Santa Claus wasn’t the only one giving out gifts at ProEdge Westwood Road yesterday – St Ives Town goalkeeper Tim Trebes was at it as well.
A costly late error from the usually impressive custodian brought Saints’ eight-match unbeaten run to an end in Southern League Division One (Central) and allowed promotion rivals Egham to pocket three valuable points.
Trebes sped from his area to head clear in the 88th minute, but could only steer the ball into the path of Chris Henry, who gratefully guided the only goal of the game into a gaping net from 30 yards.
It was the sort of generosity usually associated with the big, fat fella in a red suit who carries a sack.
It was also a cruel and infuriating way for an injury-ravaged Saints side to suffer a first league reverse since October.
Boss Ricky Marheineke admitted: “If you don’t score goals, you don’t win games of football. That has been our problem of late and we again lacked the necessary cutting edge yesterday.
“But we can’t keep relying on our defence to keep a clean sheet to give us a chance of getting something out of a match.
“The lead up to the goal was very disappointing as it stemmed for a poorly-taken free-kick of our own.
“We should have done better with that in the first place, we should have done better with the ball back over the top which followed and our goalkeeper should certainly have done a hell of a lot better.
“Three times in this game he left his area and made a mess of his clearance into the centre of the pitch. He has to clear the ball to an area where an opponent can’t score and that comes down to making the right decision.
“Our unbeaten run was always going to come to an end at some point, but it is disappointing for it to have happened to a late sucker-punch like that.”
A Saints side already without five players suffered an early injury blow as Harry O’Malley departed hurt with a hamstring problem in only the sixth minute.
The hosts were unable to take any of the flurry of chances they created in the opening period and in front of a bumper 360 crowd.
A last-ditch tackle denied Peter Clark just as he was preparing to pull the trigger before a smart stop kept out Charlie De’Ath’s diving header.
An even better save thwarted Ben Seymour-Shove as he unleashed a screamer from the edge of the box before a goal-line clearance made sure Steven Gentle had no joy with a deflected header.
And arguably the best opportunity of all was wasted when De’Ath put a Scott Sinclair corner delivery over the top before the break.
Saints were less dangerous in the second period when only the alert defending of Gentle spared the blushes of goalkeeper Trebes, who had succeeded only in putting the ball on a plate for Egham man Bajram Pashaj after dashing from his area to clear.
But there was no defender to come to Trebes’ rescue when he again left his area late on as Henry settled the contest.
There was still time for Saints to get the ball into the net themselves, but the referee had already whistled for a handball against Sinclair before substitute Jack Warwick struck.
St Ives remain third, but are now six points behind leaders Chalfont St Peter who beat AFC Rushden & Diamonds in a top-of-the-table showdown yesterday.
The top two teams are both in action again in midweek whereas Saints don’t play again until going to Royston on Boxing Day.