Not many people would have put their money on a home win at Westwood Road yesterday.
Struggling St Ives Town, who have slid down the Southern League Premier Division Central standings at an alarming rate while suffering six successive defeats, hosted a Halesowen side unbeaten in their previous five matches.
But rather than being an afternoon to prolong Saints’ agony as the formbook might have suggested, this turned out be a potential turning point in their season as they eased to a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 victory.
Ben Baker provided a 19th minute breakthrough before the points were sealed by substitute Ben Seymour-Shove in the second minute of stoppage time at the end of the second half.
Saints were rarely troubled in between those two goals as they collected a first league triumph since August Bank Holiday Monday. Recent goalkeeping recruit Martin Conway required to make only one save of note during his home debut.
Manager Ricky Marheineke said: “Our focus was on doing the basics well and we certainly did that.
“The full-backs stopped crosses; the centre-backs defended any balls that did come into our box well; the midfield players worked exceptionally had both in and out of possession; the wide players were creative and always looked a threat and the two lads up top got efforts in on goal.
“They are all relatively simple things and doing them well always gives a team a chance of winning a football match as we did here.
“Things had got a bit complicated in recent weeks with us making changes to personnel and the way we play in an attempt to stop the run of defeats.
“But for this game we decided to strip it back, give the players clear objectives and the end result was three very welcome points.
“I never felt we were in any real danger of conceding and thought we were probably the likelier team to get a second goal on the counter-attack and that happened late on.”
The arrival of striker Jake Newman looks to have added considerable bite to a previously toothless Saints side – the scorers of just seven goals in their previous 14 league games this season.
The burly striker arrived from Peterborough Sports late last week and was only denied a derby goal when seeing a rasping strike kept out by a fine save early on.
Newman half-volleyed another effort over the bar before Saints hit the front when Baker latched onto a Danny Kelly pass and steered his finish through the legs of Halesowen goalkeeper Cameron Gregory.
A decent opportunity for the visitors to reply was lashed wide by Lewis Reilly moments later before Conway was called into action five minutes into the second half to tip over a header from Dean Hawkshaw.
But that proved to be a rare moment of alarm in a game where chances were at a premium. Baker saw an effort from a tight angle blocked before Ollie Snaith saw a cross-shot roll across the face of goal without getting a touch.
But Snaith was the provider of Saints’ second goal in the dying moments as he picked out Seymour-Shove who fired into the corner with the aid of a deflection to ensure a first league win on home turf since the opening day of the season.
It was a victory which also provided the satisfaction of leapfrogging fellow locals St Neots Town to rise to 18th position in the Premier Division Central standings.