Excited St Ives Town ready for the new challenge of Southern League football

Dubi Ogbonna has joined St Ives Town for their first season in the Southern League. Picture: Louise

Dubi Ogbonna has joined St Ives Town for their first season in the Southern League. Picture: Louise Thompson - Credit: Archant

ST Ives Town will begin life in Division One Central of the Calor Southern League on Saturday with another new striker on their books – the former Wisbech Town frontman Dubi Ogbonna.

It was Ogbonna who caused them problems in the FA Vase last season when the Fenland side put the Saints out of the competition in a replay in north Cambridgeshire following a draw at Westwood Road.

Ogbonna left Wisbech after that and joined St Neots Town before ending the season a United Counties League title winner with Holbeach United.

However, the 22-year-old has now decided it’s time to settle down and sees Westwood Road as the perfect place to do that. “I am looking to get some consistency with a settled team,” said the striker who has also been on the books of Soham Town Rangers, Cambridge City, AFC Sudbury and Aylesbury United. “There is a good buzz around this club and I am so pleased to sign for a club that wants to achieve things.

“St Ives Town has great support and it is a club that is going places.”

Going places it might be, but the club’s first game in Step 4 football is at home on Saturday and its full-time secretary, Simon Clark, is hoping for a big turn out.

“We have had more than 200 fans for all of our home pre-season friendlies,” he said. “Last season our average was just over 200 – so we are really looking for an average of 250 or more this season.

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“We are ready for the step up off the pitch and on it. We have a lot of new processes in place and we are still looking to improve. But we have already come to realise that the organisation in the Southern League is a lot smoother.

“On the field, we shan’t be taking things lightly – every game is going to be tough.”

Chertsey Town are Saturday’s visitors. The Surrey side finished 20th in the 22-team division last season and narrowly avoided the drop back to Step 5. But it seems the club has been busy rebuilding during the summer and they won’t be the pushovers they might have been six months ago.

St Ives will be without key forward Karl Gibbs, who is attending his brother’s wedding at the weekend, but managers Jez Hall and Warren Everdell do have options up front, especially with the addition of Ogbonna.

Joining the club during the summer have been Jared Cuniff, a proven goalscorer from Newport Pagnell Town, and Tom Meechan, who played up front for Over Sports in the Cambs League last season. From Godmanchester Rovers, St Ives have signed the experienced midfielder Jason King.

Ogbonna scored twice for the Saints when they beat Ely City 3-0 last week and in their final pre-season friendly they lost 1-0 at home to King’s Lynn Town.

“We shouldn’t be expecting the world,” said Hall. “But it’s nice to be at this level if not a bit strange because we don’t know what to expect. But it’s what the players’ and the fans’ deserve for all the effort that has been put in over the last few seasons.”

Hall also told the club’s official website: “This season is a whole new challenge where the opposition are unknown and the standard of the football is also. We will go with the aim of finishing as high up the league as possible. It may take us a few games to find our feet, or we may get off to a flyer. I would ask you to be patient with the team, and realise the new challenge.

“When we took over in 2002, we took over a side languishing at the bottom of UCL Division One, it took three years for us to get out of that level for the first time, then it has taken a further eight seasons for us to gain promotion out of the UCL Premier.

“This year’s target is to remain in this league comfortably and push on each year. We must be realistic, this league is completely different, there are six to eight massive clubs with huge budgets all looking for the two promotion spots.

“I hope we can all enjoy the first season for us at this level.”