Stratford Town v St Ives Town
Pitching-In Southern League Premier Central 14-02-202
Without a central midfield due to injuries, illness, and suspension it took an enterprising and gutsy Ives performance to earn themselves a point against the struggling Bards who are scrapping for every point as they try to haul themselves out of the drop zone. Behind after eleven minutes, losing the nearest thing they had to a central midfielder as Kellan Hickinson succumbed to the virus after just half an hour and 3-1 down just after half time the decimated Ives dug very deep to earn their deserved reward at the Arden Garages Stadium.
With the team full of defenders and attackers and plenty of height in attendance the visitors fell behind in very disappointing circumstances in 11th minute. Lewis Ison delivered a long throw from the right that arrived at the near post where Ives struggled to clear it. The ball eventually dropped to the feet of Bards centre back Paul McCone who hooked it home from close range.
Ives first half chance arrived in 17th minute when Nabil Shariff got away down the left before turning inside and delivering an in-swinging cross to the back post where a stretching Jonny Edwards managed to divert it on target but straight into the hands of Bards keeper Liam O’Brien. The visitors pressure continued as they won two corners in quick succession in 20th minute, the second of which fell to Callum Milne at the back post but his powerful shot was blocked by a defender and the ball scrambled clear.
Up the other end Charlie Johnson did just enough to prevent Andre Wright turning home Jamie Molyneux’s low cross from the right at the near post in 23rd minute. Edwards then found an equaliser for Ives out of nothing two minutes later. Taking in a knock down from Tyrone Baker 25 yards from goal he took a sidestep to the right before unleashing a fierce dipping drive that beat the diving O’Brien low to his right.
The goal sparked a reaction from the hosts and Jesse Akubuine should have put them back in front in 36th minute. A driven cross field ball somehow got through the crowd in the centre and arrived at the feet of the Bards midfielder cutting in from the left. He only had keeper James Dadge to beat and picked his spot low to the keeper’s left but fortunately for the visitors the ball rebounded off the post allowing them to scramble it to safety.
The Bards did manage to get their noses back in front as an Ives error again presented them with the chance two minutes before the break Dan Lafferty fed in Molyneux down the right. The speedy winger got to the bye line before firing in a low driven cross that rebounded off the shins of a defender and fell to Wright who gleefully slammed home from eight yards. There was still time before the interval for Lafferty and Molyneux to again combine on the right to tee up their skipper Will Grocott who cleverly curled his shot around a defender but inches over the angle of bar and post from the edge of the box.
The hosts came out at the start of the second half determined to grab a third goal in the hope of killing off their struggling visitors. Akubuine was seizing every opportunity to run at Ives defence and two minutes after the restart he was taken down clumsily by emergency midfielder Baker just outside the box. With everyone expecting Grocott to go for goal with the resulting free kick Akubuine came at it from the opposite direction but fortunately he slammed his shot straight into Ives four man wall which held firm.
Another area where Ives had been struggling defensively was down their left side where Johnny Herd was being given a tough time by the speedy Molyneux and that is the route that the Bards third goal arrived from in 51st minute. Rather than cross the ball the winger went for goal from a narrow angle catching Dadge out of position and forcing him to dive towards his near post where he could only succeed in turning the ball into his own net.
One might have expected that going two behind in such unfortunate circumstances would have knocked the stuffing out of an already ailing Ives side, but nothing of the sort as they lifted themselves and took the game to their hosts. Three minutes later Jordan Williams got on the end of Herd’s free kick from the right and directed a header on goal that O’Brien was forced to palm away high to his right. There followed a flurry of three corners in quick succession as Ives piled on the pressure before eventually pulling a goal back with Edwards knocking down Herd’s ball in from the left and Shariff firing home the loose ball through the crowd.
With the visitors reducing the arrears the Bards again sparked themselves into action to try and restore their two goal cushion. A shooting gallery seemed to be set up in Ives box in 58th minute as both Molyneux and Akubuine had shots blocked by the flying bodies of Ives defenders. Two minutes later a clever step over by Akubuine allowed Lafferty a shooting opportunity from 25 yards. The full back struck his effort well but it was straight at Dadge who held onto the fierce effort very well.
The young keeper redeemed his earlier error as he did brilliantly to keep out a fierce drive from the same player in 73rd minute. Wright had got down the left and sent in a cross that deflected off a defender and fell to Lafferty on the edge of the box. He put his boot through it and the ball was arrowing for the top corner before the athletic keeper hurled himself high to his left to fingertip the effort onto the crossbar.
Having kept themselves in the game Ives then got the reward that their battling, against the odds, performance deserved and it was a man who had spent many years on the Bards books that broke their hearts with just over ten minutes to go. Herd played a clever reverse pass to give Higgs a little bit of space wide left. The winger took a step inside before delivering a pin point cross to the centre where Williams rose above the crowd to direct the perfect looping header over O’Brien and into the net to open his account for the Ives and level things up.
One might have expected a barnstorming last ten minutes, but both teams seemed a little wary of losing what they had fought so hard for and the only other noteworthy effort was a last minute Edwards header that went wide as he met Herd’s sixth corner of second half at the near post.
Overall a battling point that does Ives more good in their mid table eleventh spot than it does the Bards who still remain entrenched in the bottom four six points from safety and with only one win in their last fifteen games. Ives can also welcome back skipper Michael Richens having served his two game ban ahead of another tough trip to Alvechurch on Saturday. Hopefully a few of the ill and injured will also be well enough to join him in returning.
Final Score: Stratford Town 3 St Ives Town 3
STRATFORD: McCone 11, Wright 43, Dadge (own goal) 51
ST IVES: Edwards 25, Shariff 55, Williams 79
Team Line Ups:
STRATFORD: O’Brien, Lafferty, Morrison, Ison, McCone, Turner, Molyneux (Wright 83), Akubuine (Hawker 90+2), Wright, Grocott (capt), Bennett, Unused subs: Berseford, Wildbore
ST IVES: Dadge, Casey, Herd (capt), Milne, Williams, Toseland, Baker, Johnson, Edwards, Hickinson (Higgs 28), Shariff (Kaziboni 87), Unused subs: Johnston,
Cards: Yellow: STRATFORD: none ST IVES: Baker (39)
IVES SUPPORTERS MAN OF THE MATCH: Nabil Shariff
Report by Nigel Howlett. Video by Ollie Jones.