Max steps in and makes his case for next season

IT takes a big man to step into the boots of St Ives Town’s midfielder Lee Ellison - but when the captain called to say his wife was in labour on Saturday morning, the club’s management duo of Jez Hall and Warren Everdell had to no qualms about turning to 18-year-old Max Roberts.

Having been a regular on the substitutes’ bench since the start of the season, the under-18s’ skipper didn’t disappoint on his first senior start, steadying the ship in the centre of the park when the Saints went 1-0 down early on against Stewarts & Lloyds Corby, before scoring a cracking equaliser and then driving the team on for the 2-1 win.

The three points, coupled with Holbeach United’s draw on the same afternoon, meant St Ives slipped neatly into third a week after Hall had told The Hunts Post a third place finish was his team’s aim now promotion to the Premier Division of the United Counties League is out of reach.

It was David Cobb who got the late winner, another excellent goal on a bobbly Westwood Road pitch that had been baked in the sun for a couple of days and which didn’t do either side any favours.

It was Corby’s Mark Forbes who put his side 1-0 up, from the penalty spot. A cross had caught defender Dan Newman’s arm from close range but the referee was feeling uncharitable and Forbes struck the ball well to beat St Ives goalkeeper Niall Conroy-Owen.

Cobb had two chances as the Saints struggled to get into the game in the first half and the home side had a shout for a similar handball denied by the referee before the break.

In the second half, after Will Fordham had clipped the crossbar with a close-range header, Junior McDougald - who has been out for three weeks with an injury - was sent on, and alongside the unusally quiet Conor Washington, the experienced striker began to make a difference, holding the ball up so his teammates could pressure the Corby defence.

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On 70 minutes McDougald found Roberts on the edge of the box with a neat little pass and the youngster curled his shot up and over the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net. It was a quality strike.

Cobb flashed another shot over the top before driving home the winner with only three minutes to go.

“We deserved it but it was tough,” said joint manager Hall, adding: “The pitch has really died out and both teams were struggling to play on it to be honest.

“And with a couple of players missing - Lee obviously and Ozie Foster and Jeff Minton - it gave us the chance to give Max 90 minutes - and he didn’t look out of place. He’s a class player but some of our best players are central midfielders.

“Max knew he was coming into the squad but he didn’t know he was playing until half one.”

One to watch next season then - but not for the remainder of this. The youngster will now pay the price for getting sent off in an under-18s match and will be suspended for the run in and both the Hunts Senior and United Counties Premier Division Cup finals.