Banbury United 3 St Ives Town 1
Evo-Stik League South Premier – 24/03/18
This game proved to be a true microcosm of Ives season as for the umpteenth time since the opening day they fell behind early, got themselves back into it. Matched their higher ranked opponents for long periods sufficient to give them a real fright, but failed to take their opportunities when on top and then fell to two well taken goals as they tired in the last twenty minutes.
The opening goal for the hosts arrived from a very well rehearsed free kick which caught the Ives cold in only the eight minute. Rogan McGeorge brought down Tom Bradbury 25 yards from goal to concede the free kick. George Nash cleverly ran over the ball and continued his run into space to the right of the Ives wall. Tom Winters slid the ball into Nash’s path and although his driven cross was blocked by Miles Smith he only succeeded in teeing the ball up for Jack Self who gleefully hammered home the loose ball from just inside the box.
It only took the visitors seven more minutes to create a classy equaliser. Danny Kelly who had been restored to the starting line up in favour of Dubi Ogbonna won a long Tim Trebes punt in the air. The ever eager Tom Knowles was onto his flick like a greyhound out of the traps. The skilful winger got outside Paul Stonehouse before cutting in along the bye line then getting his head up and picking out Ben Baker who did the rest with a sharp finish from inside the six yard box.
The game continued in end to end fashion with the towering Puritans looking most dangerous at dead ball situation and Ives trying to take every opportunity to test the hosts back line with their pace and movement. The next real opportunity for a strike on goal came from another Winters free kick in 23rd minute. This time the veteran winger went directly for goal, but Trebes was down smartly at his near post to deny him.
Trebes was called into action again four minutes later, Winters delivered a corner from the left that the giant Luke Carnell won cleanly in the crowded box, but Trebes was equal to his effort tipping the powerful header over the top. The follow up corner was again won in the air by Carnell and this time his header into the mix was turned over at close range by his own man Stephane Ngamvoulou.
A sliced goal kick from Trebes almost carved out an Ives chance on the half hour as the ball arced around to the feet of Knowles in space in the centre. He cleverly slid a pass through the left channel that looked like it was going to put the pacey Baker clear. But home keeper Jack Harding was alert to the danger and sped from his line to bravely take the ball off the Ives wingers toe.
As half time approached each side worked one more opportunity. In 41st minute an excellent cross field ball from McGeorge picked out Baker in space on the left. The young winger cut inside and took on his marker before unleashing a crisp drive from 20 yards the keeper Harding gathered well at his near post.
Winters continued to be a thorn in Ives side and it was he who created the Puritans chance in the last minute of the first period as he got outside Smith on the left before delivering a teasing cross that looked to be served up on a plate for Elliot Sandy in the centre, but a stretching Lloyd Groves just managed to get enough of a touch to divert it off the centre forward’s head. The loose ball fell to Ngamvoulou just beyond the far post, but he snatched at the chance and screwed the ball well wide from an excellent position.
Ives almost stunned their hosts by going in front in only fourth moment of second half. Luke Warner-Eley took a quick throw to put Kelly away down the left. The big centre forward got to the bye line and picked out Peter Clark in the crowded box. The all action midfielder beat Harding with his well struck low shot only to be denied as the ball struck the covering Stonehouse on the line and was scrambled away.
The Puritans responded by again going close from a corner in 55th minute. Winters delivered a deep hanging ball from the left Bradbury won the header beyond the far post and put in back into the middle where Ricky Johnson forced the ball goal wards. Fortunately for Ives Groves had got back onto the line and hacked the ball to safety.
Keeper Harding kept the scores level two minutes later as Ives created a chance from a corner of their own. Initially the keeper did well to get a fist to the hanging ball above the head of Smith. But he did not get any distance on his attempted punch and the ball fell to McGeorge inside the box. His attempted shot ricocheted off a defender and fell to Groves six yards out. The big centre back got his shot away, but keeper Harding had closed him very smartly and managed to block the effort away at point blank range to atone for his error seconds earlier.
Harding’s opposite number Trebes was also called into spectacular action in 63rd minute. Bradbury and Ngamvoulou combined well on the left and the tricky midfielder almost broke through only to be brought down by Dan Moyes just inches outside the box. Winters went for power with the free kick striking it powerfully around the Ives wall, but Trebes was equal to the effort hurling himself to his left to palm the ball away.
Ives should have gone in front three minutes later as Kelly spurned a golden opportunity from inside the six yard box. Warner-Eley got away on the overlap down the left and delivered a cross which was just a little to powerful and beat everyone in the centre. But Knowles kept the ball alive beyond the far post and curled an inviting cross to the near post where Kelly had ghosted in completely unmarked. It needed a glancing header to knock the ball past the exposed Harding, but Kelly got it all wrong meeting the ball square on and powering his header at least three yards wide.
As on so many occasions this season the failure to take their chances came back to bite the Ives in the bum. The ever willing Winters showed that little bit of class again in 72nd minute as he found just enough space outside Smith and hung up a hugely inviting cross to the back post where Sandy used the height advantage he had over Warner-Eley to get above the full back and power home a header from eight yards and put the Puritans back in front.
Ives had maintained a high tempo and energy throughout the contest, but as the game entered its later stages that necessary level of effort began to take its toll and they struggled to create any real opportunities to claw their way back into the game in the remaining time. In fact one more piece of class from Winters eight minutes from time killed off any lingering hopes that they may have had of grabbing something from the game. Sandy and substitute Anthony Wright combined well on the right with the latter setting up a crossing opportunity for Jordy Ngathe. His cross was knocked out to Winters fully 25 yards from goal. With Ives tiring defenders a little slow to close him down the Puritans man of the match had time to take a touch and curl in a left footed effort that beat the diving Trebes and went in off his right hand post.
Another frustrating day, in a season of frustrating days for the Ives. Once again they pushed a top eight team all the way, but failed to take their chances and were punished by the clinical finishing of their opponents. To paraphrase a comment from the Radio Banbury commentator early in the second period when Ives were on top “this is not going to be the easy three point that we thought it was going to be, this St Ives side are good” and we certainly were, but as always goals win games and at this level if you do not take your chances you can almost guarantee that the opposition will take theirs and punish you.
Score : Banbury United 3 St Ives Town 1
Goals : Baker 15
St Ives team : Trebes, Smith, Warner-Eley, Groves, Moyes, McGeorge (capt) (Libertucci 74), Knowles, Snaith (Leslie 82), Kelly (Ogbonna 82), Clark, Baker
Unused subs : Draycott, Rogers
Supporters man of the match : Peter Clark
Attendance : 366
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photo by Louise Thompson