Goalkeeper Jordan Mitchell grabbed the star man accolade for an outstanding display between the sticks. But this excellent result, against a team who went into this game with a mathematical chance of grabbing the title, was an all round team performance of note.
The game again showed how far this young Ives side has come on during the season as the earlier fixture at the Pro-Edge Stadium in October had ended with a 6 – 0 victory for the visitors as they out fought and out muscled the Ives boys.
The Ives showed they were not going to be bullied out of this game winning important tackles early in the game. It was the visitors who threatened first as Bailey Pillin was put clear by a perfectly weighted pass from Adam Cooper. Pillin outpaced the defence, but seemed in two minds whether to go for power, or placement, and only succeeded in firing against the legs of keeper Joseph Coleman.
Wisbech won the first of their thirteen corners two minutes later and centre back Mark Samways should probably have done better as he got on the end of Terry Haime’s in-swinger in a good central position. But his header was straight at Mitchell who held on well for his first save of the night.
Haime was causing trouble on the left wing and he got past Dan Hudson in 13th minute before cutting inside past Dalton Short and firing in a low drive that Mitchell blocked with his legs on his near post. The resulting corner was won in the air by Jordan Nyang, but he headed over the top from eight yards.
Ives then stunned the home crowd by going in front on 20 minutes. Sam Davidson took an opportunity to take on his marker just outside the box and was unceremoniously brought down by a clumsy tackle from Nyang. Sam Land carefully lined up the free kick and looked to have wasted his opportunity as he drilled the ball straight at the wall. But the ball rebounded straight to his feet and he hit a crisp first time effort through the now disintegrated wall and past the unsighted Coleman who was surprised to see the ball nestled in the bottom corner of the net.
An immediate response was expected and Dec Earth and Regan Brown combined well with a quick interchange of passes that saw Earth thread a ball through to Brown just inside the box. But Mitchell was alert to the danger and quickly closed the Wisbech striker to block his first time effort at close range.
The pressure from the home side continued to build and Mitchell was called into action again eight minutes later as he did well to hang onto a low free kick fired in from the left by Earth. The home side changed their front line around a little as they tried to find a way through. Brown moved to the right with Earth moving into the centre. The speedy Brown got a run on Land on 35 minutes, but was pushed wide and fired his powerful effort just over the top from the corner of the box.
But one thing any opponent of this Ives side must learn is that the front line has pace to burn and Wisbech were almost caught out again nine minutes before the break. Hudson cut out and intended through ball just inside his own half and laid a perfect ball down the line. Davidson outpaced the struggling Nyang and cut in for goal, but took his shot early from just inside the box and dragged the ball agonisingly inches wide of the far post.
With half time approaching it looked like the Ives were going to hang onto their advantage, but the hosts had other ideas. Earth picked up a loose ball 25 yards from goal side stepped an Ives defender and cracked in a rocket that everyone thought was heading for the top corner, but Mitchell produced a world class save hurling himself to his right to palm the ball away at full stretch. In fact he did to well and the ball stayed in play allowing Haime to pick it up near the corner flag. He instantly cut in along the goal line going past Hudson and Callum Sheppeard before selflessly laying the ball back to Earth who was this time not to be denied and fired home from ten yards to level things up.
Having equalised so close to the break it was to be expected that the hosts would come out fired up for the second half, although the news from Kings Lynn was not good for them as the Linnets were 3 – 0 up in their game effectively killing off any faint hopes Wisbech had of snatching the title.
However the home side were still determined to claim victory in their last game of the season. Mitchell was called into action again with the second half only two minutes old as Haime played in Kieran Hamilton who fired in a rising effort from 15 yards on the angle that Mitchell tipped over.
Five minutes later a deep cross from the left by Jacub Ziaska was won at the far post by Brown above Land. His header looped up and looked to be dipping in over Mitchell, but the agile keeper back peddled and managed to just tip the ball over the top.
However the one way flow towards the Ives goal was broken and the wind was really taken out of the home sides sails on 55 minutes as Davidson battled well to keep the ball in play on the right hand side. He got to the bye line and delivered an inviting cross to the back post where Mark Lloyd put in a challenge that unsettled defender Josh Burrows to such an extent that he only succeeded in heading his attempted clearance straight to the feet of Pillin eight yards out. He did not need a second invitation and gleefully fired the ball home.
This really rocked Wisbech and the game evened up for the next fifteen minutes as both sides made substitutions. It was the home sides substitutes who made the most impact as two of them combined to level things up again on 72 minutes. Bartzk Ziaska tricked his way past two defenders down the right hand side and picked out fellow sub Jordan Keeble with his low ball into the box. Keeble finished well, giving Mitchell no chance from 12 yards.
Ives delivered an instant response as straight from the kick off Lloyd went down a run down the left and fed the ball on to overlapping full back Adam Parmenter who turned the ball back inside to Lloyd who had continued his run. Lloyd’s clip into the box was only half cleared to Matt Wright who fired inches over from the edge of the box.
With time running out it was still clear both sides were going for the win. Mitchell pulled off an exceptional double save to keep Ives level with ten minutes to go Keeble cut in from the left and laid the ball back to Earth who fired in a low drive that cannoned off the foot of the post. Earth pounced on the rebound, but his second effort was blocked at close range by Mitchell who bravely hurled himself onto the loose ball just ahead of Keeble.
The visitors almost got caught out by their own eagerness to take all three points as they were caught with a lot of players forward for a free kick with four minutes to go. Land’s free kick from 25 yards was blocked by the wall and Earth broke away at pace and looked likely to run eighty yards to win the game only to be denied by an amazing saving tackle from Callum Sheppeard just as he shaped to shoot.
Each side had one more opportunity to claim the win. With just one minute of normal time remaining a quick break down the left by Wright and Lloyd finished with the former teeing up the latter for a volley from just inside the box. Lloyd hit his volley well enough, but unfortunately it was straight at keeper Coleman.
Mitchell had to make his final save of the night with the game two minutes into added time. Haime swung in a corner from the right that lead to a scramble in the Ives goalmouth. The ball fell to Wisbech skipper Ali Morgan eight yards out in a central position. He went for placement and tried to slot the ball low to Mitchell’s right, but the evening’s star man was equal to it plunging low to push the ball around the post.
The corner came to nothing and Ives can definitely call this a very hard earned point gained from a fiercely contested contest. One game to go, time to finish in style and make sure everyone is looking forward to what promises to be an exciting second season for these boys.
St Ives Team : Mitchell, Hudson, Land, Sheppeard, Short, Texter, Davidson, Cooper, Pillin, Reader, Lloyd (capt),
Subs (used roll on/roll off) : Smith, Wright, Parmenter
Subs not used : none