Ives extended their winning run in 2016 to four games with a very hard fought victory against a quality Bedford side who were somewhat unlucky to depart from the Pro-Edge stadium with nothing to show for their endeavour.
But as the saying goes you make your own luck and St Ives have been very good at that this season their well organised, solid, defence has been the rock of a number of close fought victories and this was exactly how it proved again on this frosty evening.
For the second game in a row the fixture was put in doubt by frost. But the micro climate in St Ives again came up trumps and the pitch passed a 4.30 inspection. Fortunately the temperature then held up just sufficiently to ensure that the ground did not freeze during the evening which meant the players had a slightly different problem with the sticky mud.
Coming off the back of Saturday’s thumping of Arlesey it was no surprise that the Ives started this game in confident fashion. They pressed forward and won their first corner in only the third minute. The flag kick was delivered from the left by Phil Draycott and won in the air by skipper Luke Knight he headed the ball down to the feet of Andrew Phillips who swivelled and fired in a snap shot from 15 yards that was spectacularly turned over the top by visitors keeper Maxime Fondop Siwe.
Ives set pieces are well rehearsed these days and their next opportunity in the seventh minute came from a Scott Sinclair free kick by the half way line which was flicked on by Phillips. Danny Watson timed his run to perfection to get clear of the defence. He went for the first time effort and chipped the ball over the advancing Fondop Siwe from the edge of the box, unfortunately the effort was just a little to high.
The visiting Eagles were noisily supported by their small band of followers behind the goal they were attacking and they gave their followers the first reason to cheer in the tenth minute as Soloman Sambou fed a ball into the feet of his fellow striker Serigne Mor Diop on the edge of the box. Mor Diop skilfully turned his man and fired a crisp drive inches wide of Tim Trebes left hand post.
The Eagles went even closer three minutes later as Josh Bamford managed to wriggle his way past Scott Sinclair down the left. He got to the bye line and pulled the ball back to Mor Diop who was quickly closed down, but clipped the ball into the feet of Sambou who fired in a low drive from just inside the box that that forced a full length diving save from keeper Trebes who got a good hand to the ball to push it round the post.
Bedford were enjoying a good amount of possession during this middle period of the first half and Trebes was called into action again on 22 minutes. Mati Clifford delivered a deep free kick from the left that cleared everyone in the centre and was perfectly met on the volley by the late arriving Josh Beech at the far post. He looked certain to score and was only denied by a flying reaction save from the excellent Trebes.
The next opportunity came at the other end as Ives went close again from a dead ball situation on 24 minutes. Higgs was clumsily brought down by Sambou 25 yards from goal and picked himself up to take the free kick that was probably just a little bit to central to give him the angle he likes. But true to form he got the ball up and down over the wall and it required another diving save from Fondop Siwe to prevent the ball going in the bottom corner.
Ives produced the best move of the first half on the half hour mark as a good piece of interplay between Draycott and Jordan Jarrold on the left created a crossing opportunity for the latter. His cross was a little to deep, but was kept alive beyond the far post by Watson who turned the ball back into the box where Phillips got a good touch, but just failed to hit the target under heavy pressure from ex Ives man James Peters.
Ives had the final effort of the half right on the whistle as the Eagles defence struggled to clear a Draycott free kick from the right which initially arrived at the feet of Ben Seymour-Shove. His first time effort was blocked. But the ball bounced back the feet of Luke Knight 30 yards out who fired powerful drive well over the top.
Bedford carved out probably their best opportunity of the evening only three minutes into the second half as a corner from the right by Clifford was headed down to the feet of Mor Diop ten yards out. He fired his effort across the face of goal and it arrived at the feet of Taishan Griffith by the far post who somehow failed to hit the target from eight yards with the goal at his mercy.
Ives were still looking dangerous on the break and Draycott went close with a solo effort four minutes later as he took on Stuart Muldrew on the outside and got round him. He cut in on goal and fired in a low cross shot that Fondop Siwe did well to cling onto at the second attempt.
After this attempt the visitors again enjoyed long periods of good possession, but Trebes was only called into real action once as Griffith and Sambou combined well to create a shooting opportunity for the latter that forced Trebes into a low diving save to his right in 51st minute.
Most of us were beginning to come to the conclusion that this would probably be a good point if our defence could continue to keep the Eagles at bay for the remaining 20 minutes when the Ives produced the move of the match to clinch all three points. Substitute Peter Clark picked up the ball in midfield and sprayed a pass out to Draycott on the left. He clipped a first time pass back to Jarrold who curled an inch perfect ball to Andrew Phillips just inside the box. The hard working striker had a lot to do as he was being closed down by both defenders and keeper Fondop Siwe, but he curled the perfect shot from 15 yards that arched around the keeper and bounced inches inside the far post.
Ives had been working very hard up to this point to preserve their clean sheet and they were not going to let the opportunity to take all three points slip from their grasp. Bedford tried hard to rally, but were constantly running up against the home sides solid formation. They only came close to testing Trebes twice in the remaining time and on both occasions covering full back Scott Sinclair was on hand to snuff out the danger. On 87 minutes a long through ball from Beech almost put Sambou clear, but Sinclair timed his covering tackle perfectly.
He was also on hand to cut out an intended clip over the top from Beech which almost put speedy Eagles substitute Afolabi Obafemi clear one minute into added time. Ives did create one final opportunity to guild the lily as Clark just managed to beat keeper Fondop Siwe to a low Seymour-Shove cross from the right. But the keeper did just enough to force him to prod his effort just wide of the near post.
The home side played out the five and a half minutes of added time without any scare to claim a very good three points against an Eagles side who will surely soar up the table. In spite of his brilliantly taken goal and generally very impressive display Andrew Phillips was just pipped to the man of the match award by our winger turned full back Scott Sinclair who personified the defence as a whole and just grabbed the award with those two well timed late interceptions.
To end on a sad note I would like to take this opportunity to wish Peter Clark all the best on his return to St Neots Town. I hope he has enjoyed his time with the Ives as much as we have enjoyed watching his quick feet and his excellent passing ability. He has often given us an extra dimension going forward which will be sorely missed. But we must press on and remain focussed on our ambition to join him in the Premier division next season.
St Ives team : Trebes, Sinclair, Jarrold, Moyes, Gentle, Knight (capt) (Clark 61), Seymour-Shove, Higgs, Phillips (Eason 81) , Watson (Keating 76), Draycott
Unused subs : De’ath, Cunniff
Goals : Phillips 70
Sponsors Man of the Match : Scott Sinclair
Final Score : St Ives Town 1 Bedford Town 0
Attendance : 271