NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Opening day draw as ‘little old St Ives Town’ hold a set of title contenders
- Credit: Archant
The sound of disgruntled players from big-spending, highly-touted, title-chasing opponents is music to the ears of Ricky Marheineke.
And that's exactly what the St Ives Town chief heard following the final whistle on the opening day of the Southern League Premier Division Central season.
Saints, who are rank 66-1 outsiders for the title and therefore favourites for relegation in theory held a Tamworth side tipped to be right in the mix for the championship crown to a 1-1 draw at sun-drenched but windswept Westwood Road.
Saints had beaten the same club 1-0 on the opening day of last season, but this was probably a better result against a much stronger set of visitors reinforced with a number of big summer signings - including two from last season's champions Kettering Town.
"Some of their players were saying 'how have we not beaten them?' as they walked off the pitch," said Marheineke.
"The simple truth is that everyone expects to win against little old St Ives Town in this league, but wanting to beat us and actually beating us are two different things.
"It's going to be a very difficult season - probably the toughest we've had - but as long as we continue to work hard and stick together we'll be competitive and pick up results.
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"We pride ourselves on making ourselves hard to beat through a terrific spirit and a great work-rate and we can't ever lose sight of that even though we feel we have improved the squad by signing better players this summer.
"I'd have certainly taken a point before the game so I was happy to come away with a draw that I felt we definitely deserved.
"We rode our luck a couple of times in the second half but it took an absolute worldie of a free-kick for Tamworth to score again us.
"We showed that we will again be very resolute as we restricted a team with lots of dangerous attacking players to little or no chances from open play."
Saints fell behind to a top-class free-kick from Tamworth captain Ryan Beswick in the 14th minute and only the combination of crossbar and goalkeeper Martin Conway's fingertips prevented Matt Creaney from doubling the visitors' advantage.
But Saints then grew into the contest and hit back just after the half-hour through a set-piece of their own. The impressive Ty Ward sent in a deep delivery from the left that Jarvis Wilson did superbly to not only keep in but also steer back into the path of defensive partner Danny Kelly to drill home on the half-volley.
Three of Saints' four debutants then went close as Saints finished the opening half strongly. Midfielder Jack Snelus' dipping drive from 25 yards just didn't come down quickly enough; defender Charlie Johnson prodded wide of the near post at full stretch and frontman Ezra Forde should have done better than drilling a shot straight at visiting keeper Jas Singh. Dan Clifton was the other man handed a first outing by Marheineke.
Chances were at a premium in that opening 45 minutes and it was a similar story after the break despite the often end-to-end nature of the game.
Tamworth had more of the few that were created as James Fry's effort was cleared off the line by Johnson, Creaney headed straight at Conway and Bilal Yafai then wasted the best opportunity of all when scooping the ball over from close range.
Saints also enjoyed plenty of possession but posed more threat from set-pieces with Tom Wood nodding into the side-netting from a tight angle and Kelly steering a 25-yard free-kick straight at Singh as honours ended even.
Saints now go to Lowestoft tomorrow night (Tuesday) before heading to Biggleswade Town this Saturday (3pm).
Wideman Ben Baker and striker Jake Newman are expected to depart after not making the squad to face Tamworth.