A well won and coolly converted penalty and another solid defensive display saw the Ives claim a 1-0 victory against a young and enthusiastic PNS side in an uninspiring Tuesday evening fixture at the Focus Centre.
The good points for the Ives were a good 80 minutes from Charlie Death on his return from injury, an interesting 45 minutes from Stuart Eason as a centre back, a promising display in a variety of positions from young trialist Luca Dusi and first team debuts for scholars Reuben Eyles and Joe McDaid.
The visitors hit the ground running and went close with only one minute on the clock as Danny Watson found space on the right and drove a low cross into the box which was just deflected away from the inrushing Phil Draycott by the boot of Chris Hashan, the ball arriving in the grateful arms of keeper Dan George.
Ives went even closer to going in front only five minutes later as Watson was brought down on the right. Draycott delivered a dangerous in-swinging free kick that Chae Simons got on the end of 8 yards from goal. Unfortunately Simons powerful header was straight at George who made a reflex save. Eason following up was unable to get his header on target.
These two early chances were the only real opportunities carved out by either side until the 33rd minute when Ives won the first corner of the game. Draycott’s pin point kick dropped into the danger zone and was deflected into the path of Eason only six yards out. He looked certain to score, but covering defender Michael Mackrell bravely flung himself across the shot to block the ball away.
The home side created their first half chance of the game three minutes from the break when Dan Barker ran at the right side of the visitors defence and rolled the ball into Jacob Joyce on the edge of the box. Joyce turned his man and clipped in a shot at goal, but the effort lacked power and failed to trouble Tim Trebes.
The only goal of the game came six minutes after the restart when home skipper Luke Smith needlessly pushed Watson inside the box as he tried to bring down a long Pat Bexfield free kick with his back to goal. With no Jack Higgs in the side the responsibility from the spot fell to Watson and he gratefully seized the opportunity sending George the wrong way with a well struck kick.
Trebes was called upon to make his only real save of the game directly from the kick off as Smith spotted the visiting keeper off his line and tried an audacious chip from the centre circle that was spot on and would have just crept under the cross bar but for a tip away by the fast retreating Trebes.
The Star came close to an equaliser from the resulting corner as Hashan found space in the crowded box to get in a free header, but he failed to hit the target from eight yards.
Chris Joyce was looking lively for the home side and having received a throw wide left he created himself a piece of space on the corner of the Ives box on the hour, but his mishit shot was comfortably gathered by Trebes at his near post.
The second half was disrupted by the usual flow of substitutions which come in friendly fixtures and whilst the Ives looked fairly comfortable they failed to create another clear cut opportunity in the remainder of the game. Their closest effort being a rising shot from 20 yards by Eason as he cut in from the left, but the effort came closer to the solar panels on one of the houses at that end of the ground than it did to Dan George’s goal.
The home side did create two more half chances in the last few minutes. Firstly on 82 minutes Trebes had to be alert to quickly race off his line and hack the ball away from Craig Smith after he had been put clear. Luke Smith tried his luck first time from the half way line as he ran onto the loose ball, but the retreating Trebes comfortably gathered the ball near his penalty spot.
The final half chance came with the last kick of the game as the impressive Jordan Jarrold rose well to head clear a cross to the far post. The resulting clearance fell at the feet of Jones, but his first time effort from 25 yards bounced wide of Trebes left hand post.
This was probably not a game that will live long in the memory, but it was another solid performance that once again suggests the Ives defence looks likely to be a lot more solid than last season. At the moment goals are looking a little harder to come by, but the side is beginning to come together and I believe these will come.
We face a tough test on Saturday with our final pre-season friendly a trip to Spalding United who only missed out on the play offs in the Northern Premier League First Division South by two points last season. It promises to be just the type of test we need before the opening League game seven days later.