St Ives Town add draw at Needham Market to opening day victory

St Ives Town picked up a good draw on their first away trip of the season to Needham Market.

St Ives Town picked up a good draw on their first away trip of the season to Needham Market. - Credit: ST IVES TOWN FC

St Ives Town ended the first week of the Southern League Premier Division Central season unbeaten after a draw at Needham Market.

Coming off the back of an excellent 1-0 opening day win against Alvechurch, Ives supporters may have expected manager Ricky Marheineke to name an unchanged side for the trip into Suffolk.

But his hand was at least partially forced as injuries to Ben Toseland and Luke Howell kept them out of the squad all together and a knock for Nabil Shariff saw him drop to the bench.

These changes gave the opportunity for first starts for promising young full-back Eniola Agemoh-Davies, and two internationals who have recently joined Ives' Pakistani midfielder Samir Nabi and St Kitts & Nevis centre forward Ryan Robbins.

The final change was a straight swap on the right wing with pacy American Michael Harding coming in for Northampton Town loanee Liam Cross who joined Shariff on the bench.

From early on it quickly became obvious that these were two sides with very similar styles. Both hard working when out of possession and very quick on the break when they acquired the ball.

The first half chance of the evening went the way of the visitors as Harding and Agemoh-Davies combined well on the right in only the third minute. The young full-back got to the byline and it took a stretching Kieran Morphew to just get a touch to prevent the lurking Robbins getting on the end of his pull back.

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First shot on target of the evening came 11 minutes later and it was Paul White in the Ives goal who was called upon to make a routine save low to his right as Byron Lawrence took a quick free kick to tee up Luke Ingram who tried his luck from 30 yards as Ives defenders were a little slow to close him down.

That failure to close players down quickly enough cost the visitors dear only two minutes later as the hosts showed their ability to break at pace in perfect style.

Ives own throw in near to the Marketmen’s corner flag was quickly cleared across the park to left-back Callum Strurgess who was allowed to gallop forward deep into Ives territory before laying the ball inside to Ben Fowkes who had time and space to take a touch before unleashing an exquisite curling right footer from 25 yards that found the top corner beyond the grasping fingers of the leaping White.

Referee Aaron Farmer is also worthy of a mention in the goal as he played an excellent advantage on the half way line allowing Strugess to continue his run in spite of an obvious attempt to haul him down by Dylan Williams.

The visitors continued to pressurise their hosts and picked up a whole series of free kicks in promising positions deep in Marketmen’s territory but the delivery was not right on any of the eight that were delivered into the box and home keeper Marcus Garnham was not called into any meaningful action before the break.

At the other end the hosts continued their speedy breaks into the Ives defensive third with half chances coming at the end of flowing moves being wasted by Kyle Hammond who crashed his powerful drive from just outside the box into the boards to the right of White’s goal in 30th minute and Noah Collard who skimmed a shot past the keeper’s opposite post after having been fed through by Lawrence five minutes before the break.

Ives knew that they had to lift themselves to get back into the game and it was evident from the re-start that they had upped the pace. Garnham was called into his first real action of the evening only three minutes later as a quick throw was fed to Harding who cut inside before laying the ball into the path of Nabi his 25 yarder was well struck but straight at the Marketmen’s keeper who held on well.

The game was opening up with both sides now tearing at their opponents and the next couple of opportunities both went the way of the hosts. Lawrence unleashed a screamer that flew inches wide in 50th minute and only ninety seconds later a flowing Marketmen move down the right ended with Collard thumping in a rising drive from the edge of the box that White did well to push away.

The Ives keeper was almost caught out on the hour as an unexpected turn and shot from fully 30 yards by Callum Page saw him scrambling to his left to only just turn the ball around the post.

However, there was a sting in the tail for the hosts as the resulting corner led to Ives equaliser.

The near-post delivery was initially only half cleared but it fell to a defender on the edge of the box who put his foot through it.

Somehow the Marketmen had managed to leave only one man marking Luke Fairlamb on the half-way line and in a foot race with Fairlamb Hammond was always likely to come off second best.

The speedy wide man set off in pursuit of the ball over the top leaving the hosts full back trailing in his wake.

Garnham came to meet him but the Ives man showed perfect composure rounding the exposed stopper before rolling the ball into the empty net and wheeling away in celebration.

The game continued at its high tempo with both sides going in search of a winner. The hosts continued to try their luck from distance and Fowkes fired a powerful shot well wide after having been worked into space in 66th minute.

Cross who had replaced the tiring Harding before the Ives goal was now combining well with Agemoh-Davies on the right and the two carved out Ives best chances to win the game in quick succession either side of the 75 minute mark. In the first move Cross fed the overlapping Agemoh-Davies, his cross into the centre evaded both hosts centre backs and arrived at the feet of Robbins only ten yards out. But the big centre forward seemed surprised that the ball had got through to him and reacted slowly only succeeding in knocking it up onto his hand with the goal at his mercy.

Agemoh-Davies return the compliment to Cross only a few seconds later and again the young wingers low cross seemed to cause panic in the Marketmen’s back line. Two ricochets took the ball through to Fairlamb arriving at the back of the box. His low driven effort was blocked by the desperately lunging Hammond and despite Ives claims for handball a corner was their only reward.

The final opportunity for a winner fell to the hosts ten minutes from time but White was again equal to the effort this time spreading himself bravely to block at the feet of Andy Fennell after the substitute had been fed through by Fowkes.

The pace of the game showed in added time when cramp got the better of Keiran Morphew and his lengthy treatment lead to the added three minutes extending to an added six, but by this time both sides had settled for a hard fought point which was probably a fair reflection of the game.

A few contenders for Ives man of the match in this one but the accolade went the way of Eniola Agemoh-Davies who stood solid defensively and when he found opportunity to roam forward always looked a threat.

Needham Market: Garnham, Hammond, Sturgess, Lawrence, K. Morphew, D. Morphew, Ingram (Issa 77), Collard, Hunt (Fennell 68), Page, Fowkes.

Subs (not used): Maycock, De La Paz, Pollard

St Ives Town: White, Agemoh-Davies, Flanagan, Nabi, Solkhon, Milne, Harding (Cross 54), Hottor (Seymour-Shove 84), Robbins (Shariff 77), Williams, Fairlamb.

Sub (not used): Evans

Attendance : 266

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