. The third opportunity two minutes later fell to Rebane as she got on the end of a long ball from Liddiard, but the Milton keeper was on hand to make another routine save.
The next major incident of the game came just before the hour as the speedy Milton no.10 escaped her marker and raced onto another ball through the channel. Once again Markwell came off her line at speed and again she beat the striker to the ball hacking it away from the edge of the box. But the momentum of the two players took them both on into a sickening clash of heads. Both players fell to the deck and both were helped from the field after a lengthy stoppage for treatment. The versatile Liddiard donned the yellow jersey and play resumed after a ten minute stop.
This incident and the heat of the day seemed to be taking a little of the pace out of the game and the next 15 minutes passed without either side creating a decent opportunity, although Ives did win three corners in quick succession around the 70 minute mark.
Amy Seymour-Shove was brought down by a clumsy tackle 30 yards from goal on 75 minutes. Smith delivered a well struck free kick to the far post where Leigh Chatten who had only just come on bravely challenged the keeper for the ball. Chatten was deemed to have fouled the keeper, by jumping into her, but she was the one who came off worse as she took a blow from the keeper’s attempted punch clear. She became the third player of the afternoon to leave the field looking a little groggy.
Milton had one chance to pinch a draw and it came with eleven minutes of normal time remaining as a long punt from the keeper was allowed to bounce and the Milton substitute got between Ives defenders and stand in keeper Liddiard to get a toe on the ball. But much to the relief of all it rolled inches wide of the post.
The superior stamina of the Ives team began to tell as the game wore on into the added eleven minutes and they probably should have sewed the game up in this added time. Two minutes in Molly Berryman delivered an excellent ball into the box that eluded everyone in the middle. Georgia Stancombe had ghosted into the far post un-noticed and looked certain to score, but she took a touch and the excellent Milton keeper quickly closed her down forcing her to shoot into the side netting.
We had played eight added minutes when Georgia Stancombe got away down the right running onto an excellent through ball from Chloe Stefanelli. Stancombe got past a covering defender and cut in on goal. But a slightly heavy touch gave the Milton keeper chance to show her bravery as she plunged in at the feet of Stancombe to claim the ball.
Smith was only denied her second by the final whistle as she was put through the middle by Poore and was bearing down on goal as the referee brought proceeding to an end.
Overall a very competitive game watched by an appreciative crowd of over 100 people on a beautiful sunny afternoon. The result means the Ives have now guaranteed themselves at least second place with one game to go and a chance to overhaul Park Ladies on the final day of the season. A fantastic performance from a brand new side expertly moulded together by Darren, Neil and Simon.
Player of the match was jointly won by the excellent Kira Markwell and Mollie Flack who did an equally good job keeping the very dangerous Milton no. 10 in her pocket for most of the game.
For anyone who did not manage to get along to see them this season, look out for their games next year as this side, like the whole Club, are going places.
St Ives team : Markwell, Stefanelli, Berryman, P. Webb, Stowe, Flack, Stancombe, H. Seymour-Shove, Smith (capt), Rebane, A. Seymour-Shove.
Subs : all used roll on/roll off : Liddiard, Chatten, Jenkins, Poore, Ford
Goal : Smith 14
Players of the match : Mollie Flack & Kira Marwell
Attendance : 102