St Ives Town 3 Kettering Town 4
Evo-Stik League South Premier Division – 12/09/17
For the second season in a row this fixture between the Ives and the Poppies saw some clinical finishing and seven goals scored. Unlike last season when all seven went the way of the visitors, Ives, and hat trick hero Danny Kelly in particular, will consider themselves unlucky to get nothing from a game where they scored three quality goals from open play, but conceded four all from dead ball situations.
Having started slowly in a number of recent games manager Ricky Marheineke has been imploring his players to switch on right from the off. A refreshed Kelly returned to the starting line-up and did just that. With the game only thirty seconds old Ben Seymour-Shove won the ball in the centre circle and battled his way through an attempt to bring him down before feeding the ball into the feet of Kelly who side stepped his way into space before unleashing a rocket from 20 yards that flew into the top right hand corner of Paul White’s net before the keeper could move a muscle.
Unfortunately that lead was very short lived as less than 90 seconds later the Ives back line failed to deal with a long throw delivered into their box from the right and the ball fell to Ben Milnes just inside the D. He hit a powerful half volley that swerved wickedly on it’s way into the net past the despairing dive of James Goff in the home goal.
Worse was to follow for the hosts as the Poppies first corner of the evening delivered from the right by Liam Bateman in 9th minute was met powerfully at the back post by Gary Mulligan. His downward header created chaos in the six yard box and his fellow centre back Bret Solkhon applied the final touch to force the ball over the line.
The game settled down a little after this early salvo with most of the play being confined to the centre of the park. The next opportunity did not arrive for either side until 24th minute when Aaron O’Connor almost got clear for the visitors only to be denied with a very well timed recovery tackle by Lee Chaffey just as he shaped to shoot inside the box.
Ex Peterborough United striker Rene Howe was leading the visitors line and he was showing flashes of his former glories. In 35th minute he showed excellent control to take down a long ball deep in Ives territory. He then cleverly delayed his pass to play it into the run of fellow Posh man Mathew Stevens who took the ball in his stride before driving on into the box and unleashing a powerful effort from twelve yards that a well positioned Goff did very well to block with his legs.
Throughout the first period Ives had looked dangerous going forward, but had not managed to create any clear cut opportunities. But with half time approaching they twice went close to pulling level both as a result of errors from visitor’s keeper White. In 37th minute Chaffey picked up a ball in the centre circle and drove forward into the heart of the Poppies defence before being brought down 35 yards from goal. Phil Draycott struck the free kick well over the wall and the ball bounced in front of White who made a complete hash of hanging onto it. Seymour-Shove reacted first and got to the loose ball, but under pressure from the recovering White he only succeeded in stabbing it wide from inside the six yard box.
The final effort of the first half came from another Ives free kick fully 35 yards from goal, but this time wide on the left. It was delivered into the middle by Lewis Hilliard but caught on the strengthening wind and drifted in on goal. White misjudged his attempt to come for it and got underneath the ball. He was mightily relieved to see that his attempted catch got just enough contact on the ball to deflect it wide of the far post.
As the second half commenced the weather started to deteriorate as the forecast storm Adrienne arrived and Ives found themselves playing into driving rain as well as the strong wind. The early opportunities in the second period went the way of the visitors and O’Connor got the ball in the net only to be denied by an assistant’s flag. Lindon Meikle and Howe also combined well down the right to set up a shooting chance for O’Connor but he fired his effort from just inside the box across the face of goal, but wide of the far post.
Another dead ball situation proved Ives undoing just after the hour as substitute Ben Toesland hung up his flag kick to the back post where Michael Richens rose unchallenged to power home a header from eight yards.
To their huge credit Ives immediately halved their arrears as Hilliard again showed his class taking down a clearance from Goff deep inside the Poppies half. He knocked the ball into the path of Kelly marauding forward into the visitor’s box and Kelly did the rest with a crisp finish that beat White low to his right.
Whilst the hosts continued to trouble the Poppies defence in open play the visitors continued to look dangerous every time they had an opportunity to launch a dead ball into the Ives box. Goff did well to paw a dangerous in-swinging corner off the head of Gary Mulligan in 68th minute. But almost immediately Ives were undone in the simplest fashion again. A long throw from the right was flicked on at the near post and birthday boy Solkhon arrived at the far post to power home his second of the evening from close range and restore the visitors two goal cushion.
Again Ives responded well as only three minutes later Hilliard was again to the fore breaking forward from the centre of the park at pace before feeding the ball out to Draycott on the left. He hung up a cross to the back post where Kelly leapt dramatically to power a header back past the despairing dive of White to claim his hat trick and once again put Ives back in the game.
With twelve minutes to go manager Marheineke made the brave move of replacing Jordan Jarrold with ex Poppies man James Hall to go three at the back and push an extra man forward. The bold move almost paid dividends as eight minutes later Hall’s fellow substitute, and another ex Poppy, Dubi Ogbonna collected a swift throw from Goff on the half way line before breaking forward at pace and picking out Hall in the centre. The bustling striker found space to turn on the ball and unleash a goal bound effort that was blocked by the body Mulligan and scrambled away.
As Ives continued to push forward in search of an equaliser the final chance of the evening fell to the Poppies on the break three minutes from time. O’Connor almost got away only to be denied by a lightning rush off his line by Goff who slid through to take the ball off the striker right on the edge of the box. The loose ball fell to Munashe Sundire who carefully curled the ball over the fast retreating Goff, but was denied by a covering header from Lewis Ferrell.
It was Poppies fans celebrating at the end, but they certainly knew they had been in a contest and Ives will consider themselves a little unfortunate to get nothing from this game which must have been a classic for any neutral in the audience. However as the rain swept down Marheineke kept his men out on the pitch no doubt highlighting their inabilities to defend dead ball situations around their own box a quick resolution must be found ahead of Sundays trip to Northern Premier League Stourbridge in the FA Cup if we are to progress. The rejuvenated Danny Kelly was a deserved winner of the supporter’s man of the match award for his well taken hat trick. Those who pushed him closest were all at the attacking end of the pitch with Lewis Hilliard and Phil Draycott the next in line.
Final Score : St Ives Town 3 Kettering Town 4
Goals : Kelly 1, 62, 72
Supporters man of the match : Danny Kelly
St Ives team : Goff, Ferrell, Jarrold (Hall 78), De’ath (capt), Chaffey, McGowan, Seymour-Shove, Clark, Kelly (Ogbonna 81), Hilliard (Hartley 84), Draycott
Unused substitutes : Short, Wright
Attendance : 354
Report by Nigel Howlett. Photo by Louise Thompson