Normal service was resumed at the Pro Edge stadium on Saturday as the Ives frugal defence again set them on course for an excellent result against the in-form Blues. Declan Rogers very well taken goal six minutes before the break ensured that the all round team performance got the reward it deserved and earned another vital three points to maintain the push towards a play off place.
After a blip over the Easter weekend when Ives only picked up one point from a possible six and conceded four goals in the process it was no surprise that manager Ricky Marheineke and his assistant Jack Cassidy put together a midweek training session around the defensive shape of the team. This was going to be vital against opponents who came to St Ives on the back of a seven game unbeaten run and boasted a pair of big, strong, and very mobile strikers.
The playing surface at Westwood Road has now reached the point of the season where it has dried out and firmed up considerably thus making it very difficult to play a flowing style of football. Both sides were struggling to string passes together in the early stages and the only thing of note in the first twenty minutes was a flying elbow from Justin Leavers that connected with Luke Knight, and earned the Blues striker a very early yellow card that had it come later in the game may have been red.
The first real opportunity of the game fell to the home side in the 20th minute as a long ball in from the right by Scott Sinclair was flicked on by Andrew Phillips. The ball rebounded off Ryan Hervel and ran loose in the area. Both Danny Watson and Phillips tried to get onto the rolling ball, but somewhat got in each other’s way and although Watson managed to clip the ball past keeper Tom Coulton the effort lacked power and was hacked away by covering defender Jack Mace.
Ives keeper Tim Trebes came close to an assist four minutes later as a wind assisted punt from the Ives stopper deceived centre back George Essuman skidded off his head and bounced only inches wide with keeper Coulton scrambling to cover. The resulting corner lead to the Blues first opportunity of the game as the ball was cleared to Josh Oyibo who lead a quick break down the right and delivered a ball into the centre that was turned home from close range by the unmarked Kieran Bishop. But fortunately the Blues leading scorer had gone to soon and was denied by the assistants flag.
After this fortunate escape the home side began to enjoy a good period of possession and started to create chances. In 36th minute a good ball in from the left by Jordan Jarrold was skilfully taken down on the edge of the box by Rogers who played a well weighted pass into the path of Jared Cunniff in space on the right. The Ives midfielder hit a powerful low drive from a narrow angle that was smothered by Coulton who held on well.
The same two players were involved in the goal that settled the game three minutes later. Phillips battled for a bouncing ball in midfield with Hervel. He showed an excellent touch to bring down the ball, out muscle the Blues midfielder, and lay it into the feet of Cunniff who curled an exquisite pass with the outside of his boot around full back Harry Singh and into the path of the late arriving Rogers. Rogers showed total composure as he clipped the ball past the fast closing keeper and turned away in celebration as it bobbled into the net.
Ives came close to adding to this lead twice in the remaining minutes of the first period. On 41 minutes Cunniff headed a dropping ball into the path of Phillips 20 yards from goal and the Ives striker again showed his quality as he instantly hit a powerful dipping volley that keeper Coulton did well to hold onto.
Right on half time a fast flowing break involving Cunniff and Phillips almost managed to put Watson clear. But he was driven wide and eventually did well to earn a corner off Mace. The resulting corner was flicked on at the near post by Gentle and scrambled away for another flag kick. The second one from the left swung in by Rogers was misjudged by keeper Coulton who completely missed it. Knight won the ball at the back post and headed it back into the mix where Phillips bravely won the header, but could not keep the ball down under heavy pressure for Essuman.
The visitor’s best opportunity of the afternoon came only 26 seconds after the restart as a dangerous ball in from the right by Mace picked out Khale Dacosta who had a free header eight yards out. But he seemed surprised that the ball had arrived with him and his tame effort proved an easy catch for Trebes.
The home side did a very professional job in the second half allowing the visitor’s possession in their own half, but denying them any space at all beyond the half way line. The training session on defensive shape was clearly in evidence as every Ives player knew their job and carried it out to the letter. The Blues enjoyed long periods of possession, but were unable to test Trebes throughout this second period.
The closest either side came to a goal in the second half came just after the hour and again involved Cunniff and Rogers. On this occasion Cunniff picked up a loose ball 30 yards from goal and laid through an almost identical ball to put Rogers clear, but this time Coulton was a little quicker off his line and bravely blocked the wingers effort. However the ball ran loose and the ever alert Phillips was on to it in a flash, but only succeeded in hammering his effort into the side netting.
The only other Blues effort of note in the entire second period came with ten minutes to go as a Singh long throw arrived at the feet of substitute Dernell Wynter inside the box, but he snatched at his effort and only succeeded in firing wide with Trebes looking to have the ball comfortably covered.
Ives were very effective in seeing out the game without coming under any real pressure and the final whistle saw much celebration amongst the fans of another vital three points and similar celebration amongst the players and management team, but theirs in the knowledge of a job well done.
There were many contenders for man of the match again and with everyone doing their job they were all in with a shout. The sponsors on the day decided in favour of the hard work and extra touches of quality of Andrew Phillips. A very well deserved award to a man who is in the top three contenders every week.
St Ives team : Trebes, Sinclair, Jarrold, De’ath, Gentle, Knight (capt), Rogers, Cunniff (Warwick 90), Phillips (Higgs 74), Watson, Draycott (Vieira 70)
Unused subs : Moyes, Seymour-Shove
Goals : Rogers 39
Sponsors Man of the Match : Andrew Phillips
Final Score : St Ives Town 1 Ware 0
Attendance : 284