Saturday 9th August 2014 – Southern League – Div 1 Central
North Greenford Utd 1 St Ives Town 2
Man of the match: Jordan Lambert
St Ives opened their competitive season with a very hard earned three points at North Greenford.
It was the proverbial game of two halves with St Ives in almost total control for the first period. Goals from a Jon Stead penalty and Karl Gibbs put them in the driving seat. But their resolve was truly tested in the second half as North Greenford took over, but could only reply with a George Moore thunderbolt.
The game started in brilliant sunshine on an excellent surface. St Ives were immediately on the front foot with shots from Karl Gibbs, Ben Seymour-Shove and Jon Stead all requiring saves from Liam Watson in the home goal in the first three minutes.
Only six minutes in and Watson had to be alert to rush off his line and block a Scott Sinclair shot with his legs after Sinclair had been sent clear by an excellent Stead through ball.
St Ives continued to press and Seymour-Shove was denied by an assistant’s flag as he ran onto a Gibbs’ flick on 15 minutes.
North Greenford were trying hard to play the ball out from the back, but the Ives were pressing them and forcing mistakes. On 27 minutes a defender was caught in possession by Stead and his pass released Sinclair who was brought down by a clumsy tackle from Michael Mbella just inside the box. Stead made no mistake from the spot, sending Watson the wrong way.
St Ives continued to press and excellent chasing by Seymour-Shove allowed him to get a dangerous cross in from the left which evaded everyone in the middle and was spectacularly volleyed over by Sinclair at the far post.
Another goal looked inevitable and it came on 34 minutes as Sinclair robbed another dallying defender and set David Cobb free on the right. His inviting cross was perfectly met by Gibbs at the far post to give Watson no chance.
It had been all one way traffic up to this point, but Greenford offered their first glimpses as an attacking side two minutes later when a snap shot from 25 yards by Anthony O’Connor brought a diving save out of Barney McLaughlin in the visitor’s goal.
Only two minutes later and McLaughlin was again in action making his best save of the afternoon turning over a point blank header from O’Connor after he had got on the end of a driven free kick by Louis Stead.
St Ives created their last chance of the first half on 42 minutes when Watson dived to his right to deny Cobb after he had been put clear by Seymour-Shove. The follow up by Jon Stead was blocked on the line by Mbella.
The second half started in more even fashion, but with Greenford slowly beginning to take over the midfield.
The first scare for St Ives came on 55 minutes when Raheem Sterling-Parker beat McLaughlin to a through ball, but the keeper forced him wide and Jordan Lambert was able to cover around and prevent him getting a shot away.
The only chance created by the Ives in the second period fell to David Cobb who was put clear on 57 minutes, but he placed his shot past the advancing keeper and agonisingly just past the far post.
From this point Greenford began to dominate the game and McLaughlin was next called into action two minutes later as he dived to his left to push away a fierce drive by Sterling-Parker.
The introduction of Stuart Eason and Hayden Bream for Gibbs and Jimmy Dean on 63 minutes failed to stem the tide as Louis Stead continued to run the midfield for Greenford and spray diagonal balls to their wide men. His dangerous cross into the box on 69 minutes only just evaded substitute Ibrahim Bah at the far post.
St Ives had a double escape on 73 minutes as first a short corner was driven into the box by Kyle Russell that rebounded to safety off the near upright. Then in the next attack a last ditch block by Jordan Lambert fell to George Moore who rattled the same upright from 20 yards.
On 77 minutes the Greenford pressure finally paid off as Moore again tried his luck from distance and his fierce, swerving effort from 25 yards gave McLaughlin no chance.
The goal spurred Greenford on more and McLaughlin was pleased to see a near post flick by O’Connor to a Stead corner just clear his crossbar. The goalkeeper preserved St Ives lead on 84 minutes, plunging to his left to keep out an O’Connor drive from just outside the box.
The game entered injury time with Greenford still pushing forward and their final chance fell to Moore whose effort from 25 yards flew just wide of McLaughlin’s left hand post.
St Ives can be proud of a very good all round display which saw all parts of the team tested at various periods of the game. Excellent attacking play in the first half set up the win, but a resolute defensive display in the second ensured all three points went back to Westwood Road.
St Ives team : McLaughlin, Medwynter, Alsop (Smith 79), Lambert, Fordham (capt), Dean (Bream 63), Sinclair, Stead, Gibbs (Eason 63), Cobb, Seymour-Shove. Unused subs : Gutierrez, Muzvimbiri
Goals : Stead 27 (pen), Gibbs 34
Next 1st team match Tuesday 12th August 7.45pm kick off AWAY to Daventry
Next U18 match Wednesday 13th August HOME to Huntingdon U18 (Pre-season friendly)