Redditch United 0 v St Ives Town 2
Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 03-02-2024
Nigel Howlett reports from the Valley Stadium
Second half goals from Dan Barton and Jonny Edwards made it three wins out of three against the top sides for in-form Ives. Once again it was an excellent all round performance that gleaned a well deserved victory against the top of the table side roared on by a crowd of almost 750 in their own back yard. Ives fourth victory in a row takes them to the top of the current form table in the division and makes them a side to be feared by all. Just to make it all the more impressive this win was secured without the services of inspirational skipper Michael Richens who was serving a suspension for clocking up his tenth yellow card of the season against Needham Market.
Both sides started a little tentatively each testing out the others back line without finding a route through in the early stages. The first half chance fell to Ives in eleventh minute with Aaron Smith and Myles Cowling combining well on the left. The latter delivering a curling cross to the near post where Theo Alexandrou managed to get in front of his marker but directed his header inches wide of the near post.
Once that opening opportunity had come and gone both sides tried to use their obvious pace up front to try and work openings. Only seconds after Alexandrou’s effort, Smith again did well down the left feeding inside to Barton but rather than take on the shot the young winger tries to feed in Alexandrou only for the pass to be a little to heavy allowing home keeper Adam Harrison to tidy up.
At the other end of the park Jack Concannon and Tyrell Skeen-Hamilton were looking a handful and in 14th minute the former danced through a couple of tackles on the left side of the box and it took an excellent interception from Paddy Casey to prevent his strike partner getting on the end of Concannon’s low cross. Only moments later the two combined well again with Skeen-Hamilton pivoting well on the edge of the box but firing high over the top after having been fed by his team mate.
The next shooting opportunity also fell to the hosts in 20th minute when Jordan Cranston’s low cross from the right was blocked by Josh Tomlinson but the loose ball ricocheted to Reece Flanagan on the edge of the box. But like Skeen-Hamilton a little earlier he too failed to hit the target.
Back up the other end of the park Ives created another half chance this time the Reds struggled to deal with a Smith long throw which eventually ended up dropping to Tomlinson by the penalty spot but his powerful header cleared the crossbar.
The end to end action continued with Concannon and Skeen-Hamilton again combining on the half hour. Casey did well to block the latter’s shot at close range and James Dadge was alert to claim the loose ball. Despite a first half where both sides had created chances the first real save for either keeper did not arrive until two minutes before the break when Dadge did well to hang onto a fierce drive from the edge of the box by Flanagan. What was probably the best opportunity for either side in the first half then came deep in added time when Alex Cameron ghosted between Ives centre backs to get on the end of Cranston’s cross from the left but like so many before him the midfielder failed to test Dadge with his header.
Ives manager Ricky Marheineke made a tactical change at the break replacing midfielder Cowling with new signing Jake Hutchings who slotted into the centre of defence with Casey moving across to right back and Luke Harris moving into Cowling’s central role. The move seemed to spark the visitors who enjoyed a very good spell at the start of the second half. Edwards fired over after being set up by Alexandrou before Barton fired them in front in 56th minute. Harris was involved in the move as he, Alexandrou and Barton harried Morgan Owen into an error to allow the young winger to set off at pace into the heart of the Reds back line. A step inside created the space for a perfect curler into the top corner from just outside the box.
Reds manager Matt Clarke realised that he needed to change things to try and find a route back into the game against a very solid looking Ives and he made a double change just after the hour replacing his captain Flanagan and Skeen-Hamilton with Johnny Johnston and Callum Rowe but still the league leaders struggled to find a way through. Dadge did well to get a firm punch onto a 73rd minute corner but the ball dropped to Cranston 25 yards out. Instantly he was closed down and his shot rebounded off the body of an Ives defender.
Not content to just protect their slender lead the visitors continued to go in search of a second to effectively kill the game and they came within millimetres of that crucial goal in 78th minute as Harris’s in-swinging free kick from wide left somehow evaded everyone as it flashed across the six yard box and past the far post.
Smith fired a 25 yard screamer into the side netting with ten minutes to go before Edwards got the better of his marker Musa Ceesay for the first time in the game to win a penalty that effectively killed off the hosts resistance. Edwards wriggled his way past Ceesay just inside the box on the right and managed to end up goal side of his man with the ball. The defender was forced to pull back the Ives striker before eventually tripping him to concede the spot kick which Edwards picked himself up to take. Keeper Harrison went the right way but was unable to keep out Edwards powerfully struck effort.
With the cock a hoop Ives now well on top Barton danced down the right to tee up Edwards for a fierce, rising, drive from the edge of the box that beat Harrison but rattled the crossbar and rebounded to safety.
The beaten hosts carved out one opportunity for a consolation goal deep in added time when Hutchings hauled down Aram Soleman just outside the box. Brad Burton fired a wickedly swerving free kick past the four man wall but Dadge was not about to give away his clean sheet and the young keeper did well to initially parry the effort and then claim the dropping ball ahead of any lurking striker.
Seconds later the final whistle sounded on a thoroughly professional performance that earned the result it deserved and meant that Ives now sit closer to the giddy heights of the play-off places than they do the dreaded drop zone for the first time this season. The small consolation for the Reds was that after the days results they still sit atop the table but their lead has now been reduced to just a single point.
Final Score: Redditch United 0 St Ives Town 2
ST IVES: Barton 56, Edwards 82 (pen)
Team Line Ups:
REDDITCH: Harrison, Burton, Wollacott, R. Flanagan (capt) (Rowe 62), Skeen-Hamilton (Johnston 62), Concannon (George 79), Soleman, Cameron, Cranston, Ceesay, Owen, Unused Subs: Mussa, McNamara
ST IVES: Dadge, Harris, Smith, Cowling (Hutchings 46), Williams, Casey, Barton (Kaziboni 88), Hottor, Edwards, Alexandrou, Tomlinson, Unused subs: Joyce,
Cards: Yellow: REDDITCH: none ST IVES: Cowling (40), Hottor (45+2), Hutchings (90+4)
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: Jordan Williams