St Ives Town Youth Team 1 St Neots Town U18’s 2
Date: Friday 7th April 2017
Kick Off: 7:30pm
Competition: Hunts County U18 Cup Final
Ground Address: Eynesbury Rovers, Alfred Hall Memorial Ground, Hall Road, Eynesbury, St Neots, PE19 2SF
The young Ives fully played their part in a tight and pulsating County Cup Final and were perhaps a little unfortunate to fall to a late Saints winner having battled their way back to get level with ten minutes to go.
These two sides had met earlier in the season in the FA Youth Cup when Ives had prevailed in a similarly tight affair so this was a chance for revenge for the Saints. Both sides came into the game on a high Ives having already won their divisional title with the Saints needing two points from their final game to similarly clinch their division so this was the clash of champions versus champions elect.
As had been the case in their previous meeting the Saints took the game to the Ives and enjoyed a lot of early possession. Ben Southwood was looking a handful with his pace and movement and his clever back heel almost put Jack Eldridge through after only nine minutes. Eldridge got to the bye line, but his attempted pull back was knocked away by an Ives defender. Erhan Nerettin following up fired in his first time effort from 25 yards that deflected just wide of the Ives goal. The resulting corner from the left by Nerettin was won cleanly eight yards out by Shae Humphrey who beat the ground in frustration as he failed to hit the target with his free header.
Ives best opportunity of the first period came fifteen minutes in as the all action Patrik Polhos won a ball in the centre of the park and clipped a ball through the channel. Matt Wright outpaced the Saints defence and keeper Evan Jeckells hesitated giving Wright chance to get to the ball first. But Jeckells redeemed himself by make a brave block at point blank range.
The closest the Saints came to an opener in the first period was in the 20th minute. An in-swinging near post corner from the right by Sam Piesse was flicked on only for a well positioned Sam Davidson to block the effort on the line. His clearance was fed back out to Piesse who fed the ball inside to Nerettin who strode on into the box before unleashing a low drive that beat Tom Smith at his near post, but rebounded to safety off the foot of the upright.
The first half continued with Saints still holding the upper hand. But the hard working Ives were restricting their opportunities and it took until two minutes before the break for the Saints to go close again from another dead ball situation. Owen Bevan delivered a hanging free kick to the back post where Isaac Clarke rose highest. But like his fellow centre back earlier in the proceedings he failed to hit the target with his header from a good position.
The second half continued in a similar vain to the first with Ives back line well marshalled by Jamie Short and Callum Sheppeard keeping the Saints at bay. The tricky Andre Williams was causing a few problems down the right for the Saints and he delivered a well placed cross to the back post on 52 minutes. Eldridge knocked the ball down into the feet of Nerettin, but he snatched his shot over the top from just inside the box.
Eldridge was the provider for the opening goal on the hour as he found space on the left and did very well to keep the ball in play before getting his head up and picking out the run of Southwood into the box. The Saints centre forward took a touch before firing a low drive into the far corner of the net past the unsighted Smith.
This sparked an almost instant reaction from the Ives and only two minutes later Polhos won yet another tackle 25 yards from the Saints goal before sliding the ball into the feet of Dias cutting in from the left. He worked his way into the box before firing in a low shot that beat the dive of Jeckells, but rebounded back into play off the foot of the same upright that denied Nerettin in the first half.
Ives were almost caught out by a short corner in 73rd minute. Bevan’s low drive cross was blocked at the near post by Polhos, but the ball rebounded to Southwood who fired narrowly wide from just inside the crowded box.
The Ives were battling away, but creating little and looking unlikely to find a route back into the game. However there is always hope when Wright is in the side and ten minutes from time they grabbed an equaliser in true route one fashion. Keeper Smith launched a massive punt down the big Eynesbury pitch. The ball cleared the Saints back line and Wright was onto in a flash in a desperate attempt to stop him centre back Humphrey hauled him back deep inside the box. Referee Robert Cusick had little choice but to award the spot kick. Tiago Dias confidently stepped up and sent Jeckells the wrong way from the spot.
Having got back level Ives were undone again only four minutes later as a ball into the box was knocked down to Nerettin who smashed in a first time drive that Smith did fantastically well to react to and parry, but Bevan pounced on the loose ball just ahead of the keeper to hammer it home from close range. In his frustration at not getting onto the loose ball first Smith continued his dive into the feet of Bevan and grabbed the legs of the Saints striker who reacted badly kicking out at the Ives keeper to rightly earn himself a red card from referee Cusick.
Saints going down to ten men looked to give Ives a route back into the game in the remaining six minutes. But the players had already given their all and had little energy to muster a late charge. In the remaining time and the added four minutes it was only Saints who could manage further efforts on goal as Southwood twice fired over from good positions.
Overall this was a pulsating game between two contrasting styles in which Ives clearly played their part, although Saints were worthy winners on the night Ives can still hold their heads high as they go into the Thurlow Nunn end of season play-offs where they may get chance of a further tilt at their local rivals.
St Ives Team : Tom Smith, Ewan Smith, Zoric, Jamie Short, Sheppeard, Polhos, Davidson (Saunders 55), Lloyd (capt) (McDaid 65), Wright, Dias, Anemou,
Unused subs : Kwiatowski, Delgado Vaz, McFarlane
Goals : Dias 80 (pen)
Attendance : 194