The Ives ran into a truly inspired goalkeeping performance at Barton Rovers on Tuesday evening as home keeper Kyle Forster made save after save to keep his side in this game. It took an absolute pile driver from Jack Higgs to beat him as he rode his luck on occasions but somehow pulled off at least five world class saves and in between showed excellent judgement and handling skills for a small keeper to come and claim a lot of the visitor’s nine corners on a windswept evening.
The ground staff did a marvellous job to get the game on and with both sides keen to play good open football and an excellent team of match officials who allowed the game to flow at every opportunity this was a very entertaining game for the neutral, but a little nerve jangling for the faithful.
The wind displayed it’s potential to cause problems in the first 30 seconds as Jordan Jarrold lofted in a ball from the left which looked like it was going well out of play, but held up on the breeze and eventually dropped onto the top of the cross bar before bouncing to safety.
The Ives claimed their first corner in the 9th minute and it almost lead to the opening goal as Steve Gentle got in front of his marker and attacked Phil Draycott’s in-swinger from the right. If he had got a touch he would have almost certainly diverted the ball home, but he missed the ball and it cannoned to safety off the somewhat fortunate Forster.
Play soon swung to the other end and the Rovers went close twice in a minute. In the 18th minute Alex O’Brien and Tyler Ingram combined well down the left and the latter laid the ball into the path of Claudio Dias who cannoned his 30 yard effort into the boards just outside Tim Trebes left hand post with the keeper scrambling across his goal. Less than 60 seconds later George Ironton and Ingram linked up to set up another shooting opportunity for Dias. This time the experienced midfielder decided to pick his spot from ten yards closer and he forced Trebes into a full length diving save to his left to turn the ball away.
The opening goal on 25 minutes came out of nothing and was a big contender for goal of the season. Luke Knight picked up the ball in midfield and looked to be running into a blind alley blocked by Rovers defenders, but he slid in to push the ball on into space. Higgs ran on to it fully 30 yards from goal and just spanked it. The ball flew like an exocet missile before cannoning into the back of the net off keeper Forster’s left hand post. The startled keeper had not moved a muscle.
Forster started his heroics eight minutes later as he somehow denied Draycott doubling the Ives advantage. He and Ben Seymour-Shove had swapped wings and the two combined to create the opportunity. Seymour-Shove threading an excellent ball through from the left that picked out the late arriving Draycott perfectly. Draycott was completely clear with only Forster to beat, he drew the keeper and looked to slot the ball past him on his right hand side, but Forster somehow got a hand to the effort and his covering defenders managed to hack the ball away.
Forster continued his one man effort to deny the Ives as he pulled off another amazing save four minutes before the break. Seymour-Shove got another excellent cross in from the left and Higgs plunged full length to direct a header goal wards from around the penalty spot. The ball was arrowing just inside Forster’s left hand post, but the agile keeper flung himself across and just managed to fingertip the ball around the post.
The game continued in the same open fashion in the second period. Forster was in action again five minutes in when Higgs won a crunching tackle in midfield and fed the ball into the feet of Danny Watson who hit a first time effort from 20 yards that Forster held well diving to his right.
Higgs was involved again only one minute later as he fed another ball out of the midfield mud to Seymour-Shove on the right. His dangerous low cross along the six yard line was deflected over his own cross bar by Rovers skipper Paul Andrews as he struggled to beat Watson to the ball.
The Rovers were gifted an equaliser on 57 minutes as both Charlie De’ath and Jarrold failed to clear a ball bobbling around the Ives box and allowed it to arrive at the feet of Ashton Grant who calmly side footed it home through a pack of players and past an unsighted Trebes.
Ives reacted well to this set back and went close to restoring their lead only two minutes later as De’ath delivered a dangerous free kick into the box that was flicked on by Andrew Phillips and arrived at the feet of Draycott at the back of the box. He drilled the ball across goal, but a deflection took it just past the far post.
The resulting corner bounced around the back of the box and was kept alive by Steve Gentle who played it back out to Jarrold. His clip into the box picked out Higgs by the penalty spot. This time, the unbeatable Forster made a Peter Schmiechel like save as he stayed big to deflect the close range effort away. However he did not need to bother as Higgs had gone a little to soon and the assistant’s flag was up for offside.
The play soon swung to the other end again and this time Trebes was called into action in the 67th minute as Ironton crossed from the left and Jordan Davis skilfully brought the ball down and fired in a well struck effort from 25 yards that Trebes had to plunge to his right to tip around the post.
Ives created an excellent chance to win the game with twelve minutes to go, only to be denied by that man Forster again. Scott Sinclair stormed forward from right back and sprayed the ball across to substitute Declan Rogers on the left. Rogers got to the bye line and teed up a cross to the far post. Fellow substitute Stuart Eason arriving at the far headed the ball back across goal where Phillips arriving at pace looked like he must score from about two yards. Again Forster did his best Schmiechel like impression and again the ball hit his body and bounced away and the chance was gone.
The visitor’s were now piling on the pressure in search of a well deserved winner. With nine minutes to go another teasing cross from the left by Rogers was flicked on at the near post by Phillips and acrobatically cleared away from the far post by skipper Andrews. The loose ball fell to Higgs and his follow up effort was also blocked by Andrews.
The final chance of the evening also fell to the Ives as a Rogers corner from the left was met with a powerful header by Gentle at the near post. The post had not got a covering defender on it and the ball was heading just inside it. We were all cheering what we thought was the winner, but we had not made allowance for the spring heeled Forster who flung himself to his right and finger tipped the ball onto the post and away.
On another day, against a less inspired keeper this would have been a very comfortable win for the Ives. They played some excellent flowing football in difficult conditions and thoroughly deserved the three points. But things do not always work out as they should and at least this point kept the unbeaten run in 2016 going and still retained our spot in the play off places.
The man of the match was undoubtedly Kyle Forster in the Barton goal. However the Ives fans gave their vote to the only man that managed to get the ball past him on this entertaining evening Jack Higgs whose wonder strike certainly won him a lot of votes, but equally it was good to see him getting much closer to his best after his long injury lay off.
St Ives team : Trebes, Sinclair, Jarrold, De’ath, Gentle, Knight, Seymour-Shove, Higgs (Cunniff 87), Phillips, Watson (Eason 69), Draycott (Rogers 75)
Unused subs : Moyes, Keating
Goals : Higgs 25
Supporters Man of the Match : Jack Higgs
Final Score : Barton Rovers 1 St Ives Town 1
Attendance : 107