St Ives Town Youth Team vs Downham Town U18’s
Date: Monday 20th February 2017
Kick Off: 7:45pm
Ground Address: Jubilee Park, Kings Ripton Road, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, PE28 2NR
Competition: Thurlow Nunn Youth League West Division
The young Ives kept their hopes of winning the Western Division alive, but they made heavy weather of beating rock bottom Downham, who to their credit had improved considerably since the reverse fixture in October.
Things might have been very different had not the usually deadly Matt Wright failed to take advantage having been put clear by a perfectly weighted through ball by Tiago Dias after only five minutes. Wright took the ball in his stride and powered into the box, only to be defeated by a bobble off the firm pitch which meant he did not even hit the target.
However Ives were grateful to escape unscathed themselves only three minutes later as a deep cross from the right by Jamie Bowler picked out Joe Causton in space at the far post. His effort matched Wright’s as he completely miss kicked to fire well wide with the goal at his mercy.
The game in these early stages was quite even and the home sides next chance was carved out by the pacey Annoncio Anenou on 16 minutes. He battled his way past three defenders to get the bye line and then delivered a powerful cross to the back post where Sam Davidson met it with a diving header that was unfortunately straight at keeper Dan Clark who made the save look easy.
Downham were next to create an opportunity less than sixty seconds later as centre forward Jacob Sim dropped deep and picked up the ball by the half way line. He found space to turn and then set off on a powerful run down the right that took him past three Ives defenders before he cut inside and fired a well struck effort just past the far post.
Davidson was troubling his marker on the right hand side and he picked up two free kicks in quick succession around the half hour mark. Mark Lloyds delivered the second of these dangerously into the centre of the box where it evaded everyone and arrived at the feet of Wright by the fire post. He took a touch, but was quickly closed down and snatched his effort just wide.
Anenou was also enjoying some success down the left and he combined well with Wright only two minutes later. The two exchanged passes before Anenou fed the ball into Wright on the left hand corner of the box. Wright side stepped a defender before unleashing a shot the Clark could only push back into play. The ball arrived at the feet of Dias on the edge of the box, but his follow up effort thudded the boards just wide of the keeper’s right hand post.
Ives continued to push forward as half time approached and Anenou set up another opportunity four minutes from the break as he combined well with Joseph McDaid before delivering a teasing cross to the back post where Davidson arriving late went for the spectacular, but his first time volley flew high and wide.
The final chance for Ives to break the deadlock in the first half came in the last minute as Jamie Short picked fired a raking pass out of defence that picked out Davidson in space on the right. His low driven cross was just touched away from the inrushing Wright by Dan Cook.
Having failed to really get going in the first half Ives probably received a wake up call from manager Jack Cassidy at the break and the message seemed to get through as they immediately took the game to their opponents straight from the off with a much more positive high pressing game. They only had to wait 90 seconds before this change of tactics brought reward. Dias picked up a loose ball deep in Downham territory and worked space on the edge of the box before firing in a low shot that went through a defender’s legs and almost caught out Clark. The keeper reacted well to block the effort, but Wright was first to react to the loose ball and forced it home before the unfortunate Clark could smother it.
Wright had the ball in the net again two minutes later as he headed home a Lloyd free kick delivered from the right that had been headed up in the air by an under pressure Downham defender. Unfortunately for the Ives striker he had been offside when the initial ball had been delivered into the box and so was denied by the assistant’s flag.
Ives were now well on top with Downham struggling to keep them at bay. Full back Callum Battebee was fortunate to escape with only a talking to from the referee as he clattered Davidson for the second time in quick succession only one minute later. Lloyd delivered another dangerous free kick into the box that got through to Davidson, but he prodded the ball wide from ten yards.
The Downham goal was living a charmed life at this stage and they were fortunate not to fall two behind on 52 minutes. Dias played in Wright down the left and he cleverly pulled the ball back to Lloyd who struck his shot well only to be denied by a combination of Clark and Cook on the line. Keeper Clark just managed to dive on the loose ball ahead of Davidson.
The visitors created one good opportunity to get level in the second period and that came on 54 minutes as Louis Garrett put Josh Ford away down the right. He delivered a low cross into the box where Garrett had continued his run and looked to have the goal at his mercy only for Ewan Smith to come across from right back and make a crucial block.
The speedy Wright was put clear by a delicate clip over the top by Charlie McManus one minute later. Wright took a touch, but keeper Clark was very quickly off his line and closed him down making a brave block at close range as Wright tried to clip the ball past him.
Eager for more goals in case the title comes down to goal difference in the end manager Cassidy made two very positive changes either side of the hour mark. Strikers Sam Bond and Martin Saunders replaced midfielder McDaid and centre back Callum Sheppeard. Bond got on the end of the next Ives chance on 74 minutes as he got clear down the left channel. He was clipped by Bowler, but stayed upright and was unlucky to see his shot blocked by Clark who had again sprinted from his line to close down the angle.
Clarke was again his side’s saviour one minute later as he got down quickly to his right to keep out a powerful drive from Saunders cutting in from the left after he had picked up a quick McManus free kick.
Ives had a penalty appeal turned down ten minutes from time as Jamie Short put Wright through on the right. He in turn picked out Bond in the centre who turned and fired in a shot that beat keeper Clark, but was stopped on the line by the hand of Cook?.
With time running out for Ives to increase their advantage it looked like they would only close the differential in goals on PNS by one until Bond popped up on the end of ball into the box by Anenou in the first minute of added time. He took a touch away from the tiring defenders and fired a low drive from ten yards that beat Clark at his near post.
The result leaves Ives now realistically needing to win their remaining two games to pip PNS to the title a hard task as both are against teams Ives have yet to beat this season. But we must continue to believe and winning silverware would be an excellent end to their course for the second year scholars amongst this team.
St Ives Team : Tom Smith, Ewan Smith, McManus, Jamie Short, Sheppeard (Saunders 68), McDaid (Bond 58), Davidson, Lloyd (capt), Wright, Dias, Anenou
Unused subs : Kwiatowski, Morris, King
Goals : Wright 47, Bond 90 + 1
Attendance : 52