Ives leapt back into second place with a thoroughly professional performance in the wind and rain in Hampshire. Most of us were surprised, but very pleased, that this game managed to beat the promised monsoon especially as Fleet had not managed to get a game on at their ground for the previous 50 days.
The pitch that greeted us actually looked quite good with the exception of both goalmouths which had clearly been the problem areas that had lead to the previous postponements. However the wind was howling around the pleasant little stadium and right on kick off the rain arrived just to add to the difficulty for the players.
The Ives made only one change from the team that had drawn their last two away games with Declan Rogers making his first start in place of the unavailable Phil Draycott. The home side were clearly treating their visitors with a high degree of respect as they set up with a back five, four man midfield and only a lone striker.
However it was the Blues who almost went in front in only the second minute as Chris Hall threaded a precise ball through the channel to put Rob Carr clear cutting in from the left. He slotted the ball past the quickly advancing Tim Trebes, but inches past the far post. Little did we know it at this point, but that proved to be the home side’s best chance of the game.
The first half chance for the Ives came on 13 minutes as Scott Sinclair was allowed to roam forward from right back and he slotted a ball inside the full back for Danny Watson to run onto, but home keeper Ryan Pryce was alert to the danger and rushed off his line to hack the ball clear to deny the Ives leading scorer.
The next piece of exciting action occurred on the half hour as an attempted clip over the top by Jordan Jarrold was turned back to his keeper by Josh Harfield, but Ben Seymour-Shove was very quick to close down the keeper who chose to pick up the bouncing ball. The referee deemed it a pass back and awarded the visitors a free kick fifteen yards from goal in an almost central position. The Blues formed up a seven man wall with the keeper behind it. The ball was touched sideways to Jack Higgs, but his fierce drive into the pack almost invariably cannoned away off a defender.
Watson picked up the loose ball and curled it back into the crowded box. Luke King won the ball in the air at the far post, but his attempted defensive header fell to Rogers who hit a crisp volley from 15 yards that looked to be heading into the corner of the net until Dan Rousell bravely headed the ball away off the goal line.
Six minutes later it was the Blues turn to spurn another opportunity as a long free kick by Craig Davis held up on the breeze to make it difficult for Ives defence, Charlie De’ath won the header under severe pressure, but the ball dropped to Ben White 20 yards out and he probably should have done better as he fired well over the top with time to pick his spot.
The Blues created one more opportunity four minutes from the break as Harfield was allowed to advance from left back and he eventually got to the edge of the box where he rolled a ball across the face of goal that fortunately evaded everyone in the centre and eventually rolled out for a goal kick.
Ives twice came close to going in front just before the break. On 43 minutes Luke Knight won one of his trademark crunching tackles in the middle of the park and curled a ball out towards Seymour-Shove on the right. The wind again caught the ball and this time carried it inside into the path of Higgs who instantly fed it to Seymour-Shove in space. His driven cross deflected off Rousell and looped up invitingly for Rogers who was arriving late at the far post. His powerful volley flew inches wide of Pryce’s right hand post.
Right on half time Ives came even closer to opening their account as Seymour-Shove pounced on a half cleared header 25 yards from goal, he hit a stunning first time effort that flashed past the startled Pryce before he could move. But the ball rattled the relieved keeper’s cross bar and rebounded to safety.
Playing with the elements in the second period the Ives quickly began to take control of the game and build the pressure on the home defence. Danny Watson served up the first chance of the half on 50 minutes as he turned Harfield inside out before delivering a teasing cross from the right that Rogers looked likely to get on the end of at the far post until he tangled with King. The visitor’s screams for a penalty were waved away by the referee who was right on the spot.
Right on the hour Ives went route one to carve out their next chance as Andrew Phillips flicked on a long Trebes punt and Watson almost got clear only to be denied by Pryce bravely plunging in at his feet to block his attempted prod at goal. The ball ran out for a corner which was delivered from the left by Knight. Phillips got the run on his marker to power in a downward header at the near post that bounced up and over King on the line to nestle in the roof of the net to put the visitors into a well deserved lead.
The second goal came in almost identical fashion ten minutes later as Seymour-Shove harried Harfield into conceding a corner on the right. This time Higgs delivered the perfect in-swinger to the far post where De’ath rose highest to power in a header from eight yards that gave Pryce no chance.
Ives were completely in control and still pushing forward in search of a third. The closest they came was in 80th minute when the tricky Seymour-Shove was brought down by the struggling Harfield on the edge of the box as he tried to get on the end of another wind assisted Trebes howitzer. Higgs curled the free kick into the perfect no man’s land between the keeper and the onrushing forwards, but Pryce was equal to the task bravely plunging into the flying feet to claim the loose ball.
The Blues continued their quest for a consolation right to the end and created a couple of half chances in added time. Liam Gilbert found a little space 25 yards out just as the clock ticked past the 90 minutes. He fired in a powerful drive that deflected off De’ath for a corner. The resulting flag kick was won in the air by Simba Mlambo, but he failed to hit the target from a good position.
The final opportunity came in the 92nd minute as Davis delived a free kick from the right that curled into the box where Rousell got on the end of it, but his header lacked power and proved a comfortable catch for Trebes.
All in all another excellent away day which the two dozen, or so, Ives travelling faithful thoroughly enjoyed. Everyone did their job again making it a difficult task selecting a man of the match. Six different players picked up votes from the eight fans behind the goal at the end. The casting vote gave the award to Charlie De’ath who had a very solid game at the back and scored the clincher just when it was needed.
St Ives team : Trebes, Sinclair, Jarrold, De’ath, Gentle, Knight (capt), Seymour-Shove, Higgs, Phillips (Moyes 82), Watson (Eason 73), Rogers
Unused subs : Cunniff
Goals : Phillips 61, De’ath 72
Supporters Man of the Match : Charlie De’ath
Final Score : Fleet Town 0 St Ives Town 2
Attendance : 121