Stratford Town v St Ives Town

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)


Attendance: 243 

Report by Nigel Howlett. Video by Ollie Jones.


Stratford Town v St Ives Town

Stratford Town v St Ives Town

Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central 16-04-2022

Ives virtually assured themselves of a seventh successive season at step three in the non-league pyramid with arguably their best all round performance of the season at the home of the Bards. Shakespeare himself would have been hard pressed to write better opening lines than the visitors managed in the sunshine at the Arden Garages Stadium. Two up inside the first fifteen minutes courtesy of a Dylan Williams spot kick and an excellent finish from Liam Cross. A third from leading scorer Nabil Shariff early in the second period ensured that the lack lustre hosts were never given a sniff of a route back into the game.

Management team of Ricky Marheineke and Mike Ford had clearly done some impressive homework ahead of this must win fixture. The line up that surprised quite a few of the travelling contingent pre-game proved to be spot on. The back four provided an unlikely looking combination with Josh Flanagan recall onto the right side, Ben Toseland returning to the centre alongside skipper Brett Solkhon and a very unexpected Luke Fairlamb at left back. Midfield saw the ever reliable central pairing of Michael Richens and Ed Hottor with Liam Cross recalled wide right and Dylan Williams reverting to his early season wide left roll. Nabil Shariff was joined as a central striker by another with an eye for goal Ethan Johnston.

Ives were quick out the block and an early corner brought reward. Fairlamb went across to the right to deliver an in-swinger which arced into the six yard box. The initial defensive header from Dan Vann only succeeded in knocking the ball towards the edge of the box where Williams challenged Dan Lafferty for it in the air. The Bards number seven raised his arm as if to get more elevation in his jump to clear the dropping ball but it struck that upraised arm and referee Tom Hales was in the perfect position to see the contact. Without a moments hesitation the whistle blew and he pointed to the spot. Williams took the responsibility and thumped home his spot kick to give Ives a fifth minute lead.

Nine minutes later the rampant visitors doubled their lead and again the off colour Bards brought about their own downfall. A poor clearance from keeper Liam O’Brien arrowed straight to the midriff of Hottor inside the centre circle. The midfielder had time to bring the ball down, size up his options, and deliver the perfect ball into the well timed run of Cross galloping down the right. Completely clear the young winger cleverly drew O’Brien to him before slotting the ball through the legs of the exposed custodian. 

The stunned hosts tried their best to find a route back into the game and their first attempt on goal arrived from their first corner of the game in 17th minute. The initial flag kick was headed away by Solkhon to the back of the box where Lewis Wilson kept it alive and his low cross to the near post was diverted inches wide by Vann.

That effort on goal from the hosts was very much against the run of play as the visitors continued to rule the roost. It took an excellent save from O’Brien to the prevent the lead increasing further in 21st minute as a perfectly weighted clip over the top from Richens found the feet of Shariff who cleverly turned inside Jordan Williams before getting his shot away. But O’Brien was alert to the danger and spread himself to bravely block the attempt at close range.

Turning the rather pedestrian Bards back line was clearly a planned tactic for Ives and it continued to work well for them. In 34th minute Toseland delivered the telling clip, Johnston rose above J. Williams to knock the ball down to Shariff who fired his first time effort inches over from the edge of the box.

An early substitution by the hosts saw Brennan Denness-Barrett replace a struggling Jack Storer and it was the substitute who created the Bards next opportunity only moments after Shariff’s near miss. Toseland was caught in possession just inside Ives half, the ball was fed inside to Will Dawes who curled his effort inches wide of Eddie Brearey’s right hand post from the corner of the box.

Opportunities came at both ends in the closing stages of the first half. Dawes cleverly turned Solkhon inside Ives territory to set up the Bards next chance in 38th minute. He fed the ball into the run of Ashley Sammons on the left and then continued his run to get on the end of Sammons cross at the back post but he was always stretching and only succeeded in directing his header wide.

At the other end the lively Williams was allowed to run diagonally across the face of the hosts goal 25 yards out. With Ives supporters screaming for him to shoot as it opened up for him he let fly with a low shot that beat the dive of keeper O’Brien but thudded the boards just outside his left hand post. There was still time the hard working Shariff to almost put Cross in again but this time covering defender Harry Higginson did just enough to deflect his effort into the side netting.

As the pundits always say with a two goal lead at the break “the next goal is vital” and Ives had to thank keeper Brearey from ensuring that goal did not go the way of the hosts. Three minutes after the re-start Denness-Barrett got across in front of Toseland at the near post to divert a low Dawes cross on target but the ever alert Brearey made an excellent reaction save low to his right to smother the effort.

