On paper this looked like a very tough cup draw for the young Ives who had not played a competitive game for a month. The Waders were sitting just three points off the top of the very tough Cambridge division with a goal difference of plus 50 and coming off the back of two wins, won by a combined score of thirteen nil in the last 14 days.
However games are not decided on paper, but this victory may well have been plotted on the training field at St Ivo. Manager Jack Cassidy had clearly done his homework on the opposition and realised they liked to play the ball out from the back at every opportunity so planned a high pressing style to put them under pressure and this worked from the off.
Every player fully bought in to the new tactics, but no one personified the one hundred percent commitment necessary more than Sam Bedwell-Byatt who revelled in his unfamiliar central midfield role and was involved in everything. This was clearly shown in only the third minute as Ives went in front. The strikers pressed Biggleswade defenders as they tried to play out from the back and a hurried ball into midfield was cut out by the ever alert Bedwell-Byatt who played the ball into space on the left where Matt Wright picked it up and outpaced the defence, before drawing the keeper and slotting the ball into the far corner of the net.
Unfortunately the lead was only short lived as a ball over the top held up in the wind and as Jordan Mitchell and his defenders hesitated Alfie Maundle nipped between them and prodded the dropping ball home from just inside the box.
The visitors almost went in front two minutes later as the elusive Maundle cut in from the right and teed up Matt Moore who hit a first time effort from the edge of the box that beat the diving Mitchell, but fortunately bounced to safety off the crossbar.
The end to end nature of the game continued and Ives went back in front in 12th minute and again it was the high pressing tactics which proved fruitful as Bedwell-Byatt robbed a dallying Matt Reynolds and threaded a through ball to Sam Davidson down the middle. Davidson shook off his marker and hit a powerful low drive from the edge of the box that Waders keeper Dan Smith did well to block. But Bedwell-Byatt had continued his run and was first to react to force home the loose ball from close range.
The Waders drew level again on 22 minutes with Maundle again caused problems in the home defence, this time getting down the right and clipping the ball into the box where Ives defence struggled to clear and eventually Lee Northfield was brought down in a flurry of legs by the penalty spot giving the referee little choice, but to point to the spot. Northfield picked himself up and sent Mitchell the wrong way with the kick.
With the visitors now enjoying their best period of the game to this point Mitchell was called upon twice in quick succession to keep the Ives level. On 34 minutes an excellent through ball from George Rilly put Waders leading scorer George Bailey clear down the middle, but Mitchell stayed big and plunged to his left to push Bailey’s effort to slot the ball past him, away for a corner. The resulting flag kick was headed clear, but the ball dropped to Rilly who hit a cracking first time effort from fully 30 yards that Mitchell must have seen late through the crowded goalmouth, but again he plunged to his left to push the ball away.
With ten minutes to go to half time we saw the unusual site of Waders making five substitutions at the same time, which is allowed in these days of roll on roll off substitutes, but still looked odd. However the tactic backfired on the visitors as three minutes before the break the Ives went back in front. A long punt from Mitchell was allowed to bounce and Wright was instantly on to the loose ball playing it through to the ever willing Davidson who again outmuscled his marker and expertly flicked the ball past the advancing Smith.
The second half began with Biggleswade back to their starting line up, but it was Ives who started the best and increased their lead on 50 minutes as Bedwell-Byatt again won the ball in midfield and clipped it over the top for Davidson to chase. Keeper Smith looked favourite to win the race, but Davidson bravely closed him down and managed to block Smith’s attempted clearance and force home the loose ball in spite of the attempts of covering defender Zach Tyrell.
If the visitors had doubted the Ives resolve to sustain the high pressing game then they were beginning to realise that the home side were not going to drop their work rate and if they wanted to stay in the cup they needed to lift their own game and they did just that. But in spite of the pressure Mitchell and the men in front of him similarly lifted themselves to meet the challenge.
On 57 minutes Bailey got to the bye line and pulled the ball back to Northfield who had a shot blocked and in the scramble that resulted Maundle somehow managed to scoop the loose ball over from close range with the goal at his mercy.
Ten minutes later Northfield was again involved as he seized an opportunity to cut in from the left and unleashed a vicious shot across the face of goal that Mitchell did well to block and Callum Sheppeard managed to scramble the loose ball away before Moore could force it home.
The pressure was now really on and Northfield went close twice in the next two minutes. His first attempt was fired into the side netting as Adam Parmenter managed to push him wide as he bustled his way into the box. His second effort went a lot closer as he fired in a deep free kick from 35 yards out wide on the left that cleared everyone in the centre and cannoned off the far post.
The gallant Ives rearguard was eventually pierced with twelve minutes to go as Rilly managed to force his way through two tackles before eventually unleashing a pile drive from 20 yards that Mitchell did well to block, but Maundle was first to react and managed to knock home the loose ball.
For the next few minutes it became the Northfield v Mitchell contest and it was Ives keeper who came out on top. On 82 minutes Northfield again forced his way into the heart of the Ives defence before firing in another powerful effort from just outside the box that Mitchell managed to tip over at full stretch. The big number ten was forced to try his luck from 25 yards only one minute later, but again Mitchell proved his nemesis plunging low to his left to push the ball away.
Ives opportunity to make the game safe came with two minutes to go as that man Bedwell-Byatt again won a ball in midfield and this time clipped it over the top to put substitute Bailey Pillin clear. He was cynically taken down by covering defender Bradley Stewart on the edge of the box as he shaped to shoot. But amazingly Stewart only received a yellow card for his “last man” challenge and the free kick was fired into the wall and scrambled clear.
The home side, and their supporters, then had to survive the agonies of five added minutes most of which was spent with the ball in and around their box. Mitchell pulled off one good catch from a headed effort from Rilly and Bailey missed a golden opportunity as he fired wide from a good position ten yards out. The final effort came from the frustrated Northfield who fired well over from the edge of the box.
The final whistle was greeted with much celebration and relief as Ives had dumped one of the favourites out of the League cup at the preliminary round stage. This was probably the lad’s best performance of the season and they can certainly be proud of their achievements in this game. The star man accolade went to Sam Bedwell-Byatt who revelled in his unfamiliar role and never allowed a single Waders player to settle on the ball anywhere in the middle of the park. His example was picked up by everyone else in the side and the boys can now look forward to a trip to local rivals St Neots in the next round where a similar level of performance will be required to progress.
St Ives Team : Mitchell, Parmenter, Smith, Sheppeard, Land, Reader, Lloyd (capt), Bedwell-Byatt , Davidson, Morgan-McDaid, Wright,
Subs (used roll on/roll off) : McManus, Pillin, Thompson
Subs not used : Parr, Cooper