Banbury United v St Ives Town
Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central 25-09-2021
Ten man Ives took a real battering as the inform Puritans extended their unbeaten start to the season to ten matches in all competitions and moved up to second in the early season table. That headline only tells a small snippet of the story as bad luck continued to pile up on the sorry visitors. Not only did Ives fall a goal behind after only eleven minutes they also lost goalkeeper Paul White at the same time as the big stopper was knocked unconscious by the knee of George Wreh as he and the hosts centre forward collided in going for a low cross into the box. To pile insult onto injury they also lost Brett Solkhon to a second yellow card as the experienced centre back inexplicably used his arm to prevent Harry Reilly getting on the end of a corner from the left five minutes after the break. Blinded by the ball dipping out of the sun was the explanation given but I am not sure that excused raising the hand above his head!
With the hosts in such cracking form this was always going to be a tough place to visit and the good news of Michael Richens making his competitive debut for the club was tempered by the bad news that one of the stand out players from the season to date Ed Hottor had broken his toe in training and was going to miss out.
The game started in quite open fashion with both sides going close inside the first ten minutes. The hosts were first to have a go in sixth minute as Morgan Roberts curled a free kick from just outside the box over Ives four man wall but White was on his toes to get across his goal line and gather the ball in. Ives first opportunity three minutes later saw Nabil Shariff feed in Liam Cross who got to the bye line before clipping up a teasing cross towards Dylan Williams lurking at the far post but home keeper Jack Harding just managed to claim the ball one handed off the head of the Ives number ten.
Then came the incident that went a long way towards deciding the game. Roberts fed in Ben Acquaye down the left and as White dived in to try and claim his low, driven, cross Wreh came steaming in from the opposite direction. The impact left the Ives keeper prostrate on the deck and he knew nothing as Reilly slammed home the loose ball. Referee Neil Pratt deemed the situation a fifty, fifty challenge and he had no time to stop the game for the head injury between White being knocked cold and the ball ending up in the back of the net. After a lengthy period of treatment the Ives stopper was helped off to be replaced between the sticks by Ben Heath.
Now with their tails up the hosts continued to look dangerous going forward with Wreh causing particular problems with his power and ability to hold up the ball. He went close in 17th minute as he turned inside Cameron McWilliams and slammed in a shot from the corner of the box that looked like it was heading for the top corner until Solkhon bravely deflected it over the top with his head.
Richens was showing some good touches in the centre of the park and he did carve out a half chance for Cross in 22nd minute as he dinked a ball over the top, Cross ran onto it in the left channel but the young winger snatched at his effort and fired well over from a good position.
The hosts second on 37 minutes was something of a disaster for the Ives as their first corner of the game was cleared away at the near post and swiftly moved from one end of the pitch to the other before being comprehensively finished by overlapping full back Connor Roberts who fired the ball into the roof of the net from a narrow angle seemingly through the hands of Heath.
Ives had one golden opportunity to get back into the game deep into the five extra minutes at the end of the first period. Cross clipped in a teasing free kick from the right that somehow evaded everyone in the centre bouncing through the crowd and ending up at the feet of Callum Milne at the back post. But, like Cross before him, the centre back snatched at the chance and dragged his shot from eight yards into the side netting.
If Ives were going to find an unlikely route back into this game then an early goal was required at the start of the second period. All hope of that and indeed all possibility of any reward was gone only five minutes after the re-start as Solkhon’s raised hand right in front of referee Pratt ensured his early departure with his second yellow card following one picked up midway through the first period for pulling back Connor Roberts. Wreh duly despatched the resulting spot kick low to Heath’s right.
With Ives now in disarray the big centre forward helped himself to a second only two minutes later side-stepping Milne a little too easily before curling a shot past the outstretched hands of Heath from the right hand corner of the box.
Manager Ricky Marheineke quickly reacted to change things around replacing Milne and the tiring Nathan Hicks with Eniola Agemoh-Davies and Michael Harding respectively. He bravely changed things around with Josh Flanagan going into the centre of a back three and Harding joining Shariff as a front pair.
Despite the brave effort to get back into the game it was the hosts who continued to pour forward. Heath made an excellent brave block to deny Alexander Babos after the Puritans winger had exchanged passes with Morgan Roberts before getting clear through the right hand channel. The resulting corner from the right by Roberts was met powerfully by skipper Jack Westbrook but his header from eight yards was straight at Heath who spectacularly punched the ball away.
Home keeper Harding was called upon to make his first real save of the day in 78th minute as McWilliams pinged a cross field pass fully fifty yards to pick out Cross in a little bit of space. The Northampton loanee showed an excellent touch to take down the ball burst inside past Sam Brown and unleash a rising drive that was unfortunately straight at Harding who held on well.
The tiring Richens was caught out for the host’s fifth and final goal seven minutes from time as substitute Theo Rowe bust through his attempted covering tackle and strode through the centre before rolling the ball under the body of the exposed Heath.
There was still time for ex Puritan Shariff to keep up his record of scoring on every return visit to the Banbury Plant Hire Stadium. Michael Harding burst into the box and was needlessly taken down by Connor Roberts for what may have been called a soft penalty. Shariff made no mistake from the spot to claim what could never be more than a late consolation.
Whilst the hosts extend their unbeaten run, Ives run of poor form has now stretched to seven games without a win in all competitions and they drop to fifteenth four points above the drop zone. Manager Marheineke has the difficult task of lifting the squad for the vital game against one of the teams below them, Barwell, on Tuesday evening followed by an equally vital visit to Alvechurch next Saturday.
Final Score : Banbury United 5 St Ives Town 1
BANBURY : Reilly 11, Roberts 36, Wreh 51 (pen) & 53, Rowe 83
ST IVES : Shariff 90+3 (pen)
BANBURY: J. Harding, C. Roberts, Brown, Reilly (Rowe 72), Langmead, Westbrook (capt), Babos, Rasulo, Wreh, M. Roberts (Johnston 73), Acquaye (Rowley 73), Unused subs : Taylor, Sharpe
ST IVES: White (Heath 14), McWilliams, Flanagan, Richens, Solkhon, Milne (Agemoh-Davies 58), Cross, Parker (capt), Shariff, Williams, Hicks (M. Harding 55) Unused subs : Toseland
Ives Supporters man of the match : Liam Cross
Attendance : 513
Report by Nigel Howlett