What a difference a few hours made at ProEdge Westwood Road . . .
The scene for a sorry St Neots Town exit on Friday night – at the hands of the local venue’s tenants Cambridge City - became the stage for an impressive victory from landlords St Ives Town in the FA Cup this afternoon.
A smart Phil Draycott strike, following some slick approach work from the twinkle toes of Danny Kelly, was enough to earn Ricky Marheineke’s side a 1-0 success against Coalville Town.
It also ensured they didn’t follow their fellow set of Saints in crashing out of the competition at the first qualifying round stage.
The only surprise was that it took until the 73th minute of an old-fashioned cup tie, between two attack-minded Step 3 teams, for the deadlock to be broken.
St Ives and Coalville both created opportunities galore, but only wideman Draycott succeeded in finding the net to secure a victory that was just about deserved on the balance of play.
However, Saints had to survive a late scare to record a first win since the opening day of the campaign as visiting substitute Tom McGlinchy fired against a post in stoppage time, but the woodwork did its bit to ensure progress.
“The FA Cup is one of the few opportunities for us, as a group of players and staff, to give something back to the club and supporters,” said boss Marheineke.
“We really wanted to make sure we progressed to bring in some prize money and create a bit of excitement.
“The lads put in a really good shift. We were outstanding in possession in the first half and could count ourselves unlucky not to be ahead.
“We finally managed to get the goal in the second half and then defended our lead like absolute warriors and managed to get over the line with a bit of help from the post.
“We asked the players to be better in both boxes to help us get back into the habit of winning games of football and that happened.
“We defended considerably better than we have done of late and cut out the individual mistakes, and we also looked very dangerous when we attacked.”
Kelly and Ben Seymour-Shove (making his 150th Saints appearance) were both denied by smart saves in the opening half.
Draycott did manage to beat Coalville keeper Matt Coton after dancing through a couple of challenges, but the presence of a covering defender ensured his low shot didn’t find the net.
The lively Blair Anderson provided the biggest threat to the St Ives defence. He dragged one decent chance wide before being thwarted by on-loan Saints goalkeeper James Goff after another attacking raid.
Coalville introduced big frontman Matt Creaney at the break and he proved a handful. He was probably fortunate not to see red when catching Lee Chaffey with an elbow and he probably should have scored when heading over from eight yards moments later.
But it was the hosts who did find the net when Draycott steered in Kelly’s pass and that proved enough to earn a place for Saints in the second qualifying round.
The draw is made on Monday and Marheineke knows exactly what he wants.
“I’ll take a home tie against the lowest-ranked team left in the competition,” he added.