St Ives Town 1 Royston Town 3
Evo-Stik League South Premier Division – 27/03/18
A presentation took place before the game to celebrate manager Ricky Marheineke’s 200th game in charge of the Ives, a milestone that he reached at Banbury on the previous Saturday. He decided to celebrate entering his third century in charge by freshening up the side with four changes to the starting eleven and a bold new formation. Recent signing from Rushden & Diamonds Lewis Leslie made his first start in the centre of a midfield five.
With both sides eager to get the game on due to their fixture backlog there was general delight when referee Tom Hancock gave the thumbs up in spite of small puddles in places caused by a brief shower after the earlier sponging efforts had removed more substantial areas of water. His decision was fully vindicated as both sides went into the game with the intention of playing football despite the conditions and to his further credit the excellent referee managed the game well without the need to issue a single yellow card throughout.
Unfortunately for Ives in spite of the new formation and general all round positivity it proved groundhog day again as an excellent first half display created a number of good chances, but with only one taken they found themselves vulnerable again. As has happened so often this season the opposition have a quality striker who punishes them by showing them how to finish. Adam Marriott must love playing against the Ives as he capitalised on three defensive errors and his hat trick on the night took his tally to five goals in his two games against the Ives this season.
The Ives new formation and sheer pace and movement of their front two caused the Crows real problems early on. Leslie’s first telling contribution came in only the seventh minute as he threaded a ball through the left channel to pick out the run of Ben Baker. The Ives youngster managed to get around keeper Josh Tibbetts but he was pushed very wide and needed to find a colleague in the centre. Unfortunately he failed to pick out a team mate and the ball was cleared by a covering defender.
Josh Castiglione was already looking a threat for the visitors down their right and he combined well with overlapping full back Ed Asafu-Adjaye only ninety seconds later. The move completed with the full back delivering a deep cross to the far post where John Frendo rose highest, but he was always stretching and was unable to direct his header on target.
Another man returned to the starting line up for Ives was Eugene Libertucci and he slid another excellent ball through the Crows back line to pick out a well timed run from Tom Knowles in 15th minute. Knowles took the shot on first time from the edge of the box and beat keeper Tibbetts with his powerful drive which flashed the wrong side of the post and into the side netting.
The Crows keeper was called into action again three minutes later as Knowles found a little space thirty yards from goal and drove forward before unleashing a stinging drive that was to hot for the young keeper to handle, but he was alert enough to parry it into the air and grab the dropping ball just ahead of Baker.
But as has happened so often this season having started well Ives failed to deal with a dead ball situation and fell behind in the 24th minute. A corner delivered from the right looked like a poor one that should be dealt with by the first man, but somehow it was allowed to bobble on through the box before being delivered back into the melee from the left and eventually prodded home from close range by the ever alert Marriott.
The hosts reacted well to falling behind and went close to an equaliser on the half hour as Baker continued to terrorise the Crows back line with his powerful running. He went past two defenders on the left before delivering a cross into the centre that beat everyone, but was kept alive by Phil Draycott beyond the far post. His in-swinging cross back into the centre caused panic and Dan Brathwaite’s attempted clearance was wildly sliced directly at his own goal, but the big defender was saved from further embarrassment by his keeper as Tibbetts showed amazing reactions to leap to his right and parry the ball away.
Baker carved out an opportunity for his fellow striker Knowles in 32nd minute as his curling ball over the Crows back line picked out the youngsters well time run. Knowles just beat the onrushing keeper to the ball and flicked it past him, but again he had been forced very wide. In spite of this and with no real support he went for goal and almost achieved the impossible as the ball cannoned off the face of the post and rebounded across the six yard box with no one able to force it home.
Having almost pulled level Ives were perhaps fortunate not to go two down as the ball was cleared to the other end where Castiglione found himself with a clear run on goal. Keeper Trebes did well though to narrow the angle but stay upright and managed to turn the wingers attempt from the edge of the box around the post.
Castiglione almost turned provider in 40th minute as he again found space on the right and hung up a teasing cross to the back post where Marriott had managed to lose his marker. Fortunately for Ives he directed his free header straight at Trebes.
This time it was the Crows who were punished for not taking their chances as Knowles persistence created an equaliser four minutes before the break. He harried a dallying Romelle Alomenu into a mistake and robbed him thirty yards from goal. Knowles set off for goal leaving the struggling defender in his wake. As keeper Tibbetts came to meet him he unselfishly squared the ball to Baker who had joined him at the back post for a simple tap in.
Having got level there was still time for Ives to almost gift the visitors their lead back before the break. Dan Moyes attempted clearance rebounded off Frendo and fell to Castiglione inside the penalty area fortunately Trebes was well placed to parry away his first time effort.
Having all been fully entertained by a pulsating first half we were all hoping for more of the same in the second period. But Ives were knocked out of their stride only four minutes after the re-start. The Crows moved the ball around well before feeding it into Marriott fully thirty yards from goal. He was not closed down and took his chance to stride into the space before releasing a speculative effort that beat Trebes low to his left for a goal that the keeper will be a little disappointed to concede.
With the hosts struggling to come to terms with falling behind again they were not really able to create any of the opportunities they had carved out in the first period and although Baker and Knowles continued to make the runs no one was finding them with the passes. The Crows enjoyed their best period of the game and the Ives had to thank their keeper for keeping them in the game on a number of occasions.
In 66th minute a Gus Scott-Morriss corner from the right was won cleanly in the air by Marriott at the far post, but his header flashed inches wide. Two minutes later the tricky Castiglione went close to grabbing the goal his overall performance probably deserved as he picked up a loose ball and fired in a dipping 25 yarder that Trebes did well to tip over. The keeper did even better as he showed fantastic reactions to acrobatically tip over Marriott’s close range header from the resulting corner.
Ives best opportunity of the second period arrived in 78th minute as Danny Kelly pushed forward in search of the equaliser wriggled his way past two defenders on the left and got to the bye line. But he failed to pick out a team mate with his pull back and the chance was gone.
Marriott put the icing on his own, and the Crows, cake as he completed his hat trick in added time. He set off on a jinking run at the Ives back line getting past a couple of tiring defenders before Moyes got a foot in. As was the Ives luck on the night though the ball rebounded off a fellow defender back into the path of Marriott who again showed his class by lashing the ball past the exposed Trebes from close range.
As has been the case so often this season Ives matched a top half team for long periods, but again came away from the match with no reward. Positives from the game were the new formation which worked very well in the first period and a very promising home debut for Lewis Leslie. As has been said many times if we can iron out the mistakes and find a way to shore up the back line we will continue to score goals and a positive finish to a very frustrating season is still possible.
Score : St Ives Town 1 Royston Town 3
Goals : Baker 41
St Ives team : Trebes (capt), Draycott (Groves 74), Warner-Eley, Smith, Kelly, Moyes, Knowles, Leslie (Clark 66), Baker, Rogers (Ogbonna 84), Libertucci
Unused subs : McGeorge, Snaith
Supporters man of the match : Ben Baker
Attendance : 178
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photos by Louise Thompson