St Ives Town 1 Hitchin Town 3
Evo-Stik League South Premier Division – 28/11/17
This was another in the long line of heartbreakers this year for the Ives as two late goals saw them deprived of the least they deserved from the game of a point. The hosts more than matched the Canaries for long periods of the first half and were in front at the interval courtesy of a James Hall penalty.
But the game ultimately hinged a moment of huge controversy in the 53rd minute. Keeper James Goff fluffed an attempted clearance against Jonny McNamara who ran onto the loose ball, but stumbled as he hit it at goal. Veteran defender Dan Moyes had got around behind his keeper and blocked the bobbling effort. Unfortunately the match officials deemed that the ball had struck his arm awarding the visitors a spot kick to even things up and even more dramatically waving a red card to Moyes dismissing this gentleman of the game for the first time in his long and illustrious career.
In spite of being down to ten men Ives still continued to go in search of another goal going close on a number of occasions before falling behind to a poorly defended corner in the 89th minute then having insult added to injury as the Canaries killed them off with a break-away goal deep in added time to compound their misery.
Much earlier on the chilly late November evening the game had started in a workman like style as both sides probed the others defence’s without really creating much, although Ives probably edged this opening period in terms of possession. The game lived up just before the half hour as Phil Draycott managed to cut in past his marker and slide an inviting pass in behind the visitor’s back line. Dubi Ogbonna bravely went in with keeper Michael Johnson and just managed to win the race gleaning a corner off the body of the Canary’s custodian as he spread himself to keep the ball out.
Ben Seymour-Shove swung in the resulting flag kick from the left to the back post where the late arriving Tom McGowan looked like he was going to get a free header from eight yards. But as he leapt for the ball he was wrestled down by Lewis Rolfe. Referee Robert Evans was right on the spot and had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Hall did the rest sending keeper Herbert the wrong way with his well struck effort.
Ives pressed forward in search of a second and Draycott and McGowan combined well down the left in 35th minute with the former playing in the latter to run along the bye line. His driven cross could have gone anywhere off friend, or foe, but it ricocheted to safety off Rolfe.
With half time approaching the hosts took their foot of the gas a little and the visitor’s created a couple of chances in quick succession. In 39th minute with Ives struggling to clear their lines Elliot Bailey fed a ball into the feet of Trey Charles and he found just enough space on the corner of the box to curl in an effort that went just inches wide of the far post.
Goff was Ives saviour one minute later as he plunged low to his right to fingertip away a well struck effort from just inside the box by Bailey after he had cleverly run into space to receive a Rolfe free kick in a pre-rehearsed move that almost caught the hosts napping.
The final effort on goal of the first period came in similar pre-rehearsed fashion for the Ives as Draycott got ahead of his marker to get on the end of Seymour-Shove’s in-swinging free kick from the left. He got to the ball first, but did not quite get enough contact and the ball flew across the face of goal to safety.
Ives could so easily have doubled their lead only three minutes after the re-start as Draycott again found space on the left and picked out Hall at the near post with his cross. Hall struck his effort well on the volley and had the shot been inches to the left, or right, of keeper Johnson it would have gone in. Amazingly it was straight at him and the ball cannoned off his body and out for a corner with the custodian admitting “he did not see it”.Having come with millimetres of increasing their lead the hosts were then hit with the double hammer blow of conceding the penalty and going down to ten men only five minutes later. Lucas Kirkpatrick despatched his spot kick in the same emphatic style as Hall to level up the scores.
Ogbonna was the unlikely choice to fill in at centre back for the unfortunate Moyes, but Ives still had ideas of winning this game and continued to push forward at every opportunity. They should have gone back in front only two minutes later as another Seymour-Shove corner resulted in a scramble in the visitor’s goalmouth. The ball fell to Draycott ten yards out and he hit his shot well, but somehow managed to hit Hall with the goal bound effort and the ball rebounded away.In spite of regular centre back Lewis Ferrell coming on to replace the sacrificed Ogbonna and Ives players running their socks off for the cause the extra player began to tell and the Canaries slowly took control of the game. Goff had to be very quick off his line to bravely plunge in and take the ball off the toes of Bailey after he had been put through by Connor Vincent in 76th minute.
The Canaries thought they had gone in front only ninety seconds later as Charlie Smith rattled in a shot from just inside the box that Goff did remarkably well to turn onto the post. But Vincent was lurking to knock home the loose ball only to have his celebration cut short by the assistant’s flag as he had strayed into an offside position.
With time running out we were just hoping against hope that Ives would manage to find a way to hold on for a point. But this has not been a season when we have achieved that well and the cynics amongst us were expecting the worst as Josh Bickerstaff and Charles combined to win a corner with two minutes of the ninety remaining. That initial corner was repelled, but only at the expense of another. This one was delivered from the right by Smith and somehow Bickerstaff found space to rise unchallenged six yards out at the back post his downward header delivered the decisive blow.To their credit the gallant ten men squeezed one last gasp of energy from their tired bodies and drove forward in search of an equaliser. But it was like the charge of the gallant few into the enemy fire as Hitchin caught them on the break and a swift move down the middle was finished from just inside the box by Bailey to delivery the coupe de grace on the sadly wounded Ives.
So many gave so much to the cause it was hard to pick the man of the match award. Home debutant Rogan McGeorge was in the running until picking up a senseless booking for tangling with Johnson twenty minutes from time. The man who won the award was the man who stood out throughout the game and covered every blade of grass, more than once, leading from the front skipper Tom McGowan.
Final Score : St Ives Town 1 Hitchin Town 3
Goals : Hall 29 (pen)
St Ives team : Goff, Smith, Jarrold, Moyes, Goves, McGeorge, Seymour-Shove (Kelly 68), McGowan (capt), Hall, Ogbonna (Ferrell 64), Draycott (Wright 78)
Unused subs : none
Supporters man of the match : Tom McGowan
Attendance : 175
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photos by Louise Thompson