NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: St Ives Town step up trophy chase with League Challenge Cup triumph
- Credit: Archant
St Ives Town stepped up their chase for silverware on a night that went perfectly to plan.
It was a case of ticks in all boxes at ProEdge Westwood Road as Saints eased to a 3-0 success against Biggleswade Town to reach the quarter-finals of the Southern League Challenge Cup.
Not only did Ricky Marheineke’s men emerge as convincing winners thanks to a trio of second-half goals, the Saints chief was also able to shuffle his pack, welcome two players back from lengthy injury absences and hand a rookie goalkeeper his first taste of senior football.
Only the woodwork prevented them from falling behind in a low-key opening half when Conrad Lucan hit the bar from point-blank range, but that was one of very few moments of conern for a Saints side who bossed the contest after the break.
The breakthrough arrived eight minutes into the second period courtesy of a fine Jared Cunniff finish from a tight angle and the advantage was doubled by substitute Scott Sinclair with 20 minutes to go.
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The wideman, making his first appearance since suffering a broken collar-bone in November, was on hand to steer in a bobbling rebound after Dubi Ogbonna lashed a shot against the crossbar.
That was enough to secure Saints’ passage which was made more emphatic when Josh Dawkin stylishly tucked away a third goal in stoppage time.
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A clean sheet - for a defence which featured skipper Charlie De’Ath for the first time in a couple of months, and teenage goalkeeper Tom Smith, a first-year scholar given his senior debut for the final 15 minutes - was an added bonus.
“It was a night where we felt we had to make some changes, but our focus was still very much on winning the game,” said Marheineke.
“It worked out very well for us. We managed to get minutes into lads who needed them and get a breather into those who have played a lot of football.
“It was good to see Scott come on and grab a goal in his first game since November and Charlie also looked very comfortable after being out for a similar amount of time.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we find ourselves with nothing to play for later in the season. That’s why the League Challenge Cup and the Hunts Senior Cup are very important to us and we’ll be doing all we can to win them.”
Saints’ prospects of League Challenge Cup glory look good. They are one of only two Premier Division teams to reach the quarter-finals so far, with Banbury able to increase that number to three if they win at Aylesbury in the one remaining third-round tie tonight.
Saints return to league action with a trip to leaders Leamington this Saturday. Strike Ogbonna is banned, but fellow frontman Danny Kelly is likely to be fit.