The Thurlow Nunn Cup draw was not kind to the Ives as having dumped out one of the fancied teams in the Preliminary Round they found themselves travelling to another very tough opponent in local rivals St Neots. This game also had an added spice as the Saints were going to be looking for revenge for the beating they received earlier in the season from the young Ives in the County Cup. The tough game got even tougher on the day of the match as the ever reliable Callum Sheppeard reported sick which was a big blow for a side already missing the injured Mark Lloyd and suspended Reuben Eyles. The final piece of bad news came as we saw that the Saints had put out their strongest available side.
All of this meant that the Ives needed a steady start to work their way into the game, but unfortunately this was not to be as the Saints tore into them from the off and it was no surprise when they went in front in the 6th minute with a well taken goal by Chris Lewis who got on the end of a low cross from the right by Erhan Nurettin and fired in a shot from ten yards that took a wicked deflection off an Ives defender on its way past keeper Jordan Mitchell.
It looked like the Saints were going to blow the Ives away as they continued to put together wave, after wave, of fast flowing attacks with the classy Nurettin pulling the in the strings in the centre of the park and the very mobile and powerful Claudio Ofuso pulling the defence around at every opportunity.
To their credit though the Ives dug deep and the whole side battled hard to stay in the game. Stand in skipper Dalton Short and his fellow centre back Sam Land were outstanding during this period standing firm against Ofuso and his very pacey colleagues.
When the Saints did manage to find a way past the Ives back line they found Mitchell also in outstanding form. He was quickly off his line to block an Ofosu effort at close range on 14 minutes and also reacted quickest to pounce on the loose ball. He did equally well to hold onto a powerful low drive from the same player two minutes later. Nurettin had created this second chance with a darting run past two lunging tackles that got him to the bye line.
The pressure was almost relentless and a second goal looked inevitable. It came on 32 minutes as Ofosu was put clear by Ben Southwood to complete another flowing move at pace. This time he made no mistake slotting the ball past the advancing Mitchell from just inside the box.
The one way traffic continued, but the Ives defence managed to hold firm with all hands to the pump. The most noteworthy opportunities for the Saints in the remaining 13 minutes of the first half were an Isaac Clark header from a corner which was cleared off the line by Ewan Smith, an Ofosu effort headed over his own crossbar by Adam Parmenter and another excellent block by Mitchell to deny Lewis after he had been put through by Nurettin.
Ives made one change at half time bringing on Kieran Thompson in place of the battling Bailey Pillin. Thompson took up his usual wide position allowing Sam Davidson to come into the middle. This move almost worked to get Ives back into the game on 58 minutes as the combative Sam Bedwell-Byatt won the ball in the centre of the park and slid in a perfectly weighted pass to put Davidson clear. He drew the keeper and looked to slot it past him, but just lifted the ball off the ground sufficiently to give Evan Jeckells chance to make an excellent save to his left. George Reader got on the end of the resulting corner, but failed to hit the target with his free header from eight yards.
This close shave seemed to spark the Saints into action again and Mitchell did very well to tip over a dipping drive from 25 yards by Nurettin only two minutes later. Mitchell again denied Nurettin on 69 minutes, this time with a slightly more routine save as the midfielder’s powerful drive was straight at him.
The goal to settle the game came with 15 minutes to go and was a simple one as a corner from the left was delivered deep by Jordan Heywood and Ofosu rose highest at the far post to nod home from close range.
To their great credit Ives heads did not go down and they grabbed a consolation goal four minutes later as Smith, who was now operating in a wide right position delivered a teasing cross that a back peddling Jeckells failed to hold and Davidson was on hand to head home the loose ball from close range.
The ebullient Ofosu grabbed his hat trick right on 90 minutes as he picked up a ball 30 yards from goal and sliced through a tiring Ives defence before calmly slotting the ball past the advancing Mitchell to bring a curtain down on Ives cup exploits for this season.
This Ives team has made huge advances over the season and battled well throughout this game to give an older and very powerful Saints team a few anxious moments. However the sort of flowing, passing football, played at speed that Saints produced on the evening shows what is possible and there are players in our squad who can develop into the type of players this Saints side possessed, and better, next season. It now has to be all about reacting well to this defeat and finishing the season strongly in our remaining three games to ensure we have a big say in the destiny of the title in the Western Division.
St Ives Team : Mitchell, Parmenter, Smith, Short (capt), Land, Reader, Davidson, Bedwell-Byatt , Pillin, McManus, Wright,
Subs (used roll on/roll off) : Thompson, Parr, Morgan-McDaid
Subs not used : Cooper, Hudson