Biggleswade Town 0 St Ives Town 2
Evo-Stik League South Premier Division – 24/10/17
At last all of the hard work, effort, concentration and commitment brought Ives the reward they have fought so bravely for since the opening day of the season in the sunshine at Weymouth, another three point return from a League fixture. Make no mistake this was a well deserved first ever victory at Langford Road as the visitors played most of the football in this game, carved out the better chances and were excellent value for the two goal margin.
With manager Ricky Marheineke enjoying a well deserved family break in France his assistant Jack Cassidy took up the reins and he found that the news pre-match was far from positive as yet again injuries and suspension dug deep into the Ives squad with James Hall and club captain Charlie De’ath joining those on the treatment table and Brett Longden serving the first match of his three game ban following his dismissal against Bishop’s Stortford. All of this meant the burgeoning five men back line had to revert to a flat back four with Danny Kelly continuing in his emergency role at centre back alongside Miles Smith, seventeen year old Jamie Short moving from his pivot role in the back five to right back and Jordan Jarrold continuing his rejuvenation at left back. With Eugene Libertucci now anchoring the midfield Tom McGowan continued in his more forward role and picked up the armband. The enigmatic Dubi Ogbonna returned at centre forward to replace Hall.
It was always going to take a little while for the Ives to settle into this game and it was the hosts that carved out the first opportunity in 9th minute as Lucas Perry delivered a long ball to the back post which Robbie Parker won in the air, knocking the ball down into the feet of Jack Bowen. But Bowen snatched at the chance and fired well over the top from a good position.
Ives responded by going straight down the other end in a flowing move down the left which saw Ogbonna and Ben Seymour-Shove combine well before setting up a shooting opportunity for Jimmy Hartley cutting in from the left. Hartley struck his effort well from the edge of the box and was unlucky to see it deflect inches wide off Tyler Walker. The resulting corner was cleared, but Ives continued to press forward in search of that vital opener.
Hartley again troubled the Waders defence two minutes later as he again cut in from the left outpacing Walker before being brought down just outside the box by Reece Fielding. Kelly carefully lined up the free kick and struck it well. The ball deflected off the wall and dipped wicked inches over the crossbar with home keeper Liam Gooch struggling to get across to cover it.
The visitors continued to press forward at every opportunity and grabbed the opener in 21st minute. Short delivered an inviting cross from the right that held up in the breeze. Ogbonna attacked it getting between Gavin Hoyte and keeper Gooch forcing Gooch into a poor punch. The ball fell to Peter Clark on the edge of the box where the all action midfielder took a touch and cleverly fired the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net away from the fast retreating Gooch.
The lead was so nearly doubled five minutes later as Hartley continued to torment Walker, this time going around him on the outside and getting to the bye line before picking out Ogbonna at the near post. Ogbonna’s first time effort beat Gooch at his near post, but clattered the upright and rebounded to safety.
As the half wore on Ives dropped their pace a little allowing the Waders to come back into the game. But they continued to go long ball at every opportunity and most of the long balls into the box were being well dealt with by Kelly and his comrades in the visitors back line. Kelly was also very effectively picking up the main Waders threat from dead ball situations Hoyte. He only lost the big man once in the game in 34th minute, as Hoyte rose above all in the centre of the Ives box to meet a corner from the right. Fortunately for the visitors he powered his header inches wide.
As the half wore on Waders continued to deliver their long diagonal balls into the box and they did carve out a couple of half chances from them. In 38th minute Hoyte delivered the ball Walker roaming forward won the header at the back post and George Bailey got on the end of the knock down but fired over the top.
In 42nd minute Walker delivered from the right and Bailey threaded the ball through the channel into the run of Bowen, but keeper Jacob Marsden was alert to the threat and raced from his line to bravely claim the ball at the feet of the striker as he entered the box.
The second half was only five minutes old when Jarrold came within inches of embarrassing keeper Gooch. Ives won a free kick inside the centre circle fully 45 yards from goal. Kelly was lining up to deliver it to the back post and Gooch took his position anticipating the cross. But the quick thinking Jarrold darted past Kelly and struck a rising shot that had Gooch scrambling to make up his ground and just paw it away for a corner.
Ives continued to search for the second to kill the game and they went close again in 54th minute as skipper McGowan closed down Fielding and blocked his attempted clearance the ball spun back into the feet of McGowan who got to the bye line before picking out Seymour-Shove with his pull back. But Ives leading scorer was leaning back and fired his effort well over the top.
As the game wore on the Waders became more desperate in their search of an equaliser, but with Short and Jarrold ably assisted by Seymour-Shove and Hartley snuffing out any danger from their wide men this just meant they continued to pump long hopeful balls into the box that was simply food and drink to the immense Kelly and Smith. With 20 minutes to go full back Walker was sacrificed to bring on an additional front man in Graeme Montgomery, but this made little difference to the flow of the game as the hard working Ives continued to restrict the Waders to long range efforts which failed to trouble Marsden.
It was only in the last ten minutes that the nerves started to jangle a bit. Skipper Craig Daniel had a shout for a penalty turned down in 85th minute as he went down inside the box under challenge from Jarrold as he tried to get onto a header down from Nathan Hicks. Referee Andy Loe turned down the Waders claims and Montgomery following up fired the loose ball over the top.
By 86th minute it was bodies on the line time as Jordan Patrick teed up Parker on the edge of the box, but Ives bodies flung themselves across the line to block Parker’s effort and again the follow up was fired over.
The pressure was eased and our fingernails saved by a very simple route one second goal three minutes from time. Marsden’s punt down the centre cleared the Waders back line and as the ball drifted out to the left on a strengthen breeze Hartley found that extra bit of energy to run onto it. Rather than wait for his recovering defenders to close down Hartley keeper Gooch committed himself to try and come to get the ball just outside his box. Hartley got the touch to knock it by him and then had the composure to set himself on the left corner of the box and curl the ball into the top corner of the net giving the recovering Hoyte no chance to keep it out. The relief was palpable as the entire team, substitutes, and bench crew joined in the celebration.
Fortunately the players all managed to keep their concentration to see out the remaining time including surviving a real scramble inside their box as Parker headed a Patrick free kick back into the mix inside added time.
At the final whistle the relief at finally claiming another three points was massive. The celebrations between the players, bench crew and supporters would almost suggest we had won a trophy, not just picked up a second League win of the season. But those of us that have been there all the way through this tough time will know just hard these guys have worked to get out of this dip. Now we need to push on from here and start to move towards the position in the table that our football suggests that we should be.
The supporters almost unanimously voted the rock at the heart of the back line Danny Kelly the man of the match, although once again everyone in the side put in 100% plus and all earned this all important result.
Final Score : Biggleswade Town 0 St Ives Town 2
Goals : Clark 21, Hartley 87
Supporters man of the match : Danny Kelly
St Ives team : Marsden, Short, Jarrold, Smith, Kelly, Libertucci, Clark (Draycott 81), McGowan (capt), Ogbonna (Sawyer 75), Seymour-Shove, Hartley (Groves 90)
Unused substitutes : Dias, Wright
Attendance : 172
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photo by Louise Thompson