Johnston came within a couple of feet of ensuring that vital third goal went to Ives in 51st minute as he beat keeper O’Brien to a Toseland ball over the top and steered the ball goalwards past the out of position stopper. Fortunately for the Bards centre back Vann had not given up the cause and covering around behind his keeper he managed to divert the bobbling ball away from goal. The hosts had a lucky escape there but their good fortune ran out only seconds later. Fairlamb seized an opportunity to burst forward down the left and showing a flash of the brilliance that we know that he has he danced past three Bards defenders, including surviving a clip from the last one, to deliver a low cross along the six yard line that Shariff side footed home at the back post.  

Even with that all important third goal in their pockets Ives spurred on by their management team showed no signs of dropping their intensity level and as the host’s heads went down further opportunities started to appear. An excellent break at pace in 64th minute should have seen Johnston claim the fourth. The engine driver Richens threaded yet another inch perfect pass from the midfield to put Cross clear on the right. He got to the bye line before pulling the ball back to an unmarked Johnston on the edge of the box. Even with Richens screaming at him that he had time to take a touch the striker went for goal first time and fired his powerful strike just over the top.

Another chance to claim the fourth came and went in 72nd minute. Williams robbed a dallying Paul Field wide on the left and fed the ball infield to debutant striker Nehemiah Richard-Noel who pulled the best out of keeper O’Brien as the big stopper leapt high to his left to spectacularly claw away Richard-Noel’s attempted lob from the edge of the box with a big left paw.

The clock was now ticking down and Ives back line continued to cope well with everything that the Bards could throw at them. In fact they were so effective in preventing any real penetration into their box that Brearey had his quietest game to date since arriving at quattro-tech Westwood Road. At the other end there were still a couple more opportunities for the visitors to put a cherry on the cake. Richens picked up a half cleared 88th minute corner and found space to get around the hosts defence before cutting in from the left and getting away a shot from a narrow angle the O’Brien did well to block.

The emotion and desire to win this game for Ives was still showing through two minutes into added time, even with them three in front, when joint manager Marheineke picked up a yellow card for his objections when referee Hales failed to award a second penalty to the visitors even though Richard-Noel appeared to be blatantly pulled back by the struggling J. Williams as he was bursting clean through onto Johnston’s flick. 

A fantastic performance and a fantastic result helped by all of the others around Ives in the bottom half of the table dropping points. Now only a mathematician would believe that there was even a remote risk that Ives are not safe for another year. On a day when everyone did more that their bit Ives travelling contingent found a host of different options for their man of the match, those getting a mention include Flanagan, Fairlamb, Richens, Hottor, Shariff and Williams. The man who received the deciding vote did a fantastic job in an unfamiliar role and still managed to have a hand in one of the goals, Luke Fairlamb.

Final Score : Stratford Town  0  St Ives Town  3   

Goals : 


ST IVES: Williams 5 (pen), Cross 14, Shariff 52


STRATFORD: O’Brien, Wilson, Higginson, Fry, Vann, J. Williams, Lafferty (Field 55), Sammons (Oulton 55), Storer (Denness-Barrett 25), Grocott, Dawes Unused subs: Aisthorpe, James

ST IVES: Brearey, Flanagan, Fairlamb, Solkhon (capt) (Milne 55), Toseland, Richens, Cross (Baker 82), Hottor, Shariff (Richard-Noel 63), Johnston, Williams, Unused subs: Jackson, Osei-Bonsu 

Supporters man of the match: Luke Fairlamb

Attendance: 342

Report by Nigel Howlett. Video by Dave Hook.


Stratford Town vs St Ives Town

Stratford Town v St Ives Town   

Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division Central – 02-02-19

The play-off chasing Town pulled out all of the stops to beat the freeze and get this game on although the first half entertainment may have suggested that the players from both sides did not really share the enthusiasm of the home ground staff as they struggled to come to terms with a sticky but bobbly pitch.

The early pressure came from the visiting Ives with Andrew Osei-Bonsu registering the first effort at goal in tenth minute after Danny Kelly managed to get a flick onto a long Charlie De’ath throw. But the Ives number nine fired his first time shot well over the top from fifteen yards.

Ives won the first corner of the game in their next attack two minutes later as Osei-Bonsu and George Bailey combined well on the left Bailey’s attempted low cross from the bye-line was cut out at the near post by Chris Cox but the resulting flag kick came to nothing.

The Town’s first real opportunity arrived in 16th minute as Ives struggled to clear a Lewis Wilson cross from the right the ball eventually arriving at the feet of Ross Oulton 20 yards from goal. He tried to curl his right footed shot inside Martin Conway’s left hand post but did not really trouble the keeper as his effort flew a couple of feet wide and thudded the boards as Conway scrambled across to cover it.

The hosts seemed to be the ones struggling most to come to terms with the conditions and as the number of misplaced passes grew they began to earn condemnation from the home support. Ives continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock and in 27th minute a Ben Toseland cross from the left floated over the last defender and dropped to Kelly beyond the far post. He showed good skill to swivel on the ball but his right footed effort lacked power and was straight at the well positioned home keeper Ross Etheridge who comfortably held on.

An Ollie Snaith ball over the top in 34th minute almost brought reward as the speedy Osei-Bonsu almost got away but Etheridge was smartly off his line to hack away. The keeper’s clearance flew straight back to Snaith 40 yards from goal. With the Ives faithful urging him to go for goal he tried his luck but Etheridge was smartly back into position to make a comfortable catch.

Ives final opportunity of the first half came six minutes before the break as Mark Coulson and Ben Baker combined well down the right to get the latter to the bye-line. The young Ives winger had time to look up and pick out Bailey on the edge of the box with his pull back. Bailey went for placement as he tried to side foot the ball home but did not get a good contact and lifted his effort well over. 

The home faithful seemed to spend much of half time complaining that their heroes on the pitch were performing as poorly as they had seen them all season. What they were not taking into account was the level of effort Ives were putting in the ensure that nowhere on the pitch did they have time on the ball to put together the type of passing football they were used to seeing.

The second half started as the first had ended with Bailey again failing to really test keeper Etheridge from a good position. The 50th minute chance was created by Munashe Sundire and Snaith who interchanged passes on the right before the latter picked out Bailey by the penalty spot. This time he hit the target but the effort lacked power and Etheridge made another comfortable save this time low to his right.

Keeper Conway had enjoyed a fairly quiet first period but he needed to come to the party on three occasions in the next fifteen minutes. In 52nd minute Wilson Carvalho and Albi Skendi combined well on the left with Skendi delivering a teasing cross that the dangerous Nabil Shariff was looking to get on the end of but Conway rose above the ex St Neots striker to cleanly claim the ball under heavy pressure. He did even better on the hour as he sprinted off his line to bravely slide in and just beat Shariff to a precise through ball inside the full back by Skendi. His third save four minutes later was even better as an Oulton shot from 25 yards took a deflection off De’ath and looked like beating the keeper who showed his athleticism to twist in the air and fingertip the ball onto the crossbar. The ball rose high in the air but his defenders came to their keeper’s aid as they reacted first to scramble the loose ball to safety. 

Although the hosts were enjoying a lot of possession Ives were still looking very dangerous on the break and in 67th minute another pacey move saw Osei-Bonsu play a perfectly weighted Crossfield ball into the run of the overlapping Toseland on the left. He in turn picked out Sundire on the edge of the box but the all action midfielder flashed his first time low drive across the face of goal and wide of the post.

Having dealt so well with Town’s attempts to play through or around them Ives were almost undone in the simplest route one fashion ten minutes from time. A long punt down the middle by Etheridge somehow eluded everyone and Shariff was onto it in a flash clear of the last man only Conway stood between him and what would almost certainly be the decisive goal. But the Ives stopper kept his nerve stayed upright and made an excellent close range save to his left to preserve the parity. 

Ives had one more half chance to grab all three points three minutes later as Parker delivered a cross from the left that picked out substitute Jake Newman ten yards out by the back post. Newman cleverly tried to loop his header over Etheridge but the Town keeper was alert to the danger and moved his feet well to make a comfortable catch.

The two sides continued to cancel each other out for the remaining seven plus two added minutes and a point a piece was probably a fair return over the ninety minutes. In fact a goalless draw was probably a shrewd bet before the start as two in form sides both with excellent defensive records met on a difficult pitch not conducive to flowing football but fair play to Stratford for getting the game on. On the back of this result the Town reinforce themselves in third spot whilst Ives move up one place to eleventh. 

Final Score : Stratford Town  0  St Ives Town  0  

Goals :  none

Team : Conway, Coulson, Toseland, Sundire, De’ath, Kelly, Bailey (Newman 73), Parker (capt), Osei-Bonsu, Snaith, Baker (Seymour-Shove 73)

Unused subs : Wallis, Jarvis Wilson, Patrick

Man of the match : Munashe Sundire

Attendance : 285

Report by Nigel Howlett. Photos by Gemma Thompson.