Youth Team Result: St Ives Town Youth 4 Holbeach United U18’s 1

With seven changes from the side that performed so well to progress in the cup last week it was always likely to take the Ives a little while to settle into this game. But no one anticipated the start that the home side made would be as ill judged as it was. A poor kick off and some slack defending lead to them falling behind after only 72 seconds. A foul was committed 40 yards from goal and Harrison Hagen-Smith pounced on the loose ball to rifle home from just inside the box as Calum Davies’s free kick was not dealt with by a pedestrian home defence.

It could have been even worse for the home side as Dalton Short was caught in possession on the edge of his own box by Hagen-Smith in the 18th minute. The tricky number ten drove on into the box and clipped the ball past the advancing Jordan Mitchell, but fortunately it rolled just outside the far post.

However Ives were slowly beginning to get into the game and Sam Bedwell-Byatt was getting more involved in the centre of the park. The Tigers were made to rue their miss as only two minutes later Bedwell-Byatt won the ball in midfield and clipped it over the top where the ever willing Bailey Pillin won the battle against two defenders and hammered the ball into the roof of the net from just inside the box.

The home side were now beginning to get on top and Pillin and Bedwell-Byatt combined well to create another opportunity ten minutes later. Pillin played the ball into the path of the rampaging Bedwell-Byatt who ran straight at the heart of the Tigers defence and was only halted by a desperate lunging challenge from Liam Ford on the edge of the box. Charlie McManus fired the free kick around the wall and keeper Harry Ford only succeeded in pushing the ball back into play Bedwell-Byatt was first to react to the loose ball, but keeper Ford also managed to block his close range effort. Matt Wright then tried to force the ball home but his effort was blocked on the line and finally scrambled away by the beleaguered visitors defence.

The Tigers defence were resorting to desperate measures to hang on and Glen Woolmere was fortunate not to pick up a card as he hauled back Pillin just outside the box four minutes later. This time the free kick was blocked by the wall, but the ball ran wide to Adam Cooper who curled a teasing ball into the box. Bedwell-Byatt was first to react again and looked certain to score but only succeeded in steering his stooping header just the wrong side of the post.

The visitors did create one more chance of their own just before half time as a long free kick from the left was flicked on by Brendan Maxim and spectacularly volleyed against the crossbar by Ben Gibbons at the far post.

Sam Davidson had been called into action to replace the injured Wright late in the first half and his pace and ability to run with the ball and ride tackles was already beginning to prove a problem for the visitors defence. The second half was only seven minutes old when he picked up the ball on the half way line and ran at the Tigers defence before sliding a pass through to the powerful Pillin who held off the challenge of Woolmere before firing Ives in front from 15 yards.

Kieran Thompson should have made it three eight minutes later as he ran clear onto a through ball from Bedwell-Byatt. He rounded the keeper, but delayed his shot and allowed Woolmere to get back and block the effort on the goal line.

It was very much one way traffic now as the pace and power of the Ives was really stretching the tiring Tigers back line. Two goals in two minutes midway through the second period settled the issue. The first was hammered home from 12 yards by Davidson after he had been played in by a slide rule pass from McManus. The second came from a corner on the right curled in by Thompson. McManus attacked the ball at the near post and it was blocked on the line, but skipper for the day Callum Sheppeard was on hand to force the ball home from close range.

Other goals should have followed as the home side continued to terrorise the visitors defence, but a combination of poor finishing and some gallant goalkeeping kept the score at 4-1. The most noteworthy efforts in the last twenty minutes came on 74 minutes when Davidson blocked a poor kick from the keeper and drove into the box his effort was bravely blocked by the keeper who also did very well to block a follow up effort from Pillin at close range.

Two minutes later McManus played an inviting ball inside the full back, Davidson was on it in a flash comfortably outpacing Luke Nicholson, but he fired powerfully over the top from just inside the box.

The final opportunity to add to the Ives tally came with nine minutes left as the excellent Pillin again played in Davidson who raced in on goal, drew the keeper and clipped the ball past him perfectly, but just the wrong side of the post!

Overall another good all round performance against a big strong side that we may well have struggled against in the early part of the season. But the benefits of the scholarship programme are now showing through as the boys are all strengthening up and they can now win the battles that are necessary to allow their skills and pace to come into play against this type of side.

St Ives Team : Mitchell, Hudson, Parr, Short, Sheppeard (capt), Cooper, Wright,  Bedwell-Byatt , Pillin, McManus, Thompson,

Subs (used roll on/roll off) : Smith, Morgan-McDaid, Texter, Davidson

Subs not used : Lloyd