Redditch United v St Ives Town
Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 11-02-202
A lacklustre performance saw Ives get what they deserved from the first of their four tough games on the road in the next eleven days. A small degree of mitigation might come from the fact that they were missing two inspirational characters in Michael Richens and Jordan Williams who were both serving bans having clocked up ten bookings in the season to date. To add to that a number of players were suffering from a virus with Ben Toseland not well enough to get on the pitch and Ed Hottor coughing and spluttering his way through the game.
This felt like an opportunity missed as the Reds came into the game on the back of a hefty 7-2 defeat at the hands of Rushall only seven days ago and an early goal from Ives could have dented the fragile confidence in the hosts. But sadly poor marking at an early corner allowed the hosts to get their noses in front and from that point they were never really threatened as Ives huffed and puffed but never looked like breaking their house down.
Reds manager Matt Clarke decided to give the players that had suffered so badly at the Pics a chance to redeem themselves making only two changes to his starting eleven and one of those an enforced move as Tom Hewlett came in for Bernard Mensah who suffered a concussion at Dales Lane. On the other hand Ives manager Ricky Marheineke’s hand was mainly forced on the five changes that he made to the team that had performed so well in beating sixth placed Hitchin in their previous outing.
Despite the small group of youngsters trying their best to create an atmosphere in the Trico Area the game started in a strangely subdued fashion almost like an end of season game between two mid table teams with nothing to play for whereas neither of these two can consider themselves safe from the drop zone yet.
With an unfamiliar centre back pairing of Callum Milne and Charlie Johnson Ives were always going to be a little vulnerable to high balls delivered into their box and the first real opportunity of the game came that way in eleventh minute as Lewis Hudson delivered a deep cross from the left to the back post where Max Sheaf rose highest but directed his header to close to James Dadge in the Ives goal and the keeper made a comfortable save.
But the young stopper had no chance when Ives failed to pick up Jack Byrne at a corner three minutes later. The Reds skipper made a late run to the near post where he met Reece Flanagan’s flag kick from the left cleanly to glance in past the exposed keeper from close range.
Ives first real foray into Reds territory came in 18th minute when Paddy Casey delivered a teasing cross from the right that Jonny Edwards could only hook gently towards goal giving keeper Adam Harrison a very comfortable catch. An Ethan Johnson volley that flew just wide midway through the half and an Edwards 25 yarder that flew a similar distance wide of the opposite post were Ives only other noteworthy efforts before added time at the end of the first half.
At the other end Dadge was much busier than his opposite number. In 24th minute Flanagan danced past Hottor into the box before drilling a low cross to the near post where Hewlett stabbed it straight into the grateful arms of the Ives keeper from close range.
The same player had another good opportunity to increase the Reds lead just after the half hour. Murphy Culkin delivered a long free kick deep into Ives territory where Milne misjudged his attempt at a headed clearance and only succeeded in flicking the ball on into the run of Hewlett who was clean through but fired wide of Dadge’s left hand post as the keeper came to close him down.
The hosts did manage to double their advantage two minutes later, again from poor Ives marking at a corner. Dadge initially pulled off a very good save to set up the flag kick. Kieran Higgs lost possession on the half way line allowing Hewlett to rob him. The hosts number twelve then exchanged passes with Danny King to get a sight of goal from just inside the box, but Dadge was equal to the strike plunging low to his left to turn the ball around the post. However the visitors had completely turned off as the corner was taken Flanagan took it short to Kornell McDonald who was given all the time in the world to pick out his man with his cross and he chose Culkin powering in at the back post and the big centre back was able to rise unchallenged to head past Dadge from six yards.
The Reds wasted good chance to effectively kill off the game before the interval as the busy Hewlett lead a speedy breakaway in 41st minute. He strode forward deep into Ives territory before feeding in Hudson cutting in from the left but the overlapping full back skimmed his shot across the face of goal and wide.
Ives had one opportunity to get themselves back in the game right on half time. Higgs did well to get to the bye line on the left before hanging up a deep cross to the edge of the box where Hottor met the dropping ball beautifully on the volley but Harrison was equal to the effort throwing himself to his right to turn the effort around the post.
Two changes at the break were meant to liven up the Ives as Tyrone Baker replaced Greg Kaziboni and Kellan Hickinson came on for Johnston. But the changes had minimal effect to the flow of the game and it continued to look more likely that the hosts would add a third rather than Ives finding a route back into the game. Johnson did just enough to prevent King heading home another Flanagan corner in 58th minute.
The first real efforts on goal in the second half arrived in 66th minute and both sides had a dib inside those sixty seconds. The hosts had the first attempt as Ives struggled to clear yet another ball into their box, the ball eventually falling to Hewlett who drilled in a cross from the left that Sheaf managed to direct over the top from close range. The resulting goal kick saw Hickinson pick up the ball just inside the Reds half before driving at their defence and then feeding in his fellow substitute cutting in from the right. Baker took on the effort first time but drilled his shot straight at Harrison who blocked it with his body and was helped out by his defenders who were quick to react and clear.
Defending corners was still looking difficult for Ives and there were ten minutes left on the watch when King rose highest at the back post to force another save out of Dadge. The visitors were also looking vulnerable to the break as they pushed forward in search of a goal and King should have finished things off in 85th minute as he arrived at pace at the back post to get on the end of Hudson’s low driven cross from the left. But the Reds centre forward got under his effort and managed to lift his shot over the crossbar when it looked easier to score.
Edwards fired Ives final opportunity about a metre wide two minutes later. The big striker had carved out the chance himself as he battled through a pack of defenders to get into the box before unleashing the right footed effort that had Harrison scrambling to get across his goal to cover before it thudded the fence.
The host will gladly take their three points and their clean sheet as they get themselves back on track and move a little closer to another season at this level. Ives must lick their wounds and patch up their squad as they face a vital trip to struggling Stratford Town on Tuesday evening.
Final Score: Redditch United 2 St Ives Town 0
REDDITCH: Byrne 14, Culkin 33
Team Line Ups:
REDDITCH: Harrison, McDonald (Solomon 86), Hudson (Duggins 90+5), Byrne (capt), Wollacott, Flanagan, King, Culkin, Hewlett (Clews 77), Sheaf, Riley, Unused subs: McDonald, Solomon, Smith, Duggins, Hewlett
ST IVES: Dadge, Casey, Herd (capt), Hottor, Milne, Johnson, Kaziboni (Baker 46), Cowling, Edwards, Johnston (Hickinson 46), Higgs (Shariff 80), Unused subs: Toseland
Cards: Yellow: REDDITCH: Sheaf (65) ST IVES: Edwards (15)
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: Myles Cowling
Report by Nigel Howlett. Video highlights by Ollie Jones.