The Ives heaped the pressure on their higher division local rivals as a controlled display saw them avenge their unlucky exit from the Red Insure Cup at the hands of the Saints in October and at the same time progress to the final of the County Cup.
The two teams came into this fixture on very differing runs of form. The Saints on the back of a run of nine games without a win and the Ives fresh from a comprehensive away win at the League leaders which saw them leap back into the play-off places.
Both sides treated the fixture with respect and put out strong squads, but any neutral observer would have struggled to identify the Saints as the higher level side.
The game started quietly with both sides testing each other out and the only incident of note in the first half hour was a jinking run from ex Ives loanee Luis Viera who danced his way past two defenders into the visitor’s box after only five minutes. But just as he was shaping to shoot the ball was taken off his toe by a perfectly timed sliding tackle from Jordan Jarrold.
The first Ives attack of note led to the opening goal on the half hour. Ex Saints player Peter Clark picked up the ball on the half way line and did not look to be posing a threat. But the Saints defence kept backing off and allowed him to roam forward with the ball. He had options both left and right to play a pass into the feet of fellow attackers, but instead decided to try his luck from 25 yards. His well struck low effort caught Saints keeper Ollie Sutton on his heels and although he got a hand to the ball he was unable to keep it out.
Ives almost doubled their advantage eight minutes later as they again broke at pace and Phil Draycott laid a ball from the left into the feet of Andrew Phillips just outside the box. Phillips threaded an exquisite pass through the defenders to put Stuart Eason clear. Eason made no mistake clipping the ball past Sutton only to be denied by the assistant’s offside flag.
Only one minute later and the visitors had another attempt on goal. A deep free kick by Scott Sinclair was won at the far post by Charlie De’ath, but he was unable to keep his header down.
The final attempt of the first period came just before the break and again it was Clark causing problems for his former team mates. He robbed a dallying Ryan Hawkins in midfield and was again allowed space to roam forward. This time his powerful effort from 30 yards was straight at Sutton who held on well.
The home side probably received a reminder from their management team that they are the Premier Division club at half time and they started the second half in much more positive fashion. The period was only two minutes old when Tom Meechan rolled De’ath on the corner of the box and fired a snap shot over the top.
They went even closer to an equaliser two minutes later as Sinclair brought down the dangerous Meechan 25 yards from goal. Hawkins lined up the free kick and hit a powerful dipping drive over the wall that required an excellent full length diving stop from Tim Trebes to push the ball away from his right hand post.
Having survived this initial period of pressure Ives broke away in one of their trademark flowing moves on the hour and should have doubled their advantage. Sinclair played an inch perfect cross field ball to set Draycott away down the left. He got away from the full back and drove in a low cross along the six yard line. The ball beat Sutton at his near post and also evaded both Phillips and Eason and Saints defender Ryan Frater in the centre. But it arrived at the feet of Ben Seymour-Shove at the back post. With more covering defenders trying to block the goal line he went for both height and power, but only succeeded in rattling the crossbar when he probably should have scored.
Ten minutes later Draycott was again causing full back Jamie Anton problems down the left as he beat him once more and got to the bye line, rather than delivering the cross he cut in and ran along the line, but before he could pick out a fellow striker Anton managed to get in a recovery tackle to concede a corner. The corner was arced in from the left and beat Sutton in the air. Dan Moyes arriving at pace behind him met the ball perfectly, but only succeeded in powering his free header inches over the top.
Having failed to grab the second goal to settle the nerves Ives again came under some pressure from the home side as they realised they were still in this tie and visions of the Red Insure Cup tie started to come to mind. The Saints went close on 72 minutes as Hawkins delivered a corner from the right which was won at the back post by Shane Blackett, Frater knocked the ball on to Meechan in the box, but he scuffed his close range effort and Jarrold scrambled the ball away from the goal line. Claudio Ofosu following up fired the ball wide from the edge of the box.
As the game entered the last ten minutes Ives again began to exert their authority on proceedings and twice went close to increasing their lead before finally claiming that all important second goal. On 81 minutes another swift break by the visitors saw Seymour-Shove put Phillips away down the right. He delivered a low cross into the six yard box that Frater and Anton combined to just prevent substitute Jared Cunniff sliding the ball home.
Three minutes later another Ives substitute got involved as Luke Knight won the ball in midfield and slid through a pass to Seymour-Shove cutting in from the right. The speedy Ives winger fired in a first time effort that stung Sutton’s hands as he pushed it away for a corner at his near post.
After the many chances Ives had created in this game from open play the second goal when it came was a simple set piece move. Jack Higgs delivered the in-swinging corner from the right and Knight got in front of the keeper to power home a header at the near post.
The game was deep into added time when Saints debutant substitute Dan Lewis claimed a cracking consolation goal as a late corner was half cleared to him and he steered a first time curled effort into the top left hand corner of the net past an unsighted Trebes from 20 yards.
Ives comfortably saw out the remaining few minutes to claim a memorable victory over the old enemy and advance to the Final of the County Cup which unusually this season is scheduled for Wednesday 13th April. Their opponents on the evening will be either Godmanchester Rovers or Eynesbury Rovers at a venue to be decided.
In addition to claiming the local bragging rights many positives can be taken from this game as manager Ricky Marheineke was again able to shuffle his pack and get more game time into the players returning from injury. Jack Higgs got his first full 90 minutes in since September, Phil Draycott looked much closer to his old self, Luke Knight got another good 30 minutes under his belt and Stuart Eason also got a good hour in. With only Harry O’Malley still missing with a long term injury things are looking good and Marheineke now has the pleasure of full competition for places throughout the squad.
There were again a series of man of the match contenders with Moyes and De’ath doing an excellent job of keeping the Southern League’s leading scorer out of the game for the full 90 minutes. Full backs Sinclair and Jarrold also did well in a very solid defence and both got involved in initiating attacks. But the man of the match went to Peter Clark who was a constant thorn in the side of his ex team mates and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself in initiating a lot of Ives flowing attacks particularly in the first period. His well taken goal to get the ball rolling was the icing on the cake.
St Ives team : Trebes, Sinclair, Jarrold, De’ath, Moyes, Higgs, Seymour-Shove, Clark (Keating 79), Eason (Knight 64), Phillips, Draycott (Cunniff 79)
Unused subs : Gentle, Watson
Goals : Clark 30, Knight 85
Man of the Match : Peter Clark
Final Score : St Neots Town 1 St Ives Town 2
Attendance : 205