St Ives Town 1 St Neots Town 1
Evo-Stik League South Premier Division – 09/01/18
It ended honours even in this full blooded Huntingdonshire Derby as the ten man Saints came from behind to snatch a point off the Ives in the Pro-Edge Stadium mud.
Cambridge United loanee Tom Knowles provided the quality in his home debut and he took every opportunity to terrorise the Saints defensive line on their left side. It was two very poorly timed challenges from left back Johnny Herd, both obvious yellow cards, which took the visitors down to ten men as early as the 24th minute.
Having said that Knowles was the quality on view this was really an evening for artisans rather than artists and two men personified the work ethic necessary to be successful in such conditions. Both played with a smile on their face throughout as they ploughed the heaviest furrow through the centre of the park revelling in the challenge. Rogan McGeorge for the Ives and his counterpart for the Saints ex Ives skipper Luke Knight were matching each other tackle for tackle in the quagmire and ensured that not one person in the crowd could take their eyes off the action for long, even to check twitter!!. Amazingly neither of these protagonists picked up a yellow card and this was probably a very good reflection of the excellent referee Tom Hancock who managed such a competitive game very well fully taking into account the conditions.
The Ives came into the game full of confidence and on their best run of what had so far been a challenging season. They made the early inroads with Knowles, Ollie Snaith and Peter Clark all combining to set up a shooting opportunity for Danny Watson in only 5th minute. Watson’s curled effort from the corner of the box had Saints keeper Mike Emery scrambling across his goal, but ended up a couple of feet wide of his left hand post.
McGeorge was already relishing the battle and five minutes later he burrowed his way into the visitors back line bustling through a couple of challenges before being brought down on the edge of the D. He picked himself up and curled the free kick around the wall forcing a save out of Emery as he plunged low to his right to hold on well.
Only seconds later Herd picked up his first yellow card as he sent the speedy Knowles tumbling as the young winger went past him on the outside at pace. Not learning from his first mistake Herd repeated the trick only thirteen minutes later this time preventing the speedy Knowles getting clean away and giving referee Hancock probably one of his easiest decisions of the evening to take the visitors down to ten.
This blow for the Saints came just after their best period of the game up to then as they enjoyed a brief period camped in the Ives half whilst the hosts struggled to clear the ball from the sandy area resembling a muddy beach just outside their own penalty area.
With passions running high at this point Watson was probably fortunate to only make minimal contact as he flew in on Knight a few minutes later. Yellow card was the decision much to the disappointment of the Saints bench only a few yards away. But to his credit Knight reacted well to the challenge from his former team mate.
Even with ten men the Saints were still looking dangerous and it took a very well timed tackle to prevent the dangerous Nabil Shariff putting them ahead just before the half hour. Shariff looked like he had been put clear inside the box by Kyran Wiltshire before Moyes timely intervention just as he shaped to shoot.
Knowles was still looking a real threat at the other end and he went close to opening the Ives account in 36th minute as he wriggled between two Saints defenders inside the box he was clipped by Taylor Parr, but although knocked off balance he stayed on his feet and fired his effort across the face of goal towards the back post where Watson was just unable to divert it home.
Tim Trebes was called into impressive action five minutes before the break as another ex Ives man Liam McDevitt rose highest to a corner and powered a header on target that looked like it was going to creep inside the back post. But Trebes was equal to it plunging to his right to turn the goal bound effort away.
There was still time for Knowles to cause more panic in the Saints back line as the first period entered added time he robbed Steffan Broccoli just inside the visitor’s half and tore away down the right. His low driven cross was spilled by Emery, but Knight was on hand to scramble the loose ball away just before Watson could prod it home. The ball was only half cleared and arrived at the feet of McGeorge 25 yards out. He fired in a rising drive that Emery did well to parry away as he threw himself full length to his right.
So a pulsating first half ended goal less, but the Ives went in front in rather bizarre fashion only four minutes after the re-start. A Luke Warner-Eley throw on the left arrived at the feet of Declan Rogers just outside the left corner of the box. He tried his luck with a curling right footed effort that looked like it would be a comfortable save for Emery. But the keeper made the fatal mistake in the muddy conditions of going down early and the ball bounced in front of him, took a wicked deviation off a divot and entered the net over the flailing arm of the frustrated Saints custodian.
The ten man visitors were not deflated by this set back and continued to battle hard to get back on level terms. Manager Matty Clements made positive changes and switched to three at the back. Dion Sembie-Ferris continued to look a threat seizing every opportunity to skip over the mud and run at the Ives defence. He did just that in 62nd minute as he went down the left and delivered a cross that was deflected on to the feet of Shariff just beyond the far post. Shariff showed his quality as he turned in an instant and got his shot away, but fortunately it flashed inches wide of Trebes right hand upright.
Ives did have their chances to kill off the game with a second goal. The first of these arrived in 70th minute as Miles Smith and Knowles combined well down the right and Smith’s cross was deflected back to Snaith just inside the box. He showed good technique to keep down his volley which was deflected inches wide off the head of Rogers on the six yard line.
The best chance to finish off the Saints fell to Knowles in 74th minute. Rogers picked him out perfectly with a magnificent ball in from the left that arrived at his feet by the back post. The skilful winger instantly brought the ball under control and turned inside a covering defender. His left foot shot got just enough of a deflection off that covering player to take it inches past the far post with Emery beaten.
Having failed to kill the game Ives then found themselves pegged back eight minutes from time as Clements positive approach paid dividends. Danny Kelly lost possession just inside his own half and the ball was fed down the right to Sembie-Ferris who cut inside and slid the ball into the path of Shariff. His shot from the edge of the box took a deflection that deceived Trebes the ball finally crossing the line through the legs of the off balance keeper.
To their great credit neither side were willing to settle for a point with each carving out opportunities to win the game in the remaining time. The fresh legs of substitute Ben Sawyer were putting pressure on the Saints back line. He combined well with Warner-Eley on the left two minutes from the end of the ninety. His dangerous cross was sliced over his own crossbar by a struggling Saints defender. The resulting corner came to nothing, but Sawyer was again involved as the game entered added time this time combining well with Knowles on the right before clipping in a cross that the young winger met with a diving header by the penalty spot. Unfortunately his effort was straight at keeper Emery.
With time ticking down and only seconds of the added four minutes left Saints won themselves a corner. Reflecting on how may times this type of situation has cost us dear earlier in the season, the Ives fans must have all had their hearts in their mouths. The flag kick was half cleared to Parr just outside the box, he struck his effort well through the crowd, but much to the relief of all Trebes came to the rescue blocking the effort away with his body in what proved to be the last action of the night.
Overall verdict is that the draw was probably a fair result with Ives just edging it on chances, but the gallant ten man Saints earning worthy reward for the bravery of their manager. Weather permitting Ives face another tough challenge at the Pro-Edge this Saturday as they entertain the play-off chasing Rebels from Slough Town. It promises to be a cracker!
Score : St Ives Town 1 St Neots Town 1
Goals : Rogers 49
St Ives team : Trebes, Smith, Warner-Eley, McGeorge, Moyes, Kelly, Knowles, Clark (Libertucci 17), Snaith, Watson, Rogers (Sawyer 80)
Unused subs : Jarrold, Groves
Supporters man of the match : Rogan McGeorge
Attendance : 236
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photo by Louise Thompson