As this was their first competitive game for three weeks it was perhaps not surprising that the young Ives started this game very slowly. However they grew into the game as the first half went on and came out to dominate the second period to claim a hard earned comeback win against a very good PNS side.
The Peterborough side grabbed the lead in only the fourth minute as overlapping full back Connor Chambers found time and space on the left to deliver a cross into the box that Bradlee Page was allowed to bring down, turn, and slot past the exposed Jordan Mitchell from close range.
They almost added a second nine minutes later as Callum Pacey and Ruben Ray combined well down the right with the latter delivering a deep cross that picked out Ian King at the far post, but he only succeeded in directing his free header straight into the grateful arms of Mitchell.
Ives first foray into opposition territory came on 17 minutes when Mark Lloyd took down a long ball out of defence well and fed it inside to George Reader who clipped a ball through that looked like putting the speedy Matt Wright clear. But Trent Stanley in the visitor’s goal was alert and raced off his line to head the bouncing ball clear.
Ten minutes later a good run and cross from the left by full back Ewan Smith gave Lloyd a half chance at the far post, but he chose to take a touch and was eventually driven wide and his shot when it finally came was a comfortable save for Stanley.
The game now evening out as half time approached and each side created one more opportunity before the break, both in similar circumstances. On 34 minutes a deep free kick from the right by King arrived at the far post where James Hill-Seekings got in a header from close range that Mitchell did well to keep out, holding onto the ball at the second attempt.
Five minutes later a Smith free kick from the left, similarly delivered to the far post caused panic in the PNS defence as Stanley came to punch the ball, but completely mistimed his attempt and was extremely lucky as the ball fell at his feet and bounced off him and rolled just outside the post for a corner.
Ives made one change at the break as centre back Dalton Short was replaced by a man better known as a striker Bailey Pillin who slotted in alongside Callum Sheppeard in the heart of the defence. Whilst we were wondering how this change might bed in Ives grabbed a well taken equaliser. Charlie McManus won the ball in midfield and slotted it through the channel to put Wright into a foot race with PNS centre back Billy May. There was only going to be one winner as Wright outpaced him and calmly slotted the ball past the advancing Stanley and into the bottom corner.
Seven minutes later Ives had turned the game on its head as Wright grabbed his second of the evening. This time he again outpaced the lumbering PNS defence as he sprinted onto a long ball out of defence from Sheppeard. His first time effort from the edge of the box gave Stanley no chance as it rifled into the roof of the net almost before the keeper could move.
That was Wright’s last action of the evening as he was replaced by the equally pacey Sam Davidson. Ives were now well on top and if the tiring visitor’s defence thought they were going to get some respite they were sadly mistaken.
The next opportunity for the home side came on 62 minutes as McManus almost got clear only to be denied by a headed clearance from Stanley. But with the keeper well out of his goal the loose ball fell to Ives substitute Sam Bedwell-Byatt who fired in a goal bound first time effort from 40 yards that beat Stanley, but was blocked in the area by covering defender Jack Fryett.
Ives should have made it three on 65 minutes as Davidson powered through the centre of the PNS defence and cleverly back heeled the ball to Lloyd in space ten yards from goal. He side footed the ball towards a vacant corner of the net and thought he had scored, but was denied by a flying save from Stanley, who did equally well to block McManus’s follow up effort.
Stanley had another fortunate escape on 73 minutes as once again Davidson got clear, this time running onto a punt out of defence by Pillin. He went to hit a shot from the edge of the box, but miss hit the effort and the ball was rolling tamely straight into the hands of the keeper. But he must have taken his eye off the ball as it bobbled through his fingers and he could only stand and watch as it rolled on. However he was a mighty relieved man as the ball hit the upright and rebounded straight into his hands.
Having completely dominated the second period, but not taken their chances the Ives began to sit nervously on their narrow lead and they allowed the visitors to come at them again. They were fortunate to stay in front on 82 minutes as Rey forced his way down the right and laid the ball in to the feet of substitute Jamie Scott who laid the ball into the path of the dangerous Hill-Seekings. His first time effort from the edge of the box speared through the defence and rattled off an upright straight into the hands of the watching Mitchell.
One minute later Hill-Seeking was again in the action as he fired in another effort from just inside the box that was bravely blocked by Pillin. Substitute Robert Ilsley looked certain to slam home the loose ball, but he was denied the opportunity by an excellent saving tackle from Dan Hudson.
Having worked so hard for the victory it looked like the Ives were going to be denied the three points with four minutes to go as Ilsley dribbled his way to the bye line on the left and fired a ball across the box. Reader was trying desperately to cut out the cross, but in his effort to fling himself across the line of it the ball struck his arm. The excellent referee Paul Gale was right on the spot and in spite of protests from the home side he had no hesitation in awarding the penalty.
King carefully placed the ball on the spot and went for power straight down the middle. Mitchell had gambled and stayed upright and got the merest of touches onto the crossbar. The ball rebounded well outside the box and was hacked away. That miss knocked the stuffing out of the visitor’s mini revival and the Ives were able to hang on for the remaining period without further scares.
Overall this was an excellent victory against a side who had dumped us out of the FA Youth Cup 3-0 at home earlier in the season. The slow start can perhaps be forgiven due the lack of recent competitive football, but the strength and resilience in this side again shone through.
St Ives Team : Mitchell, Parmenter, Smith, Sheppeard, Short, Reader, Lloyd (capt), Morgan-McDaid, Wright, McManus, Thompson,
Subs (used roll on/roll off) : Hudson, Parr, Bedwell-Byatt, Davidson, Pillin
Subs not used : none