NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Safety assured but further progress desired for St Ives Town following another fine away display
- Credit: Archant
The i’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed and St Ives Town can look forward to life in the Southern League Premier Division Central again next season.
A terrific 1-1 draw at second-placed Stourbridge last Saturday ensured Ricky Marheineke’s men are mathematically certain of avoiding the drop.
Given the fact Saints were already seven places and 15 points above a relegation zone occupied by fellow locals St Neots Town, going down was never likely.
But seeing their safety assured is still a notable piece of progress for a club clearly moving in the right direction.
“At the start of the season we set out to secure our status in this league and it’s very pleasing to manage that with five games to spare,” said Marheineke.
“The next target now is to try to reach 50 points and we’re one win away from doing that so hopefully we can get that on the board as soon as possible.
“As things stand we could finish anywhere between 10th and 18th, and the challenge the players have been set is to ensure we’re as high up in that bracket as possible.”
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Saints were fortunate not to fall behind inside the opening 20 seconds at Stourbridge as home striker Kaiman Anderson headed wide after charging down a clearance from keeper Martin Conway.
But that was only a brief reprieve as Stourbridge hit the front through a Greg Mills penalty in the fifth minute after Anderson was dragged down by Tom Wood.
The hosts, who boast the best home record in the division, twice hit the woodwork in quick succession in the second half, but Saints – whose away form this season is bettered only by runaway leaders Kettering – also gave an excellent account of themselves.
Ben Seymour-Shove and Owen Wallis both missed good headed chances, and Wood was unable to convert another big opportunity, before they levelled courtesy of an own goal with three minutes to go.
A Ben Baker cross was fumbled by Stourbridge keeper James Wren and the ball rolled in off defender Zak Lilly.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we deserved to get level and come away with a point.” added Marheineke. “It was right up there with the best performances we’ve produced this season.
“It’s a game we could have won, but one we could easily have lost as well after getting off to such a poor start.
“It was a real test of character after conceding such an early goal away to a top side and we had to hang in there for 20 minutes.
“But we played some really good stuff from then on, dominated the possession and arguably created the better chances while also having a couple of penalty shouts that we might have got had we been at home.”
Defender Wallis produced a man-of-the-match performance in his first Saints appearance since January. The former Norwich City man has been on trial at a professional club during that time.
Marheineke expects loan signing Morgan Penfold to feature in the squad to face AFC Rushden & Diamonds this Saturday.
The wideman has joined Saints for a second spell from League One club Peterborough United but missed out on the trip to Stourbridge due to a calf problem.