St Ives Town 1 Slough Town 4
Evo-Stik League South Premier Division – 20/03/18
Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say that you are beaten by the better side and this was certainly one of those occasions as the play-off chasing Rebels claimed a hard fought victory over a gallant Ives side who battled all the way, but could not quite match the quality of their high flying rivals. The margin of victory could have been even greater but for a heroic goalkeeping display from 18 year old scholar Tom Smith who was thrown in at the deep end for his League debut with Tim Trebes being laid low with illness. The youngster overcame his early nerves to pull off a string of stunning saves to keep the hosts in the game for a lot longer than probably should have been the case.
The visitors showed their intentions straight from the off buzzing around Ives players like small swarms of bees giving them no time on the ball at all. Lloyd Groves was harried into a mistake as early as the third minute. Manny Williams robbed the dallying defender and teeing up Simon Dunn for a close range effort that was bravely blocked by the spreading Smith.
The Rebels continued to press forward but thanks to gallant Ives defending it took a further ten minutes before they carved out another clear opportunity. This one was a bit more direct as keeper Jack Turner cleverly picked out Warren Harris wide right with his clearance. Harris skilfully combined with Williams to work his way into the box before unleashing a fierce drive that flashed across the face of goal.
Any remaining nerves that Smith may have had lingering were completely extinguished two minutes later as he pulled off a brilliant save to prevent Harris putting the Rebels in front. Nathan Smart was given space 35 yards out on the left and delivered a perfect hanging cross to the back post where Harris got above Luke Warner-Eley to attack the ball. Smith acrobatically flung himself high to his right to fingertip the powerful header over the top.
The direct route almost worked for the visitors in the 21st minute as Ben Harris won a long ball down the middle above Groves. His knock down fell to the feet of Dunn just outside the box. Fortunately for Ives the all action midfielder did not realise that he had enough space to take a touch and went for glory on the half volley. He hit it well enough, but the ball flew a metre wide of Smith’s left hand post.
Having been under the cosh throughout the first quarter of the game Ives stunned their visitors by going in front with their first meaningful attack in 27th minute. Warner-Eley went on the overlap down the left taking defenders with him to allow Phil Draycott to cut inside and feed the ball into the feet of Rogan McGeorge his first time pass through the channel picked out Dubi Ogbonna who had timed his run to perfection to get clear. Turner quickly closed the striker down and blocked his attempted flick at close range. But Peter Clark was following up and bravely slid in just ahead of covering defender Guy Hollis to force the ball over the line.
The goal knocked the Rebels out of their stride allowing the hosts to enjoy their best period of the game. They could even have grabbed a second goal in 38th minute as Draycott robbed a dallying Smart wide on the left and sped on into the box before going down under a clumsy challenge from the recovering defender. Referee Jack Bloxham was right on the spot and waved away Draycott’s appeals for a penalty perhaps thinking that the Ives winger went down a little easily, but we have all seen them given.
On such fine margins games can change and sure enough having failed to get the opportunity from the spot to go two in front Ives found themselves pegged back as they conceded a penalty themselves only four minutes later. Miles Smith was slow to clear a ball deep in his own half and was robbed by a Lee Togwell who fed the ball into the run of Harris into the box only for the big striker to be taken down by Groves just as he shaped to shoot. Dunn slammed home the resulting spot kick low to Smith’s left giving the young keeper no chance.
Getting level lifted the Rebels again and with the break fast approaching Ives were looking a bit like a struggling boxer praying for the bell to sound so that they can get in level and regroup. Smith did well to deny Togwell plunging low to his left to keep out a screamer from 25 yards. But the knock out blow arrived just seconds before the break as Ives continued to struggle to get the ball clear and the loose orb arrived on the foot of Warren Harris fully 30 yards from goal. He struck the dropping ball on the volley and it flew like an Exocet missile into the right hand top corner of the net past a stunned Smith almost before the young keeper could move.
So from looking like they might go into the break in front Ives found themselves sipping their half time cuppa one goal in arrears, but in the knowledge that they were not yet out of the game. Unfortunately a third Rebels goal only five minutes after the restart put paid to any realistic hope they had of grabbing an unlikely point from the contest. The goal arrived in simple fashion as a deep cross from the right by Warren Harris was met by Dunn beyond the far post and his header back into the middle was turned home a close range by Ben Harris.
To their great credit Ives heads did not drop and although they struggled to penetrate a rugged Rebels back line they all continued to battle to make things difficult for the visitors. But it was the Rebels that continued to carve out the opportunities, On the hour George Wells roamed forward from full back and exchanged passes with Dunn before laying the ball into the feet of substitute Perry Coles inside the box. His two well struck efforts were blocked by a combination of skipper Charlie De’ath and half time replacement for Lloyd Groves, Dan Moyes.
Smith was called into action again in 69th minute plunging to his left to keep out a powerful low 25 yard drive from Wells who had again found space to break forward on the left. The young keeper did well again only ninety seconds later as a long throw from Hollis was flicked on in the melee in the six yard box by friend, or foe, only for Smith to pull off an excellent reaction save to somehow keep the ball out at point blank range.
Smith had a slightly more routine save to make in 76th minute as he clung on well to a powerful snap shot from the edge of the box by Coles. He rode his luck a little three minutes later as Harris set up Coles again just outside the box and the tricky strikers first time effort beat Smith but rattled the base of his right hand upright and rebounded to safety. Smith also denied Harris once more six minutes from time but was finally beaten again by the Rebels fourth goal deep in added time. The silky Davies fed a ball into the run of substitute James Dobson, his powerful low drive from fifteen yards was kept out by the diving Smith, but Williams was following up and rammed home the loose ball from close range.
So the game ended in a comprehensive win for the powerful Rebels who cement their position in the final play off place moving six points clear of their rivals with games in hand on all below them. The Ives also come out of this game with a good deal of credit as they showed their battling qualities throughout and ensured the visitors knew that they had been in a scrap. In spite of battling performances all over the pitch there was only one name on the lips of supporters questioned for a potential man of the match, goalkeeping prospect Tom Smith, a name to watch for the future.
Score : St Ives Town 1 Slough Town 4
Goals : Clark 27
St Ives team : Tom Smith, Miles Smith, Warner-Eley, De’ath (capt), Groves (Moyes 45), McGeorge, Baker, Snaith (Libertucci 59), Ogbonna (Kelly 70), Clark, Draycott
Unused subs : Watson, Rogers
Supporters man of the match : Tom Smith
Attendance : 179
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photos by Louise Thompson