Youth Team Crowned League Champions

St Ives Town Youth Team 3 Wisbech St Mary U18’s 0

Date: Monday 27th March 2017
Kick Off: 7:45pm
Competition: Thurlow Nunn West Division
Ground Address: ProEdge Westwood Road, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, PE27 6DT

The most successful period in St Ives Town’s history saw another first achieved at the Pro-Edge Stadium on Monday night as the young Ives deservedly claimed the Thurlow Nunn Youth League Western Division title for the first time in the Club’s history with a hard fought victory in their must win final League game against the Saints.

On paper this was always going to be a tough game against opponents with the best defensive record in the division who had already beaten the Ives at their Beechings Close Ground in December. But since that fateful evening the Ives scholars have moved forward and gelled as a team and had, following success in their last two games, brought it all down to a one off must win fixture which had been transferred from the scholar’s usual home of Jubilee Park in Huntingdon to the Pro-Edge Stadium.

With the importance of the game and the opportunity for some of the locals to see these much heralded youngsters for the first time in St Ives the supporters turned out in such numbers that the official attendance figure matched that for the first team’s recent League Cup Semi-Final.

Those that came along quickly began to see the ability of these lads, but with the visitors very quick to get numbers behind the ball and sporting a very capable keeper in Ash Hicks it was clear that patience was going to be the order of the day. The first shot at goal came from the Saints after seven minutes, but Danny Setchell’s effort from 25 yards did not trouble Tom Smith in the Ives goal as it thudded the boards well wide of his right hand post.

Although Ives were enjoying a lot of early possession they were struggling to find a way through the resolute Saints back line. Their first half chance did not arrive until 20th minute when the speedy Annonicio Anemou tried to get outside Ethan Gooale wide on the left only to be brought down by the full back. Skipper Mark Lloyd delivered an in-swinging free kick that was knocked back to centre back Callum Sheppeard on the edge of the box. But he snatched at the chance and fired well over the top.

Up to this point Hicks in the visitors goal had dealt confidently with everything that came his way, but he did survive an edgy moment on 22 minutes. Matt Wright took a quick throw in to Liam Zoric deep into the visitors half. Zoric tried to deliver a cross into the box, but the ball arced off the outside of his foot and swung in on goal. Hicks let the ball go thinking it was drifting to safety and was probably the most relieved man in the ground when it struck the outside of his near post and bounced behind.

The flow towards the Saints goal continued and on 26 minutes Wright clipped in a good cross from the left that Lloyd cushioned down to Tiago Dias inside the Saints box. He skilfully turned his marker, but fired his low shot inches past Hicks right hand post with the keeper beaten. Four minutes later Martin Saunders delivered an inviting corner from the right that Sheppeard leapt highest to, but he only succeeded in powering his header from eight yards straight into the grateful arms of Hicks.

Patrik Polhos was having an eye catching game in the centre of the park with his all action style breaking up a lot of Saints moves in front of the Ives back four. He was also finding time to get forward at every opportunity. He robbed ex Ives man Sam Bedwell-Byatt on 31 minutes and then drove on into the visitor’s box before unleashing a shot that deflected just wide with Hicks again beaten.

It was not entirely one way traffic and Setchell found space 30 yards from Ives goal only seconds later. He seized the opportunity to get a shot away which kicked up wickedly off the hard ground, but Smith dealt confidently with the fast rising ball holding it well. The Saints best chance of the game arrived on 35 minutes as Luke Foster ran onto a long ball down the right. He cut inside past two Ives defenders and carried on into the box, but as Smith came to meet him he snatched at his opportunity which flew well wide of the post much to the chagrin of his manager.

Hicks continued to keep Ives at bay for the remainder of the first period claiming a Saunders cross well under pressure from Wright. Hanging on well to a fierce drive from the edge of the box by Wright and best of all bravely blocking a close range effort from Jamie Short after a corner had been knocked down to him seconds before the break.

A rousing half time talk from manager Jack Cassidy saw the Ives come out determine to tear into their opposition straight from the off and the early high pressing game brought reward as Wright robbed Gooale on the left, turned back inside and delivered a teasing cross into the centre that Dias looked certain to get on the end of, but Saints centre back Roberts Briede hurled himself in to try and cut out the ball. Unfortunately for him he only succeeded in powering his attempted clearance past his own keeper from close range.

The home side were now well on top and continued to pile on the pressure. Short went close from a corner two minutes later. The all important second goal arrived just before the hour as Dias out muscled Keen Hall on the right and then had the composure to selflessly pick out the unmarked Wright in the centre giving him the simplest of tasks to tuck the ball past the exposed Hicks from just inside the box.

To their credit the visitors did not crumble, but instead kept to their game plan and did have one half chance to find a route back into the game on 64 minutes as Bedwell-Byatt got down the left and pulled the ball back to Foster. But his shot from fifteen yards, that looked to be heading just inside the far post, was blocked and hacked away by Sheppeard.

With this chance gone the Ives began to look comfortable and as both sides rolled on their substitutes the next twenty minutes was predominantly played out in the centre of the park. But as the clock began to tick down the Ives began to enjoy themselves and started to knock the ball around well. The midfield dynamo Polhos was still going strong and with six minutes to go he won yet another tackle and fed the ball out to substitute Sam Davidson on the right. Davidson exchanged passes with Dias before curling an effort from the corner of the box just over the top.

Dias and Davidson combined well again two minutes later with the former playing the latter in for a run on goal, that looked certain to bring reward. But with Davidson bearing down on goal the ball took a bobble and he sliced his effort wide from an excellent position. However the Ives faithfully did not have to wait long for the icing on the cake as Davidson this time turned provider for the goal of the game. He played the ball into the feet of Dias 25 yards from goal and the Ives striker showed his class as he drifted past Hall before unleashing an unstoppable drive from the edge of the D that flew past the despairing dive of Hicks to send players and fans alike into wild celebrations.

Seconds later the referees whistle brought the contest to a conclusion to allow the real celebrations to begin as the eleven players on the pitch were joined by all of their colleagues in the scholarship programme to show the camaraderie that these lads have built up during their time together.

This success shows just how far Jack, Ben, and the back room staff have taken these players. It has been a pleasure to watch them grow as footballers and men. The team still has two more opportunities to claim silverware this season with the County Cup Final against old rivals St Neots Town to come at Eynesbury on Friday 7th April 7.30pm kick off and the Thurlow Nunn League play-offs where the winners of each division play each other to decide who will take the overall trophy. These games will take place in early May watch out for details to follow.

St Ives Team : Tom Smith, Ewan Smith (Parmenter 65), Zoric (McManus 35), Jamie Short, Sheppeard, Polhos, Saunders (McFarlane 86), Lloyd (capt), Wright, Dias, Anemou (Davidson 65)

Unused subs : Kwiatowski

Goals : Breide (own goal) 48, Wright 59, Dias 90

Attendance :  117