NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: St Ives Town chief proud of his players following a fine festive period

St Ives Town striker Jake Newman (left) celebrates his winning goal against St Neots Town with Ben S

St Ives Town striker Jake Newman (left) celebrates his winning goal against St Neots Town with Ben Seymour-Shove. Picture: LOUISE THOMPSON - Credit: Archant

St Ives Town manager Ricky Marheineke reflected on a ‘brilliant Christmas’ after his side continued their Southern League Premier Division surge.

Marheineke’s men earned a 1-0 derby victory at St Neots Town on New Year’s Day thanks to an early Jake Newman goal.

It meant they emerged from a tough run of five matches in 14 days with eight points and a place in the safety of mid-table.

They had lost at Hitchin before winning at Tamworth and then recording goalless home draws against Royston and Lowestoft.

Those results helped Saints pull 11 points clear of the relegation zone and now sit just six points off the play-off places.

“It’s been a brilliant Christmas,” said Marheineke. “We set the lads a tough target to get eight points and they’ve hit it.

“It’s been a brutal fortnight with five games at this time of year, but we have come out of it in a very good position.

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“The players can be really proud of the way they have performed and we all want to continue to progress.

“I’m always of the opinion that local derbies are actually bigger games for the supporters than the players.

“Of course there are the bragging rights at stake, but the only thing that ever concerns me is the three points and we managed to get them.

Newman guided in a smart finish from the edge of the box in the 12th minute as Saints punished a poor clearance from St Neots goalkeeper Finlay Iron.

Charlie De’Ath was twice denied by the crossbar as Saints bossed the opening half without managing to add to their lead.

But one goal proved enough to earn a victory which came complete with a third successive clean sheet for goalkeeper Martin Conway who, like Newman, has proved to be an excellent signing.

Conway was rarely troubled by struggling St Neots on a day when he made one smart save from Dylan Williams in the first half.

He was beaten by a Tom Wood header in the second period during a rare moment of threat from the hosts, but the crossbar came to Saints’ rescue as they held onto their advantage.

Marheineke added: “The only slight disappointment is the fact the game was not over and done with by half-time.

“We got the goal then we hit the crossbar twice and had other opportunities that we could have put away.

“We knew St Neots would throw men forward in the second half because of the situation they are in. They would have been looking for all three points from the game.

“We had to defend deep but we have done that very well on a number of occasions this season and did so again.

“We had a couple of good chances to kill the game off with a second goal late on that we were unable to take, but we’ll take a 1-0 win all day long!”

Saints are back in action this Saturday when they travel to play-off contenders Biggleswade Town, 3pm.

Marheineke is keen to extend the loan stay of Peterborough United defender Sam Cartwright for the rest of the season, but a decision on his future rests with the League One club.