NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Another late show from Shariff rescues a point for 10-men St Neots Town as derby spoils are shared at St Ives Town
- Credit: Archant
Honours ended even after the top two teams in Huntingdonshire football battled out a mud and thunder derby showdown.
St Ives Town and St Neots Town produced a spectacle that was strangely engrossing and largely entertaining despite quality football predictably being in short supply due to difficult conditions at soggy ProEdge Westwood Road.
The final 1-1 scoreline was probably a fair reflection of a Southern League Premier Division clash in which neither side did enough to win or deserved to lose.
It was a point that both managers would more than likely have willingly accepted at 7pm after setting eyes on a pudding of a pitch. One particularly sandy patch across a penalty was a hazard which would have caused the world’s leading golfers, let alone a set of non-league footballers, extreme difficulty.
The fact visiting boss Matt Clements was still chuffed with a share of the spoils just after 9.30pm was completely understandable given his side played with 10 men for more than two-thirds of an attritional and energy-sapping battle following the dismissal of Johnny Herd for collecting two obvious cautions – both received for fouls on St Ives dangerman Tom Knowles - in the opening 24 minutes.
Nabil Shariff’s 82nd minute leveller, which found its way into the net through the legs of St Ives goalkeeper Tim Trebes, was a reward for the resolve the visiting set of Saints showed in such a tough predicament.
It was perhaps more surprising that home chief Ricky Marheineke also seemed content with the outcome after seeing his side fail to press home that aforementioned numerical advantage before adding another unwanted entry to their long list of costly late goals conceded.
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However, extending their unbeaten run to four matches and gaining an eighth point from a possible 12 in that time was an adequate evening’s work as far as he was concerned.
Marheineke’s men hit the front four minutes into the second half when a hopeful 20-yard shot from Declan Rogers – one of seven former St Neots men in the St Ives starting line-up – embarrassed visiting number one Mikey Emery.
It was difficult not to feel sympathy for the goalkeeper who looked to have a relatively weak effort well covered until the ball took a rogue bounce over his diving body.
Emery had done well towards the end of the first half when getting a vital hand on a low cross from Knowles – a recent loan recruit making his first start for St Ives - with captain Luke Knight then hacking clear before Danny Watson could pounce.
Frontman Watson was arguably fortunate still to be on the pitch at that point after escaping with a yellow card for a wild, studs-up challenge on Knight around the half-hour mark.
Knowles has previous for tormenting St Neots. He did likewise when helping Cambridge City knock them out of the FA Cup earlier in the season. Clements’ side are a different beast now, though, as this display in adversity again highlighted.
Emery also beat away a long-range blast from Rogan McGeorge on the stroke of the interval while opposite number Trebes passed his only real test of the opening period when getting down smartly to get a hand on a Liam McDevitt header from a corner.
Emery’s nightmare moment left his side behind, but he soon made a confidence-restoring save to keep out another McGeorge effort.
Rogers could only glance a mis-hit Ollie Snaith half-volley wide as St Ives continued to threaten before Knowles delayed when presented with a clear shooting opportunity and Parr deflected his effort wide.
Their failure to find a second goal came back to haunt the hosts when Shariff struck a late equaliser for the second time in four days to haul St Neots level and earn their 11th draw of the campaign - more than any other team at Southern League Premier Division level
It prompted a late rally from the home team, but it was to no avail as McGeorge saw another attempt from distance drift wide before Knowles’ diving header floated straight into the grateful gloves of Emery.
So the night ended as it began – St Neots in 10th place, St Ives in 21st place and the two local sides still 20 points apart – with a few minor squabbles to be settled and a pitch in need of some serious surgery.
The local rivals do battle again in early February in a Hunts Senior Cup semi-final ahead of a return league clash on Easter Monday.
More immediately, St Ives are back on home turf this Saturday when hosting play-off chasing Slough. St Neots have a weekend off as intended opponents Hereford are still involved in the FA Trophy.
St Ives Town: Tim Trebes, Miles Smith, Luke Warner-Eley, Daniel Moyes, Danny Kelly, Tom Knowles, Rogan McGeorge, Peter Clark (sub Eugene Libertucci), Declan Rogers (sub Ben Sawyer), Ollie Snaith, Danny Watson. Unused subs: Lloyd Groves, Jordan Jarrold.
St Neots Town: Mikey Emery, Tom Wood (sub Jack Bradshaw), Johnny Herd, Liam McDevitt, Taylor Parr, Kyran Wiltshire, Luke Knight, Dion Sembie-Ferris, Dylan Williams (sub Lewis Irwin), Stefan Broccoli (sub Scott Sinclair), Nabil Shariff. Unused sub: Harry O’Malley.
Referee: Thomas Hancock.