The first silverware of the Ricky Marheineke/Jack Cassidy era arrived at The Pro-Edge Stadium courtesy of yet another solid all round display topped off with a thunderbolt from captain fantastic Luke Knight and a precise finish from a back to form Phil Draycott.
Manager Marheineke again shuffled his card for this showpiece event with a number of players being rested ahead of Saturday’s vital League encounter with Barton Rovers. Brendan Brown returned in goal in place of Tim Trebes, Ben Seymour-Shove and Andrew Phillips also started. There was also a rare start for the ever reliable Jack Warwick and a welcome return to the starting eleven for Harry O’Malley who had been missing since picking up a hamstring injury at Egham in December.
It was lower division Rovers who were first into their stride and they went close as early as the third minute when a long throw from Elliott Bentley was flicked on at the near post by Lee Bassett and only just missed by a late arriving James Freshwater at the far post.
Ives first break into Rovers territory came five minutes later and could easily have produced the opener as Warwick played a ball in behind and Seymour-Shove outpaced Bentley down the right before delivering an early cross into the centre that was just ahead of his team mates. Phil Draycott arriving at the far post managed to get something on it, but was always stretching and failed to keep his effort down.
The first save for either keeper was produced by Rovers stopper Kyle Degaris who did well to smother a stinging Jack Higgs free kick which he had curled around the wall from 20 yards after Knight had been brought down by Darren Woodend.
Brown’s first save of the night four minutes later was much more spectacular as he was forced to hurl himself to his left to palm away a powerful drive from Tom Coles who had found space in midfield and tried his luck from fully 30 yards. The save was made even better as the effort had taken a big deflection off Dan Moyes that looked like taking the ball away from Brown into the top corner.
The opening goal came out of nothing on 24 minutes as Andrew Phillips tussled with Woodend to knock on a Jordan Jarrold throw from the left. The ball ran loose to Knight and Ives captain fantastic truly found the force was with him on this occasion as he unleashed an unstoppable rocket from 20 yards that cannoned into the back off the net off Degaris’s right hand upright before the young keeper could move a muscle.
Ives enjoyed a period of good possession for the next 15 minutes without really testing Degaris again as shots by Higgs, Phillips, and Draycott all either thudded the boards, or sailed over the top.
The Rovers gave Ives a couple of warnings they were still in the contest as half time approached. Ex Ives man Matt Banister should probably have done better with a close range header on 40 minutes. The chance was carved out for him by Daryl Ngwala who took on O’Malley on the left and delivered a deep cross beyond the far post that Bassett managed to head into the middle for Banister to attack, but he failed to hit the target from eight yards.
A quick Woodend free kick two minutes before the interval almost caught Ives napping as he played the ball into the feet of Freshwater who found space to turn and fed the ball into Bassett inside the box. Fortunately Moyes was alert and came sliding in with a perfectly timed tackle to knock the ball off the big strikers toe.
Ives should have doubled their lead within twenty seconds of the restart as the ball was instantly fed out to Draycott on the left, he went outside Ben Hickling and pulled the ball back invitingly for Phillips. Keeper Degaris quickly closed him down and managed to block the shot with his legs, but Draycott was following up and looked certain to fire home the loose ball, but Phillips had continued his run and the lively wingers effort cannoned to safety off his own centre forward.
Knight tried to repeat his goal scoring exploits of the first half on 55 minutes as a long free kick into the box by Jarrold was headed back to him by Woodend, but his powerful effort from 25 yards flashed through a ruck of players and thumped the boards just inches outside the unsighted keeper’s right hand post.
However the Ives did succeed in doubling their advantage with their next attack only three minutes later as Phillips was unceremoniously bundled over by James Ducket just outside the box as he tried to bring down a long ball in from the right by O’Malley. Knight, Higgs and Draycott all stood over the free kick, but the decision was that it was one for a left footer so it was Draycott who was the chosen one and he clinically curled his effort and into the far corner of the net past a statuesque Degaris.
Draycott has struggled to hit the heights of his early season form since picking up an injury in January and the huge celebrations that followed the goal were as much about the relief that his team mates and the fans felt for the hard working winger as they were at the clincher for this trophy.
The game settled down into a familiar pattern of Ives games this season with the Rovers enjoying a good share of possession, but not being able to penetrate the resilient Ives back line with Charlie De’ath and Moyes keeping the dangerous Bassett on a very short rein and Warwick mopping up everything in front of the back four. The few speculative efforts that Rovers could produce all came from long range and failed to test Brown as most were off target.
With their fans now roaring them on the Ives should have increased their margin of victory as they continued to break forward at pace looking dangerous each time they probed the Rovers back line. Draycott was beginning to look back to his best on the left and giving Hickling a torrid time. He curled an effort inches wide on 72 minutes after being played into space by Knight.
Jared Cunniff entered the fray as a substitute for Warwick on 65 minutes and he danced his way past three lunging tackles with ten minutes to go. Having created space for himself he then selflessly laid the ball sideways to Seymour-Shove who was unlucky to see his goal bound effort blocked by a last ditch covering tackle by Bentley.
Seymour-Shove went close again five minutes from time as Draycott and Jarrold combined well on the left before the latter delivered an in-swinging cross that Seymour-Shove flicked inches wide of the post.
Ives final, and best, chance to increase their margin of victory came in the last minute as Draycott played in substitute Danny Watson, Degaris did well to block his effort at close range, but the ball ran wide back to Draycott who clipped it over everyone in the middle to the far post where Knight challenged Woodend for it. The ball bounced up and hit the hand of the Rovers centre back and referee Jon Burridge rather harshly adjudged it a penalty. Watson picked up the ball and spotted it only to hammer his spot kick against the bar.
For once no one really worried about the miss as only moments later referee Burridge’s whistle brought an end to proceedings and allowed the celebrations to begin in earnest amongst both the fans and the players. For the record books Ives claimed the County Cup for the twelth time in their history and the first time since 2012. Let us hope this is not the only trophy that finds its way back to the Pro-Edge this season.
Supporters man of the match on the night went to the man who set us on our way with that wonder strike. He also covered every blade of grass on the pitch and probably won as many tackles as anyone, Luke Knight. Once again the back four also picked up votes and it was good to see Phil Draycott back in the running.
Come on you Ives!!
St Ives team : Brown, O’Malley, Jarrold, De’ath, Moyes, Higgs, Seymour-Shove, Knight (capt), Phillips (Watson 71), Warwick (Cunniff 65), Draycott (Sinclair 90+2)
Unused subs : Trebes, Rogers
Goals : Knight 24, Draycott 58
Supporters Man of the Match : Luke Knight
Final Score : St Ives Town 2 Eynesbury Rovers 0
Attendance : 319