St Ives Town 2 Stratford Town 6
Evo-Stik League South Premier – 17/04/18
As the Ives have found to their cost on a few to many occasions this season if the defence is not quite on its game there are strikers who will punish you. That is exactly what happened in this game as the hosts found their makeshift back line put to the sword by a very lively Town front line.
The meagre few that paid their money witnessed seven goals in an amazing first half, unfortunately five of them nestled in the back of Tim Trebes net as the Town players took it in turns to take advantage of what can only be described as woeful defending by the hosts.
For the second game in a row Ives fell behind to their opposition’s first attack. On this occasion the culpable defender was Luke Warner-Eley who tried to bring down a long ball to the back post only to be robbed by marauding full back Charlie Evans who dispossessed the young full back just outside the box before taking a touch and prodding the ball home past the exposed Trebes.
To their credit Ives responded almost instantly as less than sixty seconds later Peter Clark set off on a mazy run which took him past three defenders and into the Town box. As he was closed down he unleashed a left footed effort from ten yards that keeper Louis Conner got a hand to low to his right but could not keep out of the net.
Ives drawing level so quickly did not knock the visitors out of their stride and the Ives goal lived a charmed life for the next fifteen minutes as Edwin Ahenkorah and Ben Stephen in particular threatened to run riot. In the seventh minute the two combined in an exchange of passes on the edge of the box that ended with the former rattling in a fierce shot that thudded into the boards inches outside Trebes left hand post.
Only one minute later the same pair again combined in a move that finished with Ahenkorah threading a pass into the run of Stephens deep inside the Ives box, Trebes did well to hang onto his well struck drive low to his right.
It was still less than ten minutes into the game when James Hancocks pinged an excellent cross field pass to pick out full back Lee Thomas in space on the left. Thomas combined well with Stephens to work their way around makeshift full back Ben Sawyer who was left on the deck as Stephens cut in and unleashed a rising drive from a narrow angle that Trebes pushed away spectacularly.
Ives luck finally ran out and they fell behind again in 17th minute as Will Grocott threaded an inch perfect pass through a static Ives back line to pick out the run of Ahenkorah and the big number eight made no mistake lashing the ball home low to the left of keeper Trebes from 15 yards.
Things went from bad to worse for the beleaguered Ives back line as Town increased their advantage in 24th minute a long free kick was delivered from the left to beyond Ives back post where Stephens got above Warner-Eley to head the ball back into the mix. James Fry was first to react and prodded the ball against an Ives defender on the line. Time then seemed to stand still as the Ives defence remained rooted allowing Fry to again pounce on the loose ball and bundle it over the line from close range.
Two more goals in a three minute spell just after the half hour began to make the score line look embarrassing. Goal number four arrived in 32nd minute as with Ives defence completely absent Stephens was allowed to sprint through what should have been a non-existent gap in the hosts back line. Just like his colleagues before him when faced with a shooting opportunity the speedy number eleven found the bottom corner of the net leaving the exposed Trebes with no chance. The Town’s fifth arrived in the simplest fashion only three minutes later as Taylor was allowed to run onto a ball over the top which held up on the breeze. He too took his chance lobbing the ball gently over the advancing Trebes and into the net.
There was still time before the break for Ives to give themselves the faintest glimmer of hope as they pulled a goal back seven minutes before the break. Clark put Danny Kelly through for a run into the box, but he still had a lot to do. He managed to wriggle his way past Fry who tried to get in a fateful tackle from behind to retrieve the situation and inevitably clipped Kelly who went down in the box. Referee Tim Donnellan who had early turned down a penalty claim from Tom Knowles this time made the call in favour of the hosts. Knowles confidently spotted the ball down and smashed the spot kick into the net via keeper Conner’s right hand post.
So half time arrived with the amazing score line of St Ives Town 2 Stratford Town 5. A half to crush the enthusiasm of even the most optimistic of the Ives faithful. If there was a neutral present he was probably interested to note a very rare event of a first half where over a third of the outfield players on view found the back of the net.
Manager Ricky Marheineke made Lloyd Groves the half time sacrifice bringing on Dubi Ogbonna who went in up front with centre forward Danny Kelly moving into his regular stand in position at the centre of the Ives back line. Most of us had actually predicted more than one change at the break with a selection of other players anticipated to join Groves in departing the show. The favourite bet at the break was three changes so Groves was perhaps unfortunate to be that sacrificial lamb.
Kelly made a good early impression in shoring up the dam at the start of the second half. However he was just as culpable as his colleagues eleven minutes after the restart when Stephens and Taylor combined to dance their way through the heart of a statuesque Ives back line in a move that finished with Stephens slipping the ball past a once more exposed Trebes from fifteen yards.
It should have been seven six minutes later as skipper Charlie De’ath was caught out by a ball over the top allowing himself to be out muscled by Town substitute Jazz Luckie who having left the Ives skipper on his butt proceeded to flick the ball over the advancing Trebes but just past the post.
Sawyer was another Ives defender caught out by the buzzing Town as he was robbed by Thomas in 67th minute. The Town full back threaded the ball into Grocott’s run and it took the combined efforts of Kelly and Trebes to block his effort inside the six yard box.
Two more Ives substitutes entered the fray in 69th minute as Ben Baker and Declan Rogers replaced the ineffective midfield pair of Lewis Leslie and Eugene Libertucci, both of whom had been high in the betting for a half time replacement. The three substitutes all made a difference as they lifted the Ives spirit on the pitch and seemed to give their colleagues a little more belief that they could at least save some face in the game.
Baker teed up a hanging cross from the right in 73rd minute and when Ogbonna bravely challenged keeper Connor the ball broke loose to Knowles just outside the left hand edge of the box. He was taken down as he tried to sidestep Evans. Knowles cleverly teed up Baker from the free kick, but his effort from the edge of the box was charged down. The ball rebounded to Knowles who took a touch and arrowed in a fierce right footed effort that looked like it was going to find the bottom corner until keeper Connor flung himself full length and stuck out a big left hand tipped the ball around the post.
A flowing Ives move five minutes from time involving Rogers and Clark ended up with the ball being fed into the run of Phil Draycott on his favoured left foot deep inside the box. Keeper Connor came to narrow the angled. But Draycott horribly sliced his effort across the face of goal and was fortunate to win a corner off the covering Fry.
The final opportunity for Ives to grab a further consolation came only ninety seconds later as Kelly lifted a ball into the strengthening breeze which looked like it was going to drift through to the keeper who called and came for it. But the wind played a trick on him as it held up the ball allowing the ever willing Knowles to get in before him. Unfortunately he was forced wide and could only find the side netting with his gallant attempt.
So ended an embarrassing defeat. Manager Marheineke has the unenviable task of somehow building some confidence into a side that looks completely bereft of any belief particularly in its defensive abilities. But at this stage of the season the games come thick and fast and less than 48 hours later there is another opportunity to get it right at the Pro-Edge.
Score : St Ives Town 2 Stratford Town 6
Goals : Clark 3, Knowles 38 pen
St Ives team : Trebes, Sawyer, Warner-Eley, De’ath (capt), Groves (Ogbonna 45), Libertucci (Rogers 69), Knowles, Leslie (Baker 69), Kelly, Clark, Draycott
Unused subs : McGeorge, Snaith
Supporters man of the match : Dubi Ogbonna
Attendance : 67
Report by Nigel Howlett