Stratford Town 3 St Ives Town 0
Evo-Stik League South Premier Division – 25/11/17
After Tuesday nights demolition at Hereford this looked a more winnable game with the Town sitting only four places above the Ives in the table. To balance against the hosts position in the table their record at the strangely named MoodChimp Stadium is impressive as they still remain unbeaten in the League at home this season so getting a result was never going to be easy.
However those that watched the game will be acutely aware that Ives performance on the day was worthy of getting a point particularly in the second half when they ran the game for long periods. Unfortunately football is all about what happens in the two penalty areas and on a day when the hosts managed to score three from their seven efforts at goal Ives failed to register a single goal from thirteen attempts. The days of the rock-solid Ives defence appear to be a distant memory and defensive errors at one end are presently being compounded by an attack which seems to lack confidence to find the net at the other.
Ives have been badly hampered by injuries to key players throughout this season and the injury hoodoo struck again after only five minutes as the influential Peter Clark pulled his hamstring and limped out of the action to give new signing Rogan McGeorge an earlier than anticipated debut.
The early exchanges were fairly even and the first real effort on goal did not arrive until 18th minute when Lee Thomas combined well with Will Grocott on the left before the latter teed up Justin Marsden 20 yards out. His first-time effort struck an Ives defender and ricocheted away. Loud appeals for handball were swiftly turned down by the well positioned referee Robbie Dadley.
Ives went close at the other end only seconds later as Phil Draycott combined with James Hall down the left. Draycott’s return ball allowing Hall to get the bye line. His low cross to the near post was wildly sliced away off the outside of defender James Fry’s boot. The Town skipper was very fortunate that the ball flew just wide of the far post and out for a corner.
Town went close to going in front in their next attack in 23rd minute as Ben Stephens got on the end of a flick over the top of the Ives back line. As the ball dropped Stephens tried to cleverly lift it over keeper James Goff on the volley. He got the lift over Goff perfectly, but slightly overhit the effort and the ball dropped onto the roof of the net.
The tricky Town winger was not to be denied for long though as he was the man that put the hosts in front less than a minute later. Yet another move on the left hand side saw Thomas and Marsden exchange passes before the latter played the ball into the run of Stephens who was allowed to roam forward with the ball and unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards that beat the diving Goff and nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
Going behind seemed to knock the wind out of the visitor’s sails and the hosts enjoyed a purple patch for the next few minutes. Goff had to be very sharp off his line to bravely take the ball off the toes of Jazz Luckie after the big centre forward had been put clear by Stephens in 26th minute.
Town doubled their advantage in 29th minute with a goal that will disappoint the Ives management team. Jordan Jarrold lost possession deep in home territory. Loyiso Recci delivered a long ball down the centre of the park which seemed to catch Lewis Ferrell off balance and the ball drifted over his head. Luckie lived up to his name as he was left completely free to run onto the loose ball and hammer it left footed past the exposed Goff.
To their credit Ives responded instantly and straight from the kick off Draycott drove down the left and worked his way to the bye line past Daniel Summerfield. He looked up and pulled the ball back to the far post where both Hall and Ben Seymour-Shove were waiting. But with Seymour-Shove calling for the ball, the stretching Hall took it away from him, but only succeeded in prodding his effort wide and the chance was gone.
Ives went even closer six minutes before the break as Seymour-Shove worked his way down the left and picked out Ogbonna at the near post. The Ives striker took the ball down brilliantly and hit a fierce effort on the turn that beat home keeper Louis Connor but clipped the top of the crossbar and went over.
The final opportunity of the first period in added time also fell to the busy Ogbonna as he found space at the back post to get on the end of Draycott’s corner from the right. But he was left beating the ground in frustration as he failed to hit the target with his free header.
The second half opened at break neck pace with both sides going close in the first two minutes. Seymour-Shove and Ogbonna combined to feed in Tom McGowan cutting in from the right. His low drive from just inside the box deflected off Fry and curled inches over the top with keeper Connor beaten. The resulting corner was cleared and Marsden fed through for a clear run on goal. He got his body shape all right and clipped the ball past the advancing Goff, but just past the far post much to Ives relief.
With McGeorge and McGowan snapping away in the centre of the park Ives began to win the midfield battle and push their opponents back as they went in search of a route back into the game. They went close again in 62nd minute as Seymour-Shove curled a free kick into the Town box. The ball was headed up into the air by a stretching James Hancocks. Ogbonna bravely won the challenge to get to the dropping ball and knocked it goalwards, but it was blocked and scrambled away.
Four minutes later a deep Seymour-Shove corner was headed back into the mix by Miles Smith. The ball fell to Draycott inside the box and his shot was turned towards goal by Hall. But keeper Connor was equal to the effort plunging to his right to turn the effort around the post.
The Ives onslaught continued as they went close twice in two minutes with twenty minutes to go. Seymour-Shove got on the end of Draycott’s in-swinging free kick from the right. But his contact was clean when he needed a skimming header, and the ball thudded the boards to the left of Connor’s upright. Two minutes later Ogbonna skilfully brought down a long ball out of defence and fed the ball into the run of Draycott cutting in from the right. Again the athletic Connor was equal to the effort diving to his right to fingertip the shot away.
The keeper was again in action in 78th minute as he palmed a fierce McGowan cross shot up into the air. Hall got onto the dropping ball, but his effort from twelve yards was blocked by Fry and scrambled away from danger.
Having gone close on so many occasions in the second half and failing to find the vital goal that would have rocked the hosts, Ives were finally killed off by another Town break away ten minutes from time. Thomas broke at pace down the left and got past Smith before feeding the ball into Grocott arriving at pace his first-time effort from the edge of the box struck the arm of Ferrell. Referee Dadley instantly pointed to the spot and the token protests from Ives players suggests his decision was correct. Substitute Edwin Ahenkorah fired home the penalty emphatically off the underside of the crossbar.
In the remaining few minutes there was still time for McGeorge to fire an effort wide. Smith to pull a comfortable save from Connor with a header and young substitute Matt Wright to come within inches of opening his Ives account. Fellow sub Danny Kelly took down a long ball and fed it into the path of Wright through the left channel. He outpaced Charlie Evans and fired in a left foot effort that needed another full length dive and fingertip save from the Town keeper low to his left. Even more gallingly the rolling ball just evaded Hall who was following up to deny Ives the least they deserved, a consolation goal.
In conclusion it looks like another heavy defeat on the road. However only the few that made the trip will know how well Ives played for long periods of this game and how unfortunate they were to come away with nothing again. But if’s, but’s and maybe’s do not win games, they can only be won by eliminating the mistakes at one end of the pitch and taking our chances at the other. Peter Clark’s likely absence for a while is a big blow. But the positives we can take from this game are that a few of the injury returnees look like they are beginning to return to form. Phil Draycott looked close to his best and took the supporters man of the match award. Dubi Ogbonna pushed him close with one of his best displays in a while that just lacked a goal. Rogan McGeorge also made a very promising debut in the centre of the park and looks like a good capture. The games continue to come thick and fast and a visit from Hitchin on Tuesday evening will give Ives another opportunity to get their season back on track.
Final Score : Stratford Town 3 St Ives Town 0
Goals : none
St Ives team : Goff, Smith, Jarrold, Ferrell, Groves, McGowan (capt), Seymour-Shove (Kelly 73), Clark (McGeorge 5), Hall, Ogbonna (Wright 85), Draycott
Unused subs : Moyes
Supporters man of the match : Phil Draycott
Attendance : 201
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photo by Granty – Stratford Town FC