Result: St Ives Town 1 Northwood 0

On a day when all of their promotion rivals, except one, dropped points this hard fought victory moved the Ives up to within three points of top spot. A cold, blustery, day with a firm pitch and opponents who came into this match unbeaten away from home since September, a run stretching back 14 games in all competitions meant it was never going to be easy and was probably going to be a day when a result had to be ground out.

But the Ives are a confident and very well drilled outfit these days and certainly not a side to be put off by opponents with such a tough reputation. Unchanged from Tuesday night’s tough point against Potters Bar they set off into this match in similar style to the game against the Scholars.

The game was only four minutes old when the Woods skipper Steve Brown was adjudged to have held down Andrew Phillips as the pair climbed for a long Brendan Brown punt. Luke Knight lined up the free kick thirty yards out, but his well struck shot was deflected off the wall for a corner.

Ben Seymour-Shove’s resulting corner from the right failed to clear the first man, but the ball was headed straight back to him. His second attempt was a little better, but Brown managed to head it away, although only as far as Jordan Jarrold who delivered an excellent deep cross to pick out an unmarked Danny Watson beyond the far post. Watson took the ball down well and fired in a crisp effort from a narrow angle that visiting keeper Berkley Laurencin could only parry, but one of his defenders came to his aid to scramble the ball clear.

The visitor’s first opportunity came eight minutes later as Seymour-Shove was harshly deemed to have handled a bobbling ball just outside the left hand corner of the box. Andy Lomas delivered a deep free kick beyond the far post where Brown had found space and he directed his header back across goal but fortunately no one was on hand to force the ball home.

The game was settled in a controversial 19th minute which saw Ives almost fall behind, but then grab the lead. Louis Stead threaded a perfect ball through the Ives defence which looked to have put Myles Stephenson clear, but Jarrold came sliding in with a last ditch tackle that the referee deemed had taken the ball. With Stephenson tumbling in the box the entire Woods team and particularly their bench were screaming for a penalty. But the ball ran on into the hands of keeper Brendan Brown who swiftly delivered it down the park. Higgs brought the ball down well and was fouled by Steve Brown, but the referee called an excellent advantage and Higgs just stayed on his feet and fed the ball wide to Phil Draycott on the left. He delivered a first time deep cross to beyond the far post where Watson had again found space. Watson did well to keep the ball in and pulled it back into the middle where Luke Knight gleefully bundled it home from close range to claim his second goal of the season.

The Woods captain Brown took his objections to the referees decisions in these incidents a little to far and was promptly booked by the man in black for his pains.

Ives came very close to increasing their lead from two corners in quick succession five minutes later. The first delivered from the left by Seymour-Shove was short, but was flicked on by a stooping Steve Gentle at the near post. Phillips managed to force the ball goalwards with his head from six yards, but the effort was headed off the line by Lomas. The second corner from the opposite side by Higgs was similarly dropped short, but allowed to bounce into the six yard box where Watson got in a brave header that was inches over the top.

The Woods did create one more opportunity of their own in the first half again from a dead ball situation. Sinclair was deemed to have brought down Rob Hastings wide on the left. Lomas delivered an in-swinging free kick that evaded everyone in the middle and bounced harmlessly out for a goal kick.

The final chance of a first half in which they had certainly been the better side was carved out by the Ives. Watson held up a long ball down the middle well and played the ball into the feet of Higgs who played a clever little ball into the path of Phillips. The hard working striker held off a challenge from Brown and fired in a shot from 15 yards that Laurencin did well to keep out low to his left.

The home side’s very effective defence had worked well in keeping the Woods at long range in the first half. Brown was called on to make his first save only 30 seconds into the second half as James Burgess tried his luck from fully 35 yards, but the keeper was alert and held on well.

Ives first effort of the second period arrived in the 51st minute as a deep free kick by Higgs was only half cleared by James Budden. The ball fell to Seymour-Shove who teed up Knight 35 yards from goal. But the combative midfielder’s powerful first time effort only succeeded in scattering the fans beside the goal.

The Ives best chance in the second half fell to Watson on the hour. Seymour-Shove picked up a ball in midfield and tried to flick it across to Watson. The ball held up on the breeze and deceived full back Alex Nolan who allowed it to float over his head and leave Watson clear. Keeper Laurencin started to come but was in no man’s land as Watson strode onto the bouncing ball, but he was caught in two minds with the opportunity to either lob the stopper, or blast the ball hard and low. He ended up doing neither and only succeeded in lobbing the ball into the grateful keeper’s hands from just inside the box.

The game continued to be fought out predominantly in midfield where the battling pair of Knight and Higgs were more than holding their own. The frustration at not being able to build any real pressure was showing on the Woods, particularly on their management team who were seizing every opportunity to question the decisions of the referee. The excellent match official decided he had heard enough with 15 minutes to go and after receiving a tirade of abuse from the dug out over a throw in decision by the half way line took the only real course of action open to him and sent the Northwood assistant manager Simon Huggett to the stands.

Chances were definitely at a premium in this second period Luke Knight thudded another long range effort into the boards from 30 yards on 76 minutes. The next chance came with only three minutes to go as speedy Ives substitute Luis Vieira hassled the Woods defence into a mistake robbing Lomas and tricking his way past Budden who had to resort to bringing him down on the edge of the box. Unfortunately the usually reliable Higgs failed to hit the target with the free kick.

The Woods final chance came as the game entered added time. Keeper Brown delivered a long free kick into the visitor’s half. Budden was allowed to bring the ball down and fired a long diagonal pass to Niko Muir who had drifted into space wide left. Muir delivered an inviting ball into the box that was fortunately inches ahead of the onrushing forwards and the ball floated harmlessly out for a goal kick.

There were no more scares in the added four minutes and Ives claimed a well deserved three points to spark wild celebrations amongst the fans at the final whistle. Those celebrations continued on as the results of the other games affecting the play off places came in.

The sponsors picked the ever reliable Charlie De’ath as their man of the match for another commanding display in the heart of the Ives defence. He must have been pushed very close by a back to his best Luke Knight who was the driving force in the engine room for this game and claimed the win with a rare goal. Seven games to go dare we dream!

St Ives team : Brown, Sinclair, Jarrold, De’ath, Gentle, Knight (capt), Seymour-Shove (Vieira 84), Higgs, Phillips, Watson (Cunniff 79), Draycott (Rogers 70)

Unused subs : Warwick, Simons

Goals : Knight 19

Sponsors Man of the Match : Charlie De’ath

Final Score :  St Ives Town 1  Northwood  0

Attendance  :  289