Ives denied by Poppies late leveller

Monday 28 August 2023: Kettering Town 1 v St Ives Town 1   

Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 

Nigel Howlett Reports from Latimer Park

Ives may feel hard done by to have two points snatched away from them by the last kick of the game but they only have themselves to blame for not taking their chances in a game that they dominated for long periods with the pace and trickery of Dan Barton, Brandon Njoku and Tiago Nassunculo cutting swathes through the struggling Poppies defence at times particularly in a period late in the first half where five good chances came and went.  

With the second game in 48 hours manager Ricky Marheineke wisely rang the changes to freshen up his side. Aaron Smith, Michael Richens, Dan Barton, Luke Harris and Tiago Nassunculo all came into the side in place of Johnny Herd, Fernando Bell-Toxtle, Tyrone Baker, Kellan Hickinson and Enoch Andoh all of whom dropped to the bench. Poppies manager Andy Leese, perhaps with less at his disposal only made a single change with Tyrone Lewthwaite replacing Sam Bennett up front. 

There was an early blow for the hosts as skipper Gary Stohrer, perhaps feeling the effects of a knock picked up on Saturday, limped out of the action holding his knee to be replaced by the hosts new signing Josiah Bridgeman. 

The game’s first chance went the way of the visitors when an 18th minute Richens free kick from the right deflected off a defender and dropped to the feet of Charlie Johnson deep inside the box. But the Ives centre back snatched at the chance and stabbed his shot wide from an excellent position. The host’s first shot on goal arrived three minutes later when a long ball to the edge of Ives box by Lewis White was flicked on by Lewthwaite and fell to Bridgeman who unleashed a fierce effort from just inside the box that a well positioned Eddie Brearey parried away. 

But from that point Ives began to take control of the game with Richens, Ed Hottor and Luke Harris buzzing around the midfield. A poor ball out of defence by Rhys Sharpe in 23rd minute was seized on by Hottor who fed in Brandon Njoku through the right channel, but the young striker rather rushed his effort and fired well over from just inside the box. It took an excellent recovery tackle from White to prevent Nassunculo getting a shot away as he bustled through cutting in from the left ten minutes later. 

But then came the cluster of Ives chances in the run up to the break. In 38th minute a deep Barton corner found Johnson beyond the far post, his header back into the mix was met on the volley by Smith by the penalty spot and it took and excellent reaction save from Will Johnson leaping to his left to push the effort away. Five minutes later Barton and Njoku combined brilliantly down the right to get Barton to the bye line. Paddy Casey met his low cross at the near post but failed to make clean contact from six yards. That was almost immediately followed by Njoku teeing up Barton for a shot from the edge of the box that the young winger struck well and was unlucky to see deflect wide off ex Ives defender Ben Toseland. Njoku met the resulting Barton corner at the near post but had his on target effort blocked at close range by a defender. The final opportunity came in added time and again involved the two Cambridge United loanees as Barton fed in Njoku for a shot from just inside the box. But the young striker fired well over as the ball bobbled just as he went to hit it. 

It was a very relieved Poppies that trudged in at the break no doubt amazed to still be on level terms. The second half started with Ives still very much in the ascendency but unable to find a route through. Richens fired a 30 yard free kick inches over in 50th minute and ten minutes later the hosts were no doubt pleased to see the departure of their arch tormentor as Barton completed a very effective 60 minutes after his return from a pre-season injury and was replaced by Tyrone Baker. 

The next Ives chance also turned into an opportunity at both ends in 65th minute. Initially keeper Johnson came for a Richens free kick from wide right but failed to make any contact with the ball that ricocheted around the Poppies box with no one able to force it home before the eventual clearance set Jarvis away. As Ives covering defenders closed in the hosts wide man unleashed a left footed effort from 25 yards that flew wide of Brearey’s left hand post. 

Ives finally got their reward for all of their endeavour in 71st minute when Richens picked up a ball wide on the right that he clipped into the box over the out of position Johnson and with the keeper fast back peddling but not able to get to it the ball looked like it was floating in but Nassunculo made sure as he forced it home at the back post. 

Falling behind sparked a reaction from the hosts and in their desperation they forced Ives back for a while. In 74th minute Bridgeman went down inside the box under pressure from Smith but claims for a penalty were waved away by Referee Daniel Smith and Jarvis picked himself up a card for taking his protests a little to far. 

But it was an Ives player who needlessly picked up a yellow card in 87th minute as Smith, put under pressure by a poor pass from Baker was forced to handle the ball. But he did not pick up the card for the handball instead he got it for foolishly kicking the ball away after the whistle had blown. Even worse for the Ives left back he had picked up an earlier yellow for a foul ten minutes before the break so found himself taking an early bath. The resulting free kick was delivered dangerously into the box by Jarvis but fortunately Lewthwaite was adjudged to have fouled Harris in the ensuing scramble. 

Even though they were now down to ten men Ives should have killed the game in first minute of added time as Baker was bundled over by Johnson inside the box. Referee Smith pointed to the spot, but Njoku dragged his kick wide of the post to lift the Poppies to a final crescendo in the hope, rather than expectation, of getting something from the game. 

The keeper went up for a 94th minute free kick that led to something of a scramble in Ives box but Will Mellors-Blair hooked his effort wide. Lewthwaite then fired over from 25 yards moments later before the undeserved equaliser finally came in the sixth added minute as Ives struggled to clear another ball into the box from Jarvis with it eventually being forced home by Lewthwaite. There was just time for a despondent Ives to get the ball back to the centre spot before the final whistle blew. 

The final result was gut wrenching but looking back in the cold light of day Ives management team, players and supporters can take an awful lot more from this game than the struggling Poppies who look like a team in trouble. The visitors on the other hand played some cracking football at times and must build on this performance far more than the result. 

Final Score:  Kettering Town  1  St Ives Town  1 


KETTERING: Lewthwaite 90+6 

ST IVES: Nassunculo 71 

Team Line Ups: 

KETTERING: Johnson, Cochrane, Toseland (Reilly 69), Sharpe, Langmead, White (Okito 61), Dawson, Stohrer (capt) (Bridgeman 14), Lewthwaite, Mellors-Blair, Jarvis, Unused subs: Purse, Barker 

ST IVES: Brearey, Casey, Smith, Richens (capt), Williams, Johnson, Barton (Baker 61), Hottor (Bell-Toxtle 78), Njoku, Harris, Nassunculo (Herd 90), Unused subs: Hickinson, Andoh  

Cards: Red: ST IVES: Smith (2 x yellow) (35) & (87) 

            Yellow:  KETTERING: Jarvis (74), Johnson (90+1)        ST IVES: Williams (27), Richens (73) 


Attendance: 871