St Ives Town suffered a spectacular late collapse when seeing a famous victory turn into a painful Southern League Premier Division defeat yesterday.

Saints conceded three times in the space of four minutes late on to go down to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of table-topping Chippenham Town at ProEdge Westwood Road.

They had earlier looked set to end the unbeaten record of the leaders after Tom McGowan's opener on the quarter-of-an-hour mark, which embarrassed visiting goalkeeper Kent Kauppinen.

Harry O'Malley produced an acrobatic goal-line clearance to preserve their lead before extending it 11 minutes before the break when he looped in a header from a Ben Seymour-Shove free-kick.

And, despite an aerial bombardment from the high-flying visitors, that was the way it stayed until the final few minutes when Saints' fortunes nosedived. Chippenham halved their arrears though Alex Ferguson's 84th minute effort, levelled courtesy of David Pratt less than 60 seconds later and completed a quickfire turnaround when Alan Griffin struck in the 87th minute.

St Ives boss Ricky Marheineke admitted: "We were so close to picking up a great result and we were certainly good value for a point - to come out of the game with nothing is very harsh.

"For so long we coped with everything Chippenham threw at us and defended our 18-yard box well, but it's no use just being good for 80-odd minutes as we have found out to our cost.

"We knew the final few minutes would be a test of character and we needed people to rise to the occasion to see the game out, but instead they lost concentration and seemed to want to blame each other for the goals we conceded.

"I'm not unhappy with the performance because it was very good for much of the game, but I am disappointed with the way the lads failed to stick together and fight for each other. It is something we addressed after the game."

Marheineke handed new frontman Justin Leavers a debut as a substitute in the second half. The former Cambridge United youngster arrived at the club during last week.

Saints will aim to return to winning ways at Dunstable on Tuesday night when another recent striking signing, Danny Kelly, is set to make his debut for the club.