Merthyr Town 3 St Ives Town 2
Evo-Stik League South Premier – 17/02/18
A needless penalty conceded deep in added time by returning skipper Charlie De’ath condemned Ives to a narrow defeat in a game that they should have had sewn up long before their captain’s calamitous error.
A far from ideal journey with a closed road in the valleys meaning a trip in excess of four and half hours and a warm up interrupted by the largest earthquake to hit the British Isles in a decade all compounded the visitor’s early problems.
With all of this in mind a slow start was no real surprise and keeper Tim Trebes was called into action in only 6th minute as a slick move down the centre involving Matthew Harris and Harry Franklin set up a shooting opportunity for Jaye Bowen. But fortunately his crisp low drive from 20 yards was straight at the Ives stopper who held on well.
The Martyrs then suffered what looked like an early blow as tricky winger Corey Jenkins limed out of the game in only 12th minute. But his replacement was recent signing, Welsh Under 21 international Owain Jones. It only took the substitute five minutes to show his class as Bowen and Ian Traylor combined on the right before the latter fed the ball into the feet of Jones 25 yards from goal with his back to the target and De’ath in close attendance. A split second later and the youngster had taken a touch before turning and unleashing a powerful left foot drive that flew in the top right hand corner of the net before Trebes could move.
Ives were slowly getting into the game with Rogan McGeorge and Peter Clark getting through a lot of working in the centre of the park. McGeorge was instrumental in the move which got the visitors level in 28th minute. He won the ball in the centre circle and threaded a pass out to Tom Knowles on the right. The speedy winger got to the bye line before cutting inside and taking on full back Scott Tancock. The struggling defender clumsily took down Knowles deep inside the box just as he shaped to shoot. The excellent referee Ollie Williams was right on the spot and had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Danny Watson clinically despatched the spot kick sending keeper Oliver Davies the wrong way.
Both sides were now looking to move the ball around at pace on the 3G surface and it was Ives who created the next opportunity only three minutes later as Watson, Ben Baker and Clark combined well to work their way into the Martyrs box. But none of the trio could quite find the opportunity to pull the trigger and when the shot finally came it was a tame one from Clark straight at Davies.
The final clear opportunity of the first period fell to the hosts twelve minutes before the break. Tancock, Traylor and Franklin all combined well down the left before the former delivered a cross that the Ives back line struggled to deal with. The ball eventually deflected to the far post where Bowen was lurking in space. The Merthyr striker had time to take a touch before hammering a low drive from eight yards straight at Trebes which the keeper remarkably managed to hang onto.
The hosts went close to regaining their lead only ninety seconds after the restart as they broke at pace and a quick interchange of passes deep in Ives territory finished with Traylor teeing up Franklin for a shot from just inside the box. The Martyrs centre forward was unluckily denied by his own man as his goal bound effort struck Jones and deflected wide.
Having survived that scare the visitors began to take control of the game and carved out sufficient opportunities to win the game in the next twenty minutes. Watson closed down keeper Davies on a back pass in 52nd minute and the under pressure custodian only succeeded in knocking the ball straight to the feet of Baker in a wide left position. His early ball into the centre picked out Knowles by the penalty spot but the skilful strikers shot on the turn was deflected wide by a covering defender.
Three minutes later a long Danny Kelly free kick came off a defender and fell to Ollie Snaith in the centre of goal eight yards out. But the usually cool young striker snatched at the chance and failed to make contact with the bouncing ball allowing covering defender Kyle Patten to hack clear.
The Ives pressure continued and only sixty seconds later Watson got on the end of a long ball over the top. But as keeper Davies came to meet him he tried to lob the exposed stopper but got it all wrong and simply chipped the ball into the grateful keeper’s hands.
The Martyrs were gifted one decent opportunity during this period of Ives dominance as in 63rd minute Trebes was a little slow to come off his line to deal with a ball over the top giving Jones chance to close down his attempted clearance. The ball rebounded to Traylor who teed up Bowen for a shot from 20 yards. The striker took on the chance first time but blazed the ball well wide much to the relief of the fast retreating Trebes.
Further good Ives pressing lead to them taking the lead only one minute later as Clark was able to rob a defender inside the D and slide a pass into a well timed run from Baker. The young winger did the rest opening his body nicely before sliding the ball past the outstretched hand of the exposed Davies.
Falling behind seemed to spur on the hosts to greater effort and they started to push their visitors back at every opportunity. A 74th minute mistake by a tiring McGeorge, as he was robbed by Ashley Evans in the centre circle, allowed the Martyrs midfielder to pick out a perfectly timed run from Traylor. The flying winger found himself completely clear drew Trebes to him, but then inexplicably slotted the ball past the post.
Ives were almost caught out by a quick free kick a minute later as Harris clipped the kick over Miles Smith to put Traylor away down the left. De’ath came to Ives rescue as he slid in at the near post to just turn away Traylor’s low driven cross ahead of the fast arriving Jones.
Ives should have sewn things up in a breakaway in 77th minute as Snaith won a challenge in midfield and knocked a ball into the feet of Baker just outside the box. His clever flick put Watson away cutting in from the right. The Ives striker struck his shot well, but only succeeded in ruffling the side netting from 15 yards.
Within four minutes of failing to finish off their opponents Ives found themselves pegged back as they failed to deal with a routine ball into their box from the right. Smith somehow found himself with two men to deal with at the back post. He got himself in a tangle with Jones causing both of them to miss the ball which then bounced on to substitute Kerry Morgan who found himself completely free eight yards out. He made no mistake taking a touch before rifling the ball past Trebes.
The hosts were now looking favourites to grab all three points and it took a spectacular save from Trebes to deny Traylor two minutes later as the speedy striker got on the end of a long punt down the park from keeper Davies and hit the dropping ball first time on the volley from 25 yards.
Ives had one final opportunity to grab a winner four minutes from time as Knowles found room on the right and ran at covering defender Morgan who realised that the Ives winger was going to outpace him and brought him down 25 yards from goal taking his yellow card for the team. Declan Rogers delivered the in-swinging free kick which flashed dangerously across the six yard box with no one able to get the vital touch.
With three minutes of the added four gone a draw looked the likely result until De’ath’s unfortunate error as he allowed a long ball into the heart of the Ives back line to go over his shoulder rather than simply head it away. The speedy Traylor ran onto the ball, but he was still on the right edge of the penalty area and heading for the bye line when De’ath inexplicably pulled him back for a cast iron penalty. Traylor picked himself up and duly despatched the spot kick straight down the middle as Trebes went to his right.
So ended another frustrating day when the Ives should have got something from the game, but ended up with no reward. It was a long and mournful trip back to Cambridgeshire.
Score : Merthyr Town 3 St Ives Town 2
Goals : Watson 28 (pen), Baker 64
St Ives team : Trebes, Smith, Jarrold, McGeorge (Rogers 77), De’ath (capt), Kelly, Knowles, Snaith, Clark, Watson (Ogbonna 84), Baker
Unused subs : Warner-Eley, Draycott, Groves
Supporters man of the match : Peter Clark
Attendance : 427
Report by Nigel Howlett