Youth Team Result St Neots Town U18’s 2 St Ives Town Youth Team 1

St Neots Town U18’s 2 St Ives Town Youth Team 1

Date: Tuesday 2nd May 2017
Kick Off: 7:45pm
Competition: Thurlow Nunn Youth League Play-Offs
Ground Address: St Neots Town Football Club, Kester Way, St. Neots, Cambridgeshire PE19 6SN

Three weeks ago the young Ives succumbed to a late Saints winner in the County Cup Final. History repeated itself in the Divisional winners play off at the Premier Plus Stadium and this time the hosts left it even later before grabbing their clincher two minutes into added time to break the hearts and shatter the dogged resistance from their visitors.

Having previously knocked their hosts out of the prestigious FA Youth Cup early in the season the County Cup Final win had levelled up the score between the best two Under 18 sides in the County so this game was the showdown.

Ives came out of the traps hard and fast rattling their visitors early on with some slick movement in their front line. Sam Davidson attacked the first corner of the game after only two minutes and was unlucky to get a little bit to much on the ball turning his near post flick into the side netting.

A little bit of magic on the left from Annoncio Anemou created the opening goal only three minutes later. The speedy winger tricked his way past two Saints defenders to get to the bye line and the pulled the ball back picking out the run of Tiago Dias at the near post. His well struck first time effort from ten yards crept under the body of Saints keeper Evan Jeckells to find the back of the net.

Ives were on top during this early period, but struggled to create any more clear cut chances against the rugged Saints back line well marshalled by Zak Rudman. The direction of the game changed after only sixteen minutes as Ives lost their midfield powerhouse Patrik Polhos to an injury. Kyrie Foster came on to replace him with Charlie McManus dropping back into central midfield.

Whilst the visitors were settling into their new arrangements the Saints began to wrestle control of the game from their visitors. Only four minutes later it took an excellent tackle from debutant left back Aaron Makeham to block a crossing opportunity for the dangerous Jack Eldridge on the St Neots right. Tom Smith in Ives goal made an excellent catch to Sam Piesse’s driven corner just ahead of Rudman arriving at the back post.

Smith was called into action again to deny Rudman in 25th minute. Ben Southwood took a quick free kick 35 yards from Ives goal and fed the ball into the feet of Erham Nurettin who hung up an inviting cross that Rudman attacked ten yards from goal. Fortunately his powerful header was straight at Smith who held on well.

Saints pressure continued to mount and Ives continued to concede free kicks around their box. Another Nurettin free kick from 35 yards out on 34 minutes was curled invitingly into the gap between keeper Smith and the charging Saints hoard. Fortunately no one got a touch and the ball skipped inches wide of the far post.

Two minutes later Rudman missed Saints best chance of an equaliser in the first period. Piesse delivered another corner from the right and with lots of movement in the Ives box Rudman managed to lose his marker to get himself a free header two yards from goal. But somehow he failed to score when it looked easier to do so. His powerful header thumped the crossbar with Smith beaten and rebounded to safety.

Having survived this huge scare Ives began to look a little more comfortable in their defensive duties and seven minutes before the interval they carved out a golden opportunity to double their advantage. Sam Davidson battled to win the ball on the right and fed it into the feet of the skilful Foster who cleverly back heeled it into space to put Matt Wright away. As keeper Jackells came to face him the usually deadly striker took his shot on early from the edge of the box, but the Saints custodian had positioned himself well and blocked the effort with his feet.

The Saints lost their captain Shae Humphrey to injury at the break, but this made little difference as they came out fired up and set off in search of the equaliser straight from the off . Nurettin repeated his free kick from the first half with exactly the same result as the in-swinger flashed past the far post on 49 minutes.

Rudman was proving a huge handful from corners and free kicks into the box. Two minutes later he again rose highest to get on the end of a Piesse corner from the right. But his header was deflected off Callum Sheppeard and over the top.

Sheppeard was put under more pressure on 54 minutes as substitute Luke Taylor fed Piesse in down the left. His low driven cross from the left was sliced over his own crossbar by the Ives skipper under pressure from Southwood. The resulting corner was delivered from the left by Eldridge and again Rudman managed to find space at the back post to power in a free header that gave Smith no chance from six yards.

Having got level Saints did not ease off, but smelling blood they went in search of a winner. Nurettin delivered another clever free kick into the box three minutes later. This time picking out Southwood at the near post. He found space to turn and flash a low cross along the six yards line that just evaded everyone in the middle.

Harry Clark spurned an excellent opportunity to put the hosts in front on 65 minutes. A slick passing move down the right involving Eldridge and Mason Collins saw the ball fed into the feet of Southwood who cut into the box and drove in a low cross that arrived at the feet of the inrushing Clark by the back post. But with the goal at his mercy the Saints winger only succeeded in knocking the ball back in the direction it had come from.

With the clock ticking down and Ives began to create little sorties into home territory. The hard working Anemou almost managed to get Wright clear down the middle on 74 minutes. But keeper Jeckells was alert to the danger and raced from his line to knock the ball clear. McManus knocked it down to the feet of Dias fully 45 yards from goal. He tried his luck with an attempted chip over the keeper, but Jeckells was quickly back into position to make a comfortable save.

Even though Ives were enjoying a bit more possession and venturing into Saints territory a little more the hosts were still looking very dangerous coming forward. Substitute Kieran Waites spurned another golden opportunity to put them in front just one minute later. The direct running of Southwood again created the chance as he drove into the box on the right and played in a low cross that picked out the unmarked Waites inside the six yard box. Smith looked beaten but could not believe his luck as the Saints striker got the ball stuck between his feet giving the Ives keeper chance to tip it away from him before he could prod it home.

Southwood created an almost identical opportunity with seven minutes to go as he powered away from Sheppeard down the right and delivered an inviting low cross that Taylor arriving at the back post somehow managed to miss completely.

Ives did create one late chance of their own two minutes later as Ewan Smith threaded a ball down the right that Wright was onto in a flash. He drove on into the box, but the excellent Rudman ensured he was kept wide and when his shot came the angle was just to narrow and it flashed across the face of the goal to safety.

Just like in the County Cup Final when it looked like the game was going to end level and we could all enjoy/endure the delights of a penalty shoot out Saints stepped up and grabbed a late winner from a corner. Piesse played it back along the touchline to Nurettin who had hung back. He delivered the ball to the near post where Waites powered in a close range header that Smith did fantastically well to keep out. Unfortunately for him the first man to react to the loose ball was Southwood who rammed it home from close range to spark wild celebrations in the home camp.

With four more added minutes still to go Ives threw caution to the wind and committed more men forward. But this just gave Saints chance to break and Waites squandered a good opportunity to put the icing on the cake as he fired over from a good position having been put in by Piesse.

The final whistle on Ives season sounded seconds later. Sadly this is also the final game for the lads that were the first ever intake to the scholarship programme at St Ives Town. They are a good bunch of lads who have lifted the standard of Under 18 football at the Club to a whole different level. This is shown by the Western Division title coming to the Pro-Edge and a best ever run in the FA Youth Cup. It is a shame that they could not add the overall Thurlow Nunn title and the County Cup. But it has been a fantastic season and I hope the boys have all enjoyed their time at the Ives. Well done to Jack, Ben, and you all. We wish you well in your future careers, be they inside, or outside, football.

St Ives Team : Tom Smith, Ewan Smith, Makeham, Jamie Short, Sheppeard, Polhos (Foster 16), Davidson (Delgado Vaz 81), Dias, Wright, McManus, Anemou,

Further substitution roll on/roll off : Davidson for Foster 88

Unused subs : Kwiatowski, King, Bond

Goals : Dias 5,

Attendance :  75