NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: St Ives Town make their point in survival battle with a draw that felt like a win
- Credit: Archant
Manager Ricky Marheineke heaped praise on goalkeeping hero Finley Iron as St Ives Town picked up a precious point in the battle for Southern League Premier Division Central survival.
The young number one pulled off a catalogue of fine saves before creating the local side's late leveller in a 1-1 draw at Needham Market on Boxing Day.
Iron's huge clearance was finished by Ben Seymour-Shove with three minutes to go in Suffolk as Saints avoided falling into the drop-zone on a day when they trailed for 80 minutes!
"It's a very good point," said Marheineke. "In fact it's a draw which feels like a win after behind for so long and scoring so late.
"Our goalkeeper kept us in the game - almost single-handedly - at times in the second half.
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"He made at least four unbelievable saves to deny a Needham Market team blessed with very good attacking players who caused us problems.
"We had to leave ourselves open at times as we chased a goal and the longer it went on, the more we sensed we could get it.
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"Needham Market don't have a great home record and they became really edgy, and we were able to take advantage.
"It was a great finish from 'Shev' as well."
Iron would have been left with egg on his face early on had it not been for the excellence of defender Alfie Powell.
The Saints' keeper saw a weak clearance seized upon by Market man Craig Parker whose 40-yard effort was bound for the net until Powell stretched out a leg to divert it wide at the expense of a corner.
But that only provided temporary frustration for Parker and brief respite for Saints as the same man opened the scoring in the eighth minute when converting a Gareth Heath cross.
Iron then stood between the hosts and more goals as he pulled off a catalogue of excellent stops in both halves while the woodwork also came to Saints' rescue on two occasions.
But those factors meant Marheineke's men remained in contention and they took advantage of that situation with three minutes to go as goal-saver turned goal provider.
Iron's wind-assisted punt forward was exquisitely finished by Seymour-Shove with the ball crossing the line despite the desperate attempts of Market defender Dan Morphew to clear.
But Seymour-Shove made doubly sure there was no possibility of controversy as he tucked in the loose ball anyway.
There was more late drama when Saints had substitute Edmund Hottor was red-carded in stoppage time for a rash challenge. The recent midfield signing will now face a three-match suspension.
Saints return to action on New Year's Day when hosting AFC Rushden & Diamonds at Westwood Road, 3pm.
A trip to table-topping Tamworth then follows on January 4. Saints drew with the leaders in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season.