Matty Waters stars as St Ives Town almost pull off the comeback of the Southern League season

Matty Waters scored a hat-trick against Northwood. Picture: Louis Thompson

Matty Waters scored a hat-trick against Northwood. Picture: Louis Thompson - Credit: Archant

St Ives Town almost pulled off the comeback of the season on Saturday when the 10-man team were 5-1 down against visitors Northwood with 11 minutes to go – only to end the game 5-4 and pushing hard for an equaliser.

Jimmy Dean rises to head home St Ives' first goal in their 5-4 defeat to Northwood. Picture: Louis T

Jimmy Dean rises to head home St Ives' first goal in their 5-4 defeat to Northwood. Picture: Louis Thompson - Credit: Archant

An astonishing hat-trick from on-loan Histon striker Matty Waters turned the game on its head in final throws of a match that had been mainly frustrating for Jez Hall, the joint Saints manager, who told The Hunts Post: “We went for it. Against a really good attacking side like that we went 4-3-2 and had a good go.”

It had been a disheartening first half. Northwood’s No 9, the lively striker Karl Oliyibe scoring goals in the 11th and 38th minutes, but things really took a turn for the worse when St Ives’ defender Jordan Lambert was sent off for handball a minute into the second half and Dave Lawrence slammed home the rebound from his penalty after Barnie McLaughlin had first saved the spot kick.

It was handball but Lambert, on the line, could do little to get out of the way of a shot blasted at him with power from six yards. The ball hit the upper part of the defender’s left arm which hadn’t even left his side. It was a penalty, yes – but a sending off? Within the letter of the law, yes; within the spirit of the game, no.

“That killed us. The lad smashed it and I am really disappointed with that decision. It is not as if Jordan has raised his arm, he literally could not get out of the way.”

Despite Ashley White’s efforts to clear the ball, Jerome Federico rounded McLoughlin to score Northwood’s fourth on 64 minutes and that was when Hall and his co-manager Warren Everdell made their changes, bringing on midfielder Jimmy Dean and the 18-year-old Waters.

Dean made an instant impact, scoring with a bullet header in the 66th minute to make it 4-2, before the visitors struck again through Giles Townsend’s close-range header.

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Then came Waters’ three chances, in the 81st, 89th and 90th minutes, and the sure-footed and quick thinking striker scored them all.

Such was the change in the balance of the game that, given another five minutes, St Ives might have found a fifth – but that would have been the stuff of fairytales.

“Matty Waters was fantastic when he came on,” said Hall. “He is a great finisher. He was excellent and you can see why he was in the Histon first team.

“He is gaining fitness at the moment and has had a couple of substitution apearances and a couple of starts and him and Avelino Vieira were very dangerous together.”

Waters scored five goals for Histon in the Conference North last season as a 17-year-old, and joined St Ives on loan earlier this month as the managers looked to strengthen their forward options following the loss of Dubi Ogbonna to Kettering Town.

The assistant manager at Histon is, of course, the former Huntingdon Town manager Ricky Marheineke – and he rates the youngster highly.

“Jez needs to play the lad on a more regular basis,” said Marheineke. “He is a natural goalscorer. He scored five goals as a 17-year-old in the Conference North last season and has had one goal in one appearance for us this season.

“I am sure, once he gets his sharpness back, he will be pushing for a place within out squad.

“He is at St Ives to help the club kick on but also to play games and regain his match fitness.”

Despite the disappointment of the loss, since getting into the swing of things again following the bad weather and a succession of postponements, Hall is pleased with the haul of seven points from the last four games. In their first season of Step 4 football, St Ives are comfortably mid-table in the Southern League Division One Central table. That is a situation not to be smirked at.

“We’re not expecting to win every game at this standard of football and if we keep on picking up at least one and a half points every game we will be sitting ninth or 10th at the end, which will be a fantastic finish at the end of our first season.”

Tomorrow night, St Ives head to Kettering for the first of a run of three tough games. On Saturday they are away at Slough Town and the following Tuesday they host Barton Rovers. All three of those teams will be in the mix at the top of the table at the end of the season.

But Hall is expecting a few players back from injury this week. David Cobb, the excellent winger, could return – and there could be further good news from the physio’s room. “We have got some really tough games coming up. We were a bit light on the ground today, we had four or five missing, but hopefully David Cobb, Will Fordham and maybe even Jamie Alsop will all be back for the next game.”