St Ives Town v Yaxley
Huntingdonshire FA Senior Cup – Final @ Eynesbury Rovers FC 25-04-2023
Keeper James Dadge was the hero saving three penalties in the shoot-out as Ives concluded their season by retaining the Hunts FA Senior Cup in an otherwise uninspiring final on the immaculate surface at Eynesbury Rovers FC.
Ives last defeat in this competition came in 2018 and on paper they were hot favourites for this game against a Cuckoos side relegated from step four with the unenviable record of having won only two games all season, one of those the semi-final against step six Eaton Socon that got them to the final. But the return of Lloyd Burton as manager has seen Yaxley become a much harder side to beat and that extra resilience shone through in this game as the Cuckoos battled all the way to take the game into the decisive penalty competition.
With skipper Michael Richens again missing at his wife’s bedside in the maternity hospital it fell to Johnny Herd to take the armband for the second game in a row. The first opportunity of the evening came from one his trademark long throws in the tenth minute but Charlie Johnson’s flick was well claimed by Kacper Kurylowicz in the Cuckoos goal just ahead of the lurking Enoch Andoh.
Andoh then spurned a golden opportunity to put Ives in front three minutes later. Herd delivered a teasing cross from the left, Edwards won the ball at the near post and his knock down took a deflection off a defender and fell invitingly to the Ives winger eight yards out. But Andoh snatched at the chance and dragged his effort wide of the target. Had that gone in we might have all been looking at a rather different evening.
But whilst they enjoyed parity the Cuckoos were not about to give it away. Ives continued to enjoy the more than just the lion’s share of possession but, as on Saturday, with Richens missing they were struggling to find routes through the solid blue banks of Yaxley. They were presented with a half chance in 18th minute as Paddy Casey cut out a poor throw from Kurylowicz and fed the ball into the feet of Edwards inside the box. The usually deadly striker was quickly closed down by Charlie Stallard and Melvin Onu, he did manage to get a shot away but the effort went about a metre wide of Kurylowicz’s right hand post with the keeper looking on.
The Cuckoos first half chance of the evening came in one of their rare forays forward in 25th minute. Dadge sprinted from his goal to clear a long ball over the top but did not make good contact with the ball falling to Ethan Wilson inside the centre circle. The midfielder took a touch but his attempt to lob the fast retreating Dadge went horribly wrong with the ball ending up nearer the corner flag than the goal.
Ives did get a little closer in their next meaningful attack three minutes later as patient build up concluded with Casey clipping the ball into the box where Edwards again won the header and the ball again fell to Andoh on the corner of the six yard box. He went for the spectacular taking the ball on the volley. His clean strike flashed by Kurylowicz but rattled the upright and rebounded to safety.
The first corner of the game arrived just after the half hour and Herd delivered it in-swinging from the right. This time Charlie Johnson got the near post flick and the ball bounced on through the six yard box before arriving at the feet of Ed Hottor beyond the far post. But under pressure from defenders the Ives midfielder fired way over the top into the roof of the grandstand behind the goal.
Herd continued to deliver dangerous balls into the box and Ives continued to win the knock downs but no one was getting on the end of them and that was shown again as the first half entered added time. Herd’s deep corner from the left was won in the air by Johnson at the back post and the ball once more bounced invitingly through the six yard box with no one able to apply the decisive finish.
The Cuckoos enjoyed a brief purple patch at the start of the second half and they twice went close to going in front in the first five minutes after the re-start. The dangerous looking Marcus Pancho got away down the left in 48th minute and it took and excellent covering block from Johnson to prevent Richard Acheampong turning home his low cross at the near post. The underdogs went even closer to taking the lead two minutes later as they spurned their best opportunity of the evening. Ex Ives midfielder Andrew Osei-Bonsu threaded a perfectly weighted pass through the Ives back line to put Pancho completely clear one on one with Dadge. As the keeper came to meet him Pancho slid the ball past him low to his left but it rolled agonisingly inches wide of the post.
Normal service was soon resumed after that brief interlude of Yaxley pressure as Ives returned to knocking on the door but lacking the guile to find a way through the well organised Cuckoos defence. Half chances continued to come and go. A 52nd minute Edwards free kick from 25 yards beat the four man wall but was comfortably gathered in by Kurylowicz for his first save of the game.
Yaxley continued to concede free kicks around their box, but Ives still lacked that bit of inventiveness necessary to find a way through. A 55th minute Herd free kick was won in the air by Johnson and his knock down fell to Edwards but again another defender appeared to block the effort, this time it was Stallard putting his body on the line to deflect the effort wide.
The introduction of Greg Kaziboni replacing centre back Johnson and adding an extra attacker still did not change things as Ives still kept probing but didn’t really look like scoring. Another chance came and went in 73rd minute when Hottor teed up Andoh for a shot from the edge of the box. But again the effort flew wide of the target.
There was one final scare for Ives twelve minutes from time when the Cuckoos won their first corner of the game. Dadge came to fist it clear but the punch lacked distance and the ball dropped to Osei-Bonsu who’s first time effort from just outside the box deflected just wide off the leg of a defender.
With no more real opportunities created either way in the remaining time the game went straight to the drama of the shoot out where Dadge quickly emerged as the hero. The young keeper pulled off a brilliant save low to his right to keep out Osei-Bonsu’s well struck first spot kick. Edwards did his usual with his kick sending keeper Kurylowicz the wrong way to put Ives one up. Acheampong stepped up next for the Cuckoos and he to was denied by the amazing Dadge who this time plunged low to his left to keep out another well struck effort.
Substitute Ben Toseland matched Edwards with his kick, finding the left corner of the net as Kurylowicz dived to his right to make it 2-0. The only man to beat the otherwise immaculate Dadge was Pancho who even then only just found the net with the keeper getting a hand to his effort high to his right. Kaziboni matched his colleagues by beating Kurylowicz high to his left with a perfectly struck spot kick.
It was only fitting though that the man who won the cup for Ives was the last to touch the ball on the night. A nervous looking Jude Adebayo stepped up next for Yaxley and he too struck his shot well but Dadge was equal to it again going to his left to push the ball away and claim that very impressive looking trophy that Ives first won way back in 1901.
Final Score: St Ives Town 0 Yaxley 0 (St Ives Town won 3-1 on Penalties)
Team Line Ups:
ST IVES: Dadge, Casey, Herd (capt) (Toseland 82), Hottor, J. Williams, Fox, Baker (Johnston 82), Harris, Edwards, Johnson (Kaziboni 71), Andoh, Unused subs: Marheineke
YAXLEY: Kurylowicz (capt), Bahrey, Adebayo, Stallard, Onu, Tessler, Wilson, Elkossi (Usman 82), Acheampong, Pancho, Osei-Bonsu, Unused subs: Snelling, Dass, Kowalski
Cards: Yellow: ST IVES : Johnson (39), Casey (41) YAXLEY : Elkossi (54), Onu (65), Wilson (66)
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: James Dadge
Match report by Nigel Howlett. Match highlights by Ollie Jones. Photo James Richardson